Thursday, January 5, 2017

Blood Rites, by Jim Butcher

Today I'm looking at the next in the Dresden Files series, the book Blood Rites. I did enjoy how this book started, with Dresden desperately trying to save a box of puppies from a burning building. How can you not root for a hero saving a box of puppies? I hate to say it, though, but this book was sort of mediocre for me. It was more enjoyable than some of the stuff I've been listening to because it's more up my alley, but compared to some of the other Dresden books this feels like a bridge between story arcs rather than a fully-fledged story in its own right.

Usual warning, spoilers ahead.

As you may remember, the war between the White Council of Wizards and the Red Vampire Court has been going on for some time, although apparently Dresden's been more concerned with making enough money rather than dodging assassinations by the Red Court. Granted, the fact that a satellite crashed into the villa of the Red Court's most powerful hatchet man probably had something to do with that. But ever since the war started in Grave Peril it's been there in the background and influencing events. In Blood Rites it feels...less so. Dresden actually spends the book dealing with both the White and Black Courts, two of the other vampire organizations. The book gives an explanation that the other vampire courts have been called by the Red Court into the war against the White Council but it feels kind of weird to me. The Black Court at least makes sense because it's a vampire that Dresden has tangled with before and personally wants revenge against Dresden, but the White Court makes less sense. I had gotten the impression that the vampire courts all vied with each other for power as much as they vied with other magical factions and any weakening of the Red Court would be beneficial to the other vampires. Especially since each court has its own distinct flavor of vampire.

The thing I've liked the most about Dresden is he's actually going into situations prepared now rather than going off half-cocked, which feels like some significant character development. Dresden's been practicing hand-to-hand combat with Lieutenant Murphy, working out on running, and developing some new magical tricks to help him out in various situations. It shows that Dresden is actually taking this seriously and trying to craft situations to his advantage rather than relying on sheer dumb luck to save him. So the fact that Dresden is being proactive and making extensive preparations is something I greatly appreciate. Granted, he still has to rely on fortuitous circumstances from time to time, but I feel like he's developed.

Dresden's also gotten better at communicating with Murphy and working with other people rather than trying to tackle everything on his own. He's gotten much better at recognizing when he's gotten in too deep and while he's still not crazy about putting other people in danger, he's at least willing to recognize that he needs help and asks for it. Overall I see this as good development for Harry and making him better as an individual.

I say that this feels like a bridge between arcs because we're introduced to the fact that Thomas Wraith, a White Court vampire who's helped Harry a couple of times in the past, is actually Harry's half-brother and their mother used to run with the White Court. By the end of the book Thomas and Harry have forged a familial bond and it looks like Harry's getting a better and stronger support network. The book also ends with an ominous cliffhanger because Harry not only has the name of a fallen angel burned into his hand, but he also seems to have access to hellfire. I'm interested in seeing how these developments, good and bad, unfold in later stories.

Overall I enjoyed this book. As I said, it feels like it's setting up things for later books and being a bridge between arcs rather than a full story in and of itself. The plots-of-the-week feel oddly manufactured which makes the book feel more clumsy. However, considering some of the other things I've been listening to lately this book seems pretty good by comparison. Which probably says more about my selection of books than anything else.

- Kalpar

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