Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Dead Beat, by Jim Butcher

Dear and gentle readers. As you may have figured, I have gotten pretty deeply into The Dresden Files series what with this being book Seven of the series. Ultimately because there are ongoing plot elements I simply cannot avoid them and talk about the book in a meaningful way. So for all those who do not wish to see spoilers now is your chance to run off. (Come back Thursday! I'll have something for you then!) Anyway, onwards with the review.

So, as regular readers can probably figure, I've been enjoying The Dresden Files. If nothing else it's something I can download from the library and I find myself reliably enjoying the books in the series. Even if I find myself rolling my eyes at Harry from time to time. And since I'm seven books in I guess you could say I'm kind of a fan. I wouldn't say this is my favorite series ever, but so far I've been enjoying it.

Dead Beat starts out with Dresden getting a message from Mavra, the Black Court vampire who he's tangled with before and is apparently very far from dead. Mavra has some blackmail on Murphy she's going to release unless Dresden obtains something called The Word of Kemmler for her. Although Mavra really only exists in this book to send Harry on the investigation that turns into a tangle with several powerful necromancers who also want the Word. I feel like it's almost superfluous to have her because as soon as Harry found out some big, bad necromancers were in Chicago he certainly wouldn't have been sitting around idle and would have gotten involved anyway. That's just how he is. Either way Dresden soon finds himself dealing with people well above his power level and trying to figure out what exactly they're trying to do and keep them from accomplishing it within a matter of days.

This is also a breakout book for Waldo Butters, the timid Medical Examiner who's beginning to be exposed to the world of magic. Butters had been introduced in a previous book as a sort of side character but he really becomes a major part of the cast in this book and goes through some character development of his own. Which I thought was really cool and I liked seeing, especially since Butters is in many ways an audience surrogate.

In this book the White Council also takes a massive beating from the Red Court and something like 75% of the existing Wardens, the enforcers and defenders of the White Council, get wiped out. This results in Dresden being drafted into their ranks, something he's less than thrilled about because of his long antipathy for Warden Morgan. However, I think this is a positive change because it sounds like Harry's going to be more involved in the affairs of the White Council and the ongoing war with the vampire courts and apparently other factions that have decided to join the fray. Which seems only fair considering Dresden kind of started the whole war by burning Bianca and her retainers in a giant firestorm. But it has seemed kind of weird that Dresden's been sort of sitting on the sidelines of the war effort after dragging a significant faction of the wizarding community into a global war. So hopefully we can see Dresden being more involved in the larger plot that's sort of been brewing in the background.

Plus there's just a really awesome part to this book which I'm actually not going to spoil here because it's right at the climax towards the end. But believe me, it is ridiculously awesome. Granted, Harry has to make some compromises to do it, but I almost want to say the ends justify the means in this case.

However, Harry does make some unfortunate compromises in this book. Specifically if you may remember a couple books back, there were some demons attached to the thirty pieces of silver paid to Judas Iscariot. Well, technically fallen angels, but demon's equally apt in this case. Basically Harry knows he's being tempted by the power of one of the coins and interacts with the demon, Lasciel, and makes some sort of arrangement with her. Which is a very dangerous game that he's playing because he knows she's luring him in by saying she just wants to help him and doesn't want to control him, but it's just to get him to depend on her until she has all the power in the relationship. And yet he consents to her help anyway, which is a very dangerous precedent and he's aware he's on a very slippery slope. Plus, he does some very strong bending of the rules which, while awesome, are extremely technical in his explanation on how he's not actually breaking the Laws of Magic. So it looks like Harry's getting set up to drift into being a bad guy which is...less than good.

Overall I really liked this book, despite my concerns of Harry slipping over to the dark side. These books are pretty fun, even if I want to punch Harry from time to time. Fortunately the other characters call him out on some of his stupid behavior as well so at least I'm not the only one doing it. There are plenty of jokes and some of the scenes really are pretty awesome. So it's fun to listen to and that makes it worth the effort as far as I'm concerned.

- Kalpar

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