Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Death Masks, by Jim Butcher

This week I'm continuing with the fifth book in the Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher, Death Masks. In this book there are a couple of plotlines going on at once, which is pretty normal for a book in this series, although in this case I feel like we've sort of got two main plot tracks going at once rather than one. First there's the overarching plot of the war between the White Council of Wizards and the Red Court of Vampires. The Red Court has sent a high-level warlord, Duke Ortega, to challenge Dresden to a duel. If Dresden wins Chicago will become neutral ground and it will end the intermittent Red Court attempts on his life. If Dresden loses, then the Red Court may make peace with the White Council and end their current war. And of course Dresden has plenty of pressure to make him comply with a duel he stands a very good chance of losing. Further complicating matters Susan, his old half-vampire girlfriend is back in town as well.

If that wasn't enough, a group of very powerful demons, known as the Denarians because of their connection to the thirty pieces of silver given to Judas Iscariot, are active in Chicago and all three Knights of the Cross are involved. More to the point, they say the Denarians have some sort of plan for Dresden and he should not get involved, which he of course does anyway. Plus the Shroud of Turin's been stolen and Dresden's been hired to find it. Wait, the Shroud of Turin? The Shroud? Man, things got super serious all of a sudden. Well...more serious than usual I guess I should say.

The biggest thing that struck me about this book was it felt more...muddled than the other books. As I said, all the previous books usually have a couple things going on at once which all tie into a larger plotline towards the end of the book. In this case, it feels much more like there are two plots going on at once. You can probably tell just from my description of the plot that there's a lot going on and I feel like it's slightly to the book's detriment. I feel like maybe Butcher could have focused on one plot or the other for the book. The story with the Shroud and the Denarians is definitely the lion's share of the book and the duel with Ortega feels a little tacked-on. To be honest, most of the war with the Red Court has felt tacked-on at best so I'm hoping there's more focus on that later.

As I said in my last review, I'm noticing that there's kind of a formula to these books as well. Especially where Bob's concerned. Usually Dresden gets introduced to a situation, has to find out more information, go talks to Bob, and then doesn't use Bob again in the book. (The exception being Grave Peril.) I think I'm really only noticing this because I really like Bob as a character. That being said, I'm still enjoying these books for their entertainment value.

I also enjoyed getting to meet two more Knights of the Cross, Shiro Yoshimo and Sanya. The Denarians were really bad news so Michael has to call in the other two knights. And to be honest, I kind of like them. Michael's okay but also a little sanctimonious which can make him off-putting. I love Shiro's backstory that he became a Baptist by mistake because someone asked him if he wanted to meet the King and Shiro thought he meant Elvis. And, what's even more appealing to me, Sanya is an atheist. Seriously. Atheist paladin. Had his sword handed to him by the archangel Michael himself. And yet still not entirely sure about the whole god thing. I'm personally hoping I get to see more of him in the future because it's just a really cool idea to me.

Overall, the book's okay. I've come to accept that the Dresden Files are basically entertainment for me. There are good parts, there are bad parts, and there are parts in between. Is it perfect? No, but it's a lot of fun and I've enjoyed listening to the books. And that's okay.

- Kalpar

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