Mar 3, 2015

[Books] Grave Peril (The Dresden Files - Book 3)

By now I'm pretty keen on the books in The Dresden Files given they're quite a good amount of fun with a few surprising twists and turns here and there. Of course not every book can be as totally awesome as one hopes, but they're all generally good, at least given the books that I've read this far.

Grave Peril is another interesting addition to the series, although admittedly not exactly my favorite one in the series so far. But it does introduce an interesting mix of characters along with trying to describe more the details of the sort of political situation that defines the world of the Dresden Files.

This far into the series, it's readily apparent that Jim Butcher has a few Dresden tropes that seem to come up in pretty much each and every book. As much as Dresden is capable of great feats of magic, he's also only human and Butcher has a penchant for depicting him at his weakest. And this is but a single example of things that are readily apparent at this point and there are a good number out there.

Synopsis: Grave Peril is the third novel in The Dresden Files written by Jim Butcher. It's initial publication date is all the way back in 2001.

The book starts right in the middle of the action as Harry Dresden and a Knight of the Cross named Michael Carpenter are in pursuit of dangerous ghost that is loose in a Chicago hospital. It seems that the city has been suffering a significant increase in spectral activity as of late and Harry and Michael have few clues as to what is going on. The pursuit of this particular ghost requires them to cross over temporarily into the magical realm of the Never Never, and there we discover that Harry has been evading his godmother Leanansidhe, given he has broken a promise to her. But this creature of faerie isn't their primary concern.

Around the same time, Harry receives a formal invitation from the Red Court of the Vampires. Harry knows this is potentially a trap, but he also has an obligation to represent the White Council in this matter. Harry defers from making an immediate decision on the matter, although his reporter girlfriend Susan is pretty eager to attend given the stories she could gather while there. Things take a turn for the worse when Harry is attacked through his dreams, thus diminishing his powers just when he needs them most.

This story reveals an interesting tidbit about Harry Dresden's past - the fact that he literally has a faerie godmother, plus one he owes a promise. And if you know your traditional lore related to the Fair Folk and how much importance they put in promises. So this was a serious little reveal indeed and one that had some really bad prospects for Harry.

Michael Carpenter is a really interesting character and he really shines in this book. Sure, Harry seems to imply that his power is derived more from his belief in this Holy mission without making any sort of determination related to how real or not his divine power might be. Somehow the strength of his belief alone is capable of great feats, but admittedly Michael's character is enough to make you believe that someone must be helping him out when he prays. And all this makes for quite the compelling character.

The vampire politics got messy really quickly, and I suppose that's largely intentional. We're talking about immortal supernatural creatures who have established a strange hierarchy of their own and this something that can interact with the Wizard's White Council. The book largely tells us that these factions exist and stress this a lot, but true details are a little scarce at this point. This isn't a bad thing - Butcher has clearly established that he likes to tease such tidbits here and there and saves the bigger reveals for later in the book series. Patience for now.

A large part of the story focuses initially on the whole ghost aspect to the story with occasional vampire interludes here and there. And we've seen this narrative format before - how Harry always seems to juggle a minor case alongside the main one. In time the two story arcs are bound to come together, typically closer to the end. And that certainly happened.

I think I miss Harry Dresden being totally awesome given his magical abilities. He's been pretty crippled in recent books due to exhaustion and this time due to the ghost attack on his dream self. I understand the value of telling the story from this perspective and Harry makes for quite the underdog, but it is getting a little tiring. I think we can trust fully powered Harry - he understands the value of restraint and so we shouldn't be afraid of him being ridiculously powerful or something. And I just want to see how far he can go.

On the whole, Grave Peril is an interesting exploration of the spiritual realm of the Harry Dresden fictional universe and a good demonstration of just how much he can get done even largely without his powers. There are some major shifts to his status quo, but then I think every book in the series has made sure to shake things up as Harry's world is always in flux. So the book gets a good 4 spiritual invaders out of a possible 5.


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