Thursday, May 4, 2017

Proven Guilty, by Jim Butcher

Today I'm looking at the eighth book in the Dresden Files series. Wait, eighth? Really? I'm eight books into this series? How the heck did that happen?

Anyway, so by now we're all fairly familiar with Harry and Butcher isn't so much building his universe as expanding within it and building upon preexisting storylines, which I greatly appreciate in a multi-book series. I remember mentioning in earlier books that it was kind of weird to me that Butcher kept introducing new elements, sometimes without much warning. But now I feel like I have a better understanding of what's going on and I'm enjoying it a lot more.

Dear and gentle readers, as this is the eighth book in a series with ongoing plotlines it is difficult for me to adequately discuss it without mentioning some spoilers. If you would like to avoid this please leave the blog now.

As with most of the Dresden books, there are a couple of things going on at once that end up connected towards the end of the book, although I feel like this connection is somewhat stronger than say, for example, Death Masks. First we see that the White Council, which was badly bloodied in the last book, dealing with the problems of being stretched thinner than ever. Harry is forced to attend the execution of a teenage boy from Korea who had fallen prey to the temptation of dark magic and had become completely twisted himself. As Harry muses repeatedly through the book, it just shows that the White Council isn't finding enough of the kids with magical talent soon enough to keep them from turning to black magic, at a time when they need every potential wizard they can get.

Ebenezer McCoy, Harry's old mentor, also asks Harry to investigate into why the fairy courts, whose territory was violated by the Red Vampire Court, had not responded to their invasion. As Harry investigates he learns that Mab, the Winter Queen, has been acting erratically which has not only set the Summer Court on the defensive, pinning their forces and making them unable to attack the Red Court, but her behavior is causing some concern among the Winter Court as well. Over the book we get hints that something far more serious is going on which (hopefully) will be explored in further books.

The biggest plot concerns Molly Carpenter, Michael and Charity's oldest daughter, who calls Harry from a police station asking him to bail her out. It turns out that Molly had dropped out of school and run away from home, joining her friends at SPLATTERCON!!!, a massive horror film convention going on in Chicago. Molly brings Harry in because some people are getting hurt or dying in mysterious ways and she thinks magic might be involved. Harry quickly determines some seriously bad magic is going down and he has to stop it before more people get killed. Eventually it turns out Molly's been involved and through Dresden's intercession with the White Council, he ends up saving her life and becoming her teacher.

As with a lot of these books, there are some things I like and some things I don't like, but it seems to balance out in the end. On the one hand, I find myself calling Harry an idiot for numerous reasons, such as his refusal to talk to Michael about his problems with Lasciel and the blackened denarius. (Of course he finally comes clean with Michael and Michael reveals he knew all along, which frustrated me on some level.) That and his tendency to go off half-cocked into things leaves me wondering if Thomas is the one using the family brain cell that week. I'm also wondering at the wheels-within-wheels-within-wheels plot that we're getting peeks of behind everything that's been going on for the past several years with Harry, suggesting much larger forces are at play. On the one hand, it's a great way to tie the series together, on the other hand, I'm left worried whether it will fit together as well as Butcher hopes it will.

My issues aside, there are plenty of things I enjoyed in this book. Harry's dog Mouse, for example, who is apparently as some sort of magic, evil-detecting tank of a dog. And I'm quite fond of dogs in the first place, so it's hardly a surprise. I also like Harry and company gearing up in steel mail and with steel weapons to invade Fairy, although I'd have recommended taking a steel tank along as well, just for good measure. And we get to see Harry be a decent person, protecting Molly from a summary execution by the White Council and outmaneuvering the Merlin to save his friend's daughter. Sometimes we don't always see Harry being what we might call a straight good guy, but this definitely makes up for it.

So overall, the book was enjoyable. If there's one thing I've found it's that these books are fun to listen to. If you're this far in the series you're probably already a fan and will look forward to more of Harry's adventures as the books continue.

- Kalpar

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