Ghost Story by Jim Butcher

ButcherGhostStoryWhere I Got It: Own it.

Narrator: James Marsters

Publisher: Penguin Audio (2015)

Length: 17 hours 36 minutes

Series: Book 13 The Dresden Files

Author’s Page

Note: I feel that Death Masks, Book 5, is where reading this series out of order starts to do you an injustice. This book does work as a stand alone to some extent, but you will get major spoilers for the previous books in the series and it also pulls in characters we have met before. So I recommend reading the previous books before you jump into this one.

In the previous book, Changes, Harry Dresden, Chicago’s finest (and only) wizard, lost everything in the gambit to save his daughter.  He lost his office, his apartment, his car, and broke his back. So he had to make a deal with the lesser of three evils. His ability to walk restored, he soldiered on and while he saved his daughter from the Red Court vampires he also lost his life at the end of Changes. So this story opens with ghost Harry in a train station. There he meets a familiar face, Karrin Murphy’s old partner who died in one of the earliest books. He gives Harry some info but mostly evades questions as he ushers Harry over to Captain Murphy’s office –  Karrin’s long deceased father. There Harry is given a choice – he can continue on his ghostly journey (and, no, they don’t know what waits outside of their ghostly city) or he can go back as a ghost to prevent harm from coming to three of his friends.

Of course, we all know what Harry decides. So he’s dropped off outside Mortimer’s because he’s the only guy Harry knows that has the ability to reliably communicate with ghosts. There we meet one of Mortimer’s protectors, Sir Steward. Sir Steward explains more about who the ghost world works and Harry has to be rather careful to not think too loudly less he attract ghosts who want to devour his essence. I really liked Sir Steward. He had a dry sense of humor and a strong sense of honor and a very solid idea of who and what he is, which has allowed his ghost to live on as long as it has.

Harry had an uphill battle the entire time in this book. It was crazy. He’s been dead for 6 months and while no one retrieved his body, there was far too much blood left at the scene. So lots of folks have trouble believing that either Harry is dead (Karrin) or that he is a ghost zipping around trying to rescue folks (nearly everyone). Even Mortimer, who accepts that Harry’s dead, doesn’t want anything to do with his ghost. But Harry saves his life and Mortimer gives him a small amount of his time, initially. Harry has to keep on hacking away (pleading, bargaining, threatening) at Mortimer to get more of his time.

Things have gone to rubble while Harry was away. Molly has become unpredictable and homeless. Karrin lost her job. The streets are dangerous now in nearly every neighborhood. Things that had stayed away from Chicago because Harry protected it have come creeping in. But not all is doom and gloom. Mister, Harry’s cat, made it out of the fire in the last book and found a decent home. Mouse, his dog, is happily guarding his daughter who also landed in a loving home. There’s plenty more along those lines, some of which jerked some emotions out of me. Harry, in classic ghost story form, gets a good look at what his presence meant to those that cared for him.

OK, so besides all the feels in this book, there’s plenty of action too. Harry has been tasked with finding his own killer, which is no easy feat. Then this bully and low-level magic user makes his presence known by ordering a drive-by shooting. Through him, Harry learns that one of his old enemies is in town, but this enemy has a new and powerful sidekick. So Harry is floating  around (or sometimes zipping around) Chicago learning to use his ghostly skills and fighting crime. Yay! He’s also learned to make use of that grave that the Black Court vampire lady bought for him several books back. A ghost has to rest sometimes.

Since memories have power in ghostland, and can also be used to trade for favors, we get to learn more of Harry’s past. I was particularly intrigued by the memories of his time with Justin DuMorn. Harry keeps getting more and more complicated – and I like it!

The ending was fantastic! I loved the final fight scenes and how folks came together to do what they could. It was a lot of fun but also filled with tension and since Butcher killed off Harry I have this fear that he might start bumping off favorite characters. Lots of good stuff went down in that final fight scene.

Afterwards, we learn a few more tidbits. The mystery of Harry’s killer has been revealed. Harry has a chance to see his family members, such as Thomas. I have to say that I felt Butcher bent the rules just a little on the Thomas/Justine love but don’t touch thing. It was sweet but I also felt it was a cheat. Anyway, it’s such a minor thing. The ending did have one last surprise, so I hope you have the next book handy. This was another excellent addition to one of my favorite series.

Narration: This book was originally narrated by John Glover but fans had become accustomed to James Marsters’s performances and didn’t want a switch in narrators this late in the series. So Penguin Audio re-recorded it with James Marsters. Hooray! His performance was spot on, as always. Harry has some really complex emotions in this book, usually about his daughter, and Marsters did an excellent job of getting those across to the listener. I also loved his voices for Molly as she impersonates various characters from the original Star Trek crew.

What I Liked: Harry has a whole new set of rules to figure out; the key to the mystery of who killed Harry; what became of his friends and pets after his death; Mortimer’s continued resistance to become entangled in Harry’s ghostly affairs; the big final fight scene; the warp up; excellent narration.

What I Disliked: There is this teensy criticism about Thomas and Justine and their work around.

What Others Think:

Knite Writes

Love Vampires

The Ranting Dragon

iO9

Fantasy Book Critic

Changes by Jim Butcher

ButcherChangesWhere I Got It: Own it.

Narrator: James Marsters

Publisher: Penguin Audio (2010)

Length: 15 hours 28 minutes

Series: Book 12 The Dresden Files

Author’s Page

Note: I feel that Death Masks, Book 5, is where reading this series out of order starts to do you an injustice. This book does work as a stand alone to some extent, but you will get major spoilers for the previous books in the series and it also pulls in characters we have met before. So I recommend reading the previous books before you jump into this one.

Out of Harry’s past, Susan Rodriguez gives him a call, though it isn’t to swap the latest news of their lives. Their daughter, Maggie, has been taken by the Red Court vampires and Harry is ready to go on the war path. Harry will give up plenty in this book in order to save a child he has never met.

Way back on my review for Book 3, I said that’s when the series gets real and the ante was upped. Now, this is the book that showed me the author isn’t afraid to push that envelope to the breaking point. I had plenty of emotions on this one, even on the reread. Harry can take only so much abuse!

Susan, who is tainted with Red Court vampire bite but has held off the change all these years, flies into town with her sidekick, Martin (who shares the same affliction). They work with Harry, Thomas, and Murphy to dig up info on one of the leaders of the Red Court, Arianna Ortega. Harry soon learns that he’s got a pair of vampire assassins after him and they have some monstrous near-jaguar thing (which he calls the Ick) with them. The Ick quickly scraps his car and the assassins take out his office. It only gets more heated from there.

Harry calls in every favor owed him and then some in his hunt for info on his daughter’s location. He even burns a few bridges with the White Council of wizards in doing so. A handful of folks guess why this one human child is worth so much to him and all who know advise him to keep that very, very quiet. Meanwhile, Harry is advised to seek out some assistance from crime lord John Marcone, who points him to Monoc Securities. This is one of my favorite little parts of the book. I love that the author starts to pull in some deities as Harry gains in power.

The assassins aren’t done with Harry and he continues to lose things that matter to him. Eventually, he’s trapped between a rock and a hard place and he has to do something he never wanted to do. That was tough. It makes a great read and a great story but I also felt for Harry in that moment when he makes the decision.

The last quarter of the book is this long running battle full of individual triumphs and failures as Harry and his friends face off with the Red Court. It’s incredible! So many people laying it all on the line against such odds and Harry really letting his inner dark side out to play! It was intense but not fatiguing.

There are plenty of repercussions to that lengthy fight. Some we know by the end of the book and some we don’t until later in the series. That’s one thing I really enjoy about this series: your actions have repercussions, no matter your reasons. For instance, Murphy took yet more time off from work to assist Harry and she will pay for that. We also learn some things about Harry’s past and about his mother. All in all, I think this is one of the best books in the series.

Narration: James Marsters continues to do awesome work with this series. He is angry Harry, tender Harry, sad Harry, relieved Harry, etc. He really owns this character. In this book, he also does a great job with some Mayan words (such as the full name of the Ick). His voice for the Red King of the Red Court Vampires is chilling. I also love his voice for the delighted, and perhaps slightly demented, Liana (Harry’s fairy godmother).

What I Liked: Several significant changes happen to Harry in this book; actions have consequences; Harry pulls out all the stops to rescue his daughter; there’s at least one kiss, betrayal, sword fights, might and magic, and overwhelming odds!; great narration; significant ending.

What I Disliked: Nothing – one of the best books in the series!

What Others Think:

Knite Writes

Love Vampires

The Ranting Dragon

Guild Master Gaming

iO9

Fantasy Book Critic

Turn Coat by Jim Butcher

ButcherTurnCoatWhere I Got It: Own it.

Narrator: James Marsters

Publisher: Penguin Audio (2009)

Length: 14 hours 4o minutes

Series: Book 11 The Dresden Files

Author’s Page

Note: I feel that Death Masks, Book 5, is where reading this series out of order starts to do you an injustice. This book does work as a stand alone to some extent, but you will get major spoilers for the previous books in the series and it also pulls in characters we have met before. So I recommend reading the previous books before you jump into this one.

Harry Dresden, Chicago’s only wizard PI, was quite surprised to find Warden Donald Morgan on his doorstep asking for his assistance. Even though Morgan tormented Harry for years, Harry can’t help but be curious. Morgan has been accused of treason by the White Council and Harry has a limited time to figure out who really did the deed.

For all those who wondered what Harry and Morgan could accomplish if they could set aside their animosities and suspicions, this book contains the answer. I loved the set up for this book. Harry and Morgan have detested each other for years and Morgan has tried to execute Harry every chance he got. Now Morgan is forced by circumstance to go to Harry for assistance. Haha! I think it’s Harry’s deathwish-cat level of curiosity that makes the decision for him to take up the challenge of hiding Morgan while trying to uncover the real culprit.

Harry and Morgan aren’t the only two that harbor suspicions – this book brings in various characters that distrust one another. Harry trusts Molly to tend to Morgan’s wounds, but Morgan has just as much dislike for Molly as he does Harry. Then Thomas is brought into the mix – and Morgan can’t contain himself when it comes to vampires, even White Court vampires! Luckily, Mouse, Harry’s dog, has the most common sense and forcibly quells disagreements a few times. Mouse is my hero!

Something horrible is tracking Morgan, besides the White Council wizards. I don’t want to spoil what it is, so I’ll just use Harry’s petname for it- Shagnasty. It’s strong. It’s brutal. Morgan defeated one once, but it took great timing and a serious bomb. Harry might not be able to pull off the same. Butcher does a great job of getting across just how evil and dangerous this thing is! Billy and the college campus werewolves make an appearance in this book and they take their first hard hit in fighting Shagnasty. A bit sad. But that just fuels the fire for taking out Shagnasty.

I do believe this is the first full length novel we meet the mortal, every-day kind of PI Vince in, though I think he appears in one of the earliest short stories. Vince isn’t willing to give Harry much info. However, he’s probably no match for Molly. We also have our first introduction to Binder, a low-level magic user with one trick, though it’s an effective trick. He wreaks havoc on Harry’s attempts to keep Morgan hidden and to keep his apartment in one piece. Toss in the on-going tortured love between Thomas and his mortal girlfriend Justine, a deceptive yet stupid cousin of Lara Wraith’s, Shagnasty capturing and torturing one of Harry’s companions, the distrust of Antonia Luccio, and then Harry has his work cut out for him!

The ending to this book surprised me the first time I read it. During this reread, it still hit hard. I can see this as one of those turning points in Harry’s life. He spent a chunk of his teen years and his early adulthood fearing and hating Morgan. Now, as a wizard in his own right and a man who has been through a lot of scary stuff, he still had all this emotional baggage towards Morgan. Yet he helps him because he believes in doing what is right. There at the end, Morgan asks Harry to continue to do what’s right even though that means covering up the truth for now. It was a bit of a gut-wrencher but very worthy!

Narration: James Marsters, our Harry Dresden incarnate, continues to do the character justice. I’ve always liked his stern voice for Morgan; in this book, we get to see more sides to Morgan and Marsters does a good job of keeping that stern voice while also letting some other emotions creep in. Shagnasty’s voice must have done a number on Marsters vocal cords! It was so harsh and creepy!

What I Liked: Morgan needs Harry’s help; Mouse’s common sense keeps Harry’s guests from killing each other; Shagnasty is probably Harry’s toughest opponent yet; the ending has plenty of serious stuff; great narration.

What I Disliked: Nothing – it was a joy to listen to!

What Others Think:

Knite Writes

SF Site

Love Vampires

The Ranting Dragon

Daniel’s Corner Unlimited

Fantasy Book Review

The Mad Hatter’s Book Shelf & Book Review

Small Favor by Jim Butcher

ButcherSmallFavorWhere I Got It: Own it.

Narrator: James Marsters

Publisher: Penguin Audio (2009)

Length: 13 hours 47 minutes

Series: Book 10 The Dresden Files

Author’s Page

Note: I feel that Death Masks, Book 5, is where reading this series out of order starts to do you an injustice. This book does work as a stand alone to some extent, but you will get major spoilers for the previous books in the series and it also pulls in characters we have met before. So I recommend reading the previous books before you jump into this one.

Who’s afraid of the Big Bad Billygoat? If you’re not, then you should be and this story serves as a good example as to why. The story starts off with a friendly snowball fight at the Carpenter household, which then turns into a murderous brawl between Harry and some gruffs (which look a lot like upright billygoats). As Harry ponders over the implications of this latest tussle, Sargent Karrin Murphy of the Chicago PD tasks him with checking out a site with his wizardly senses. There he finds a large pentacle…. and Mab, a Queen of the Winter Court. She calls in a small favor from Harry: John Marcone, crime lord of Chicago, has gone missing and Mab wants him found.

When Mab is in the human world, her voice alone can kill mortals. So she talks through a grimalkin, which is like an extra evil large cat. The things Mab can do to Harry with just her voice make me shudder! And Toottoot tried to warn Harry, but Harry is too curious for his own good.

This is probably my 2nd or 3rd reading of this book and for some reason I always forget everything about it except for the gruffs because they are awesome and scary. And perhaps because Harry is always mentioning their..um… tackle. So once again I was pleasantly surprised by what took place in this installment of the series.

The Denarians are back in play and they are after something pretty darn important, if only Harry could figure out what it is in time. He teams up with Anastasia Luccio (a Warden for the White Council of wizards), Ivy the Archive (who has everything that’s ever been written down in human history memorized), and her bodyguard Kincaide (who has a secret supernatural side). Eventually, Harry has to make some hard choices about whether or not to do a trade with the Denarians. He is not a happy camper about it and he decides to play dirty (hooray!).

Luccio actually makes a play for Harry and he is totally oblivious. Poor dude. Bob the Skull has to point it out to him later. Of course Bob does it with his usual entertaining sarcasm. Harry’s love life, tho small and intermittent, is a mess.

Sanya and Michael (both Knight Templars with saintly swords) lend a hand in the final showdown. Murphy, Thomas Wraith of the vampire White Court, Molly (Harry’s apprentice), and Toottoot with the honor guard faeries all volunteer to help Harry out in some way. This lengthy scene is pretty intense. Harry finally puts a name to what Ms. Guard is, besides being a very deadly assistant to John Marcone. Harry also discovers a new power which, upon explanation from Bob, scares a little poo out of him.

One of the things I really like about this series, is that as the stakes get higher, the consequences go up as well. People get injured. In this book, one of Harry’s friends takes a hard hit and the book leaves us wondering just how bad it is. It’s a good thing the next book in the series is already out. Also, more and more Harry is learning that he can’t be the sole person to fight evil; he needs help from friends and allies and he won’t be able to protect them all.

Narration: James Marsters continues on as the voice of Harry Dresden. I really liked his creepy voice for the grimalkin and his uber-creepy voice for Mab. As always, his voice for Toottoot is both amusing and sincere. Marsters makes a pretty good gruff too, sounding like an angry billygoat.

What I Liked: The stakes are raised; Harry has friends and questionable allies along for the ride; the Denarians return for another round; Mab doesn’t accept Harry’s insolence lightly; the final big showdown at the end.

What I Disliked: Nothing – it was a joy to listen to!

What Others Think:

Knite Writes

SF Site

Love Vampires

The Ranting Dragon

Grasping for the Wind

Daniel’s Corner Unlimited

Notes from a Readerholic

Writing About Reading

White Night by Jim Butcher

ButcherWhiteNightWhere I Got It: Own it.

Narrator: James Marsters

Publisher: Penguin Audio (2010)

Length: 14 hours 13 minutes

Series: Book 9 The Dresden Files

Author’s Page

Note: I feel that Death Masks, Book 5, is where reading this series out of order starts to do you an injustice. This book does work as a stand alone to some extent, but you will get major spoilers for the previous books in the series and it also pulls in characters we have met before. So I recommend reading the previous books before you jump into this one.

Karrin Murphy has taken a vacation day and she has chosen to spend that day showing Harry a supposed suicide crime scene. She has her doubts and Harry Dresden, Chicago’s wizard PI, has his ways of accessing info that most people aren’t privy to. Now Harry finds himself drawn into a series of murders (which look like suicides on the surface) of low-level magic users. As he starts chasing down leads, he and Karrin can’t help but turn a questioning eye towards Thomas Wraith as a man matching his description was last seen with several of the victims.

Harry is now in charge, officially, of Molly’s magical training and this is the first murder investigation he takes her on. The first step is the morgue and a visit with the mortician Waldo Butters. Harry takes the time to teach Molly the basics about reading a corpse of some of it’s final memories. Molly was pretty nervous but her first foray into this little magic trick isn’t what any of them expected. Ha! It does give Harry one more piece of info on the killer but not near enough to figure out who it is.

This book brings back some old enemies and frenemies and brings in some new ones. There’s gentleman John Marcone, Chicago’s crime lord, and a personal favorite of mine. Harry and Marcone often grudgingly swap info and this time Harry will need Marcone’s muscle. Then there’s Thomas’s sister Lara Wraith. A new enemy plus an enemy Harry thought was dead bring some ghouls to the party and the festivities are well underway.

Murphy and Harry have messed with ghouls before. Pretty messy things and hard to kill when they are in a group. In this book, Harry has some flashbacks to one of his side jobs during a summer in New Mexico when he was training some of the new Wardens in combat magic. Ghouls are gruesome and Harry has it out for them. I like that we have this degenerate enemy that we can feel guilt-free in totally hating but I also like that Butcher doesn’t make them mindless.

Harry and a few other wizards have suspected for a while that there is some evil force working within the White Council but Harry has had no proof and no person to point the finger at. In this book, Harry gets a few more hints and some definite indicators that this nebulous evil force wants Harry out of the picture. This being a reread for me, it’s great to see how well Butcher lays some ground work here for some big things that come later.

Harry’s old flame Elaine returns to the storyline and provides Murphy and Harry with some help on their investigation. Now, I’ve never quite gotten around to trusting Elaine fully. But Harry does and for now that will have to be good enough for me. On one hand, I find her hard to trust because she doesn’t have an allegiance to any group and she works hard to stay under the radar. On the other hand, I think younger Harry might have done much the same if he had gotten the chance. So until Elaine proves to be a bad guy, I have to mark her down as an asset and a good guy.

Ramirez strolls back in to the plot and strikes up a flirt with Molly. Ramirez talks a bit of a game but once he’s faced with the White Court vampires, his sexual prowess is revealed in detail. Ha! Still, Ramirez stands besides Harry in the thick of it at the end of the book. It’s quite a show down. It is one of my favorite fight scenes in the series, and a lengthy one at that too. Harry’s snark is allowed to run lose and Lara takes the brunt of it at one point. Mouthwash indeed!

At the end, Harry discovers how Thomas has been keeping himself so well fed and he’s quite surprised! So was I the first time around. Molly has learned a bit about her own limits when it comes to combat magic and situations. Mouse, Harry’s dog, is more than he seems. And there’s tons more fall out from the happenings in this book but I don’t want to get spoilery. Over all, this book has a bit more serious tone to it. Harry is still a smart mouth and that brings some much needed comic relief to certain scenes, but the stakes have gone up. With that, the characters are all getting a bit more serious, pushing on each other harder, lines are drawn in the sand. All together, this is one of my more favorite books in the series.

Narration: James Marsters continues to give this series a fine performance. I greatly enjoyed his voice for Thomas especially when Thomas is putting on a fake French accent. His ghoulish voices sound just as demented, wet, slurred, and deceitful as I imagined they would. Once again, he does a very convincing seductive and charming Lara Wraith.

What I Liked: Thomas is a suspect; Marcone returns to the plot and there is a price for his assistance; Murphy continues to pay a price for helping Harry –  it’s not fair but it’s realistic; Molly’s first on a lot of stuff; the lengthy fight scene at the end; Thomas’s job.

What I Disliked: Nothing – it was a joy to listen to!

What Others Think:

Knite Writes

SF Site

The Founding Fields

The Book Bag

Sarah’s Reviews

Proven Guilty by Jim Butcher

ButcherProvenGuiltyWhere I Got It: Own it.

Narrator: James Marsters

Publisher: Penguin Audio (2010)

Length: 16 hours 16 minutes

Series: Book 8 The Dresden Files

Author’s Page

Note: I feel that Death Masks, Book 5, is where reading this series out of order starts to do you an injustice. This book does work as a stand alone to some extent, but you will get major spoilers for the previous books in the series and it also pulls in characters we have met before. So I recommend reading the previous books before you jump into this one.

Harry Dresden, Chicago’s only PI wizard and now a Warden for the White Council, gets called up by Molly to bail her friend out of jail. He’s not happy about it, but he knows that Molly is having some issues. He gets talked into checking out SplatterCon!!! where Molly is one of the lead organizers. The White Council has reports of some evil magic happening in Chicago and they’ve tasked Harry with finding the source and dealing with it. SplatterCon!!! turns out to be a bit scarier than anyone figured when a horror movie monster comes to life and starts taking out the guests. Someone is inviting in phages from the Nevernever. Not good!

Later on, Molly disappears and Harry has to try every trick in the book to locate her. While he is attempting to locate her, he learns some interesting things about Charity, Molly’s mom. I really liked that we get to learn more about her as she has been a rather minor character in the series so far. As we know from previous books, she doesn’t like Harry, and now with Michael (her husband and a Knight Templar) away on ‘business’, she is stuck in this position where Harry is her best hope of finding and helping Molly.

Later on, Harry and some trusted allies have to suit up and head into the Nevernever. Without giving too much away, Thomas of the White Court vampires, is an excellent fighter and there are some great scenes with him kicking in teeth and stomping on faerie wings. The efforts of Harry and crew in the Nevernever have repercussions, some of which are known by the end of this book, but then there are some that don’t become apparent until later in the series. That’s another cool thing about these books. In rereading the series, I can see these ripples easier and it’s just amazing how well laid out the big arching plot is for the series.

Before the book is over, Harry has to face some of his fears as well. One of them, he knows is coming and he has time to think about how he will handle it. The second comes as a bit of a surprise and a relief once he starts talking about. I really liked that Harry had to deal with some of his biggest fears in this book.

At the end of the previous book, Dead Beat, Thomas moved out of Harry’s place. Harry spends the entire book wondering what Thomas is now doing for a living. He’s looking healthy and Harry worries that he’s turned to the dark side in feeding. The ending to this little mystery is quite amusing but we don’t get that until later in the series.

As usual, there’s a slew of returning characters in this book. Police officer Rawlins, who knew Murphy’s dad back in the day, is tasked with guarding a crime scene that Harry wants access to. Murphy of course is around and also accompanies Harry into the Nevernever. Lashiel’s carbon copy in Harry’s head is rather insistent in being of assistance and Harry learns some mental skills in blocking her out. The Lady Summer Lily and her Knight Fix put in an appearance as well. Even Harry’s godmother has a little role. There’s more, but these are the ones that stood out to me. This book is another great addition to the series and I had a lot of fun with the fear theme for the book.

Narration: James Marsters continues to do a worthy Harry Dresden. His female voices are on good display with this book : Charity, Molly, Lashiel, Murphy, Harry’s godmother, the Summer Lady, etc. He makes them all distinct and feminine.

What I Liked: The theme of fear used throughout the book; SplatterCon!!!; Molly has a lot of issues; Charity’s trusting of Harry; the gang goes to the Nevernever; Harry has to face 2 of his biggest fears.

What I Disliked: Nothing – it was a joy to listen to!

What Others Think:

Knite Writes

SF Site

The Founding Fields

The Ranting Dragon

L. K. Evans

Dead Beat by Jim Butcher

ButcherDeadBeatWhere I Got It: Own it.

Narrator: James Marsters

Publisher: Penguin Audio (2010)

Length: 15 hours 7 minutes

Series: Book 7 The Dresden Files

Author’s Page

Note: I feel that Death Masks, Book 5 is where reading this series out of order starts to do you an injustice. This book does work as a stand alone to some extend, but you will get major spoilers for the previous books in the series and it also pulls in characters we have met before. So I recommend reading the previous books before you jump into this one.

It’s going to be another long weekend for Harry Dresden, Chicago’s only professional wizard. Mavra, a Black Court vampire that Harry has previously tangled with, blackmail’s Harry into seeking out the Word of Kemmler (a powerful book by the necromancer Kemmler). This will be no easy task for Harry and he will be constantly weighing which is the lesser of two evils for the entirety of the book.

This is one of my favorite books in the series for several reasons. First, I really felt the stakes were higher in this book and I like that Harry doesn’t have many clear cut good/bad choices in this story. True, he’s trying to save all his friends some grief, but in order to truly pull that off he has to deal with Mavra or find a way to double cross her that doesn’t put any of them in peril. Second, Harry gets more responsibility in this book. I think he’s ready for it even if he doesn’t and while he doesn’t like the guise that responsibility comes in, I think he will be a positive influence on others who share the same responsibility. Finally, there’s a dinosaur. Yup. Harry Dresden and a dino. Freaking awesome!

Waldo Butters, the mortician, gets a larger role in this installment of the series as well. I really like how Harry doesn’t discount Butters’s abilities just because Butters is afraid. There’s plenty of scary bad guys in this book and it makes sense that non-magic users would find them super intimidating. Polka will never die! – thanks to Waldo Butters.

Sheila Starr, a woman who works at a bookstore, is another interesting character. She offers Harry the chance to flirt but she also has her secrets. Then there is Carlos Ramirez, one of the Wardens for the wizarding White Council. I like his cockiness and willingness to jump into the middle of things. Then there is the Wild Hunt and the Erlking who makes life for Harry just that much harder. Bob the Skull also plays a critical role and we learn a bit more about Bob’s past.

Harry – the poor man! He has to face some tough truths in this book and one of them is about his own flexible moral compass. Another is about what powers he is offered by stronger beings and how much he is or is not willing to lean on them. However, the ending was just as satisfying as ever. I like that things are a little messy and that not everything is wrapped up with a pristine halo at the end.

Narration: James Marsters continues to do Harry Dresden justice with this series. I also like his nerdy, Jewish voice for Waldo Butters – he does a great job with this character when he is panicking. Ramirez’s smooth Hispanic accent was nicely done as well. Captain Antonia Luccio’s Italian accent was lovely as well as decisive and tired from the fight. Marster’s voice for Mavra once again sent chills down my spine.

What I Liked: Playing with dead things; Waldo Butters’s keeps the beat; a dino!; Harry has to deal with bad guys every step of the way; Harry gets more responsibility foisted on him; great narration; we learn some of Bob’s past; the Wild Hunt!

What I Disliked: Nothing – tons of fun!

What Others Think:

SF Reviews

Knite Writes

SF Site

Love Vampires

The Founding Fields

The Useless Blog

Confessions of a Christian Freak

Blood Rites by Jim Butcher

ButcherBloodRitesWhere I Got It: Own it.

Narrator: James Marsters

Publisher: Penguin Audio (2010)

Length: 13 hours 11 minutes

Series: Book 6 The Dresden Files

Author’s Page

Note: The previous book (Death Masks, Book 5) is where reading this series out of order starts to do you an injustice. This book does work as a stand alone to some extend, but you will get major spoilers for the previous books in the series and it also pulls in characters we have met before. So I recommend reading the previous books before you jump into this one.

Many years ago, a friend lent me her old Kindle in an attempt to bring me into the 21st century and this book was one of the first books listed and so I jumped right into it not knowing it was Book 6 in this series by some author I had never heard of. I absolutely loved it and went back and read the previous books. Now, finally, I have recently read the first 6 in order and I’m glad I did. Each book definitely builds upon the others and the larger story arc that holds them all together is much more apparent when the books are read in order.

Chicago’s only phone-book listed wizard is about to get pulled into a very odd job. Thomas Wraith, a White Court vampire, has helped Harry more than once and Harry isn’t too sure why. But now Thomas calls in a favor – he wants Harry to help his friend, a movie producer. He believes he is at the center of a curse, the Evil Eye. And since Thomas just helped him rescue a litter of Temple dogs from monkey poo flinging demons, Harry can’t say no. However, Thomas failed to mention that his friend works in the adult film industry. Harry is in for an education!

As Harry digs into the Evil Eye mystery, he is attacked by a vampire. It looks like he has to deal with a nesting Black Court vampire in the area and he suspects Mavra. Harry starts building his team of vampire hunters even as he narrows in on the cause of the Evil Eye. He taps Karrin Murphy for this hunt which is great. She was mostly absent in the last book. He also calls in Ebeneezer McCoy, his old mentor, and Kincaide, the bodyguard of the Archive. This mix leads to some interesting revelations about Ebeneezar and Kincaide. Pretty serious stuff!

Another reason I really enjoyed this story is that it introduces Mouse, Harry’s dog. In this book, he’s just a puppy and he gets snuggles from everyone, whether they be a police detective, a porn star, or a vampire. Everyone loves a floppy-eared pup. There’s also this dynamic between Harry and Thomas. They aren’t quite friends but they do have some mutual trust going on. Yet Harry still wonders why Thomas has helped him out as often as he has. In this book, Harry finds out. It’s pretty intense and we get to see the darker side to the White Court, which up to this point has been a rather mild bad guy organization of incubi.

There’s plenty of Harry’s snarky humor flung about in this book. I recognized some favorite movie references as well. While Harry works the Evil Eye case, he makes some interesting observations about the adult film industry, like how it’s not all that sexy to have someone yelling directions as you get busy. It’s done really well without being raunchy. By the end, Harry has suffered a serious physical injury and he’s also learned some truths that are hard to swallow. While the humor is great in this book, I enjoyed the serious parts more. I definitely feel like Dresden is being prepped by something (fate? a twisted author?) for something bigger.

 

The Narration: James Marsters is a continued win for the voice of Harry. He also did a Greek accent for the movie producer that was well done. I really liked the screaming of Harry and Thomas as they attempted to avoid the demons in the opening scenes. His regional accent for Ebeneezar was great and his ultra-spooky voice for Mavra was hair raising!

What I Liked: Fun with the adult movie industry!; Mouse the pup; some key revelations in this book; Yeah! Murphy’s back!; learned more about the White Court; Harry takes his first serious long-lasting injury; the mix of seriousness and humor.

What I Disliked: Nothing – I really enjoyed this one!

What Others Think:

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Death Masks by Jim Butcher

ButcherDeathMasksWhere I Got It: Own it.

Narrator: James Marsters

Publisher: Penguin Audio (2009)

Length: 11 hours 21 minutes

Series: Book 5 The Dresden Files

Author’s Page

Note: This is the book where reading them out of order stars to do you an injustice. It does work as a stand alone to some extend, but you will get major spoilers for the previous books in the series and it also pulls in characters we have met before. So I recommend reading the first 4 books before you jump into this one.

 

Harry is about to have yet another tough weekend. It’s not going to be just one thing coming down hard on him. Nope. He’s going to have to deal with John Marcone (Chicago’s crime lord), hunting for the Shroud of Turin, Michael Carpenter’s fiery wife Charity, his old girlfriend Susan Rodriguez (who’s dealing with her semi-vampiric state), a scheduled duel with a Red Court vampire, and a new breed of bad guy – the Denarians. It’s amazing Harry gets to be as old as he does.

I’ve been so-so about the character Susan for the series so far. This is the book that changes my opinion of her. She took a very hard hit back in Book 3 (Grave Peril) and I can see that it sobered her. Harry had been telling her again and again that the supernatural beasties she so wanted to catch on camera and write about were very dangerous. She really didn’t take those multiple warnings to heart and it cost her dearly. So here she returns to the series with this new and weighty knowledge. She’s also learned the advantages of body armor, weapons, hand-to-hand combat training, and following Harry’s orders in the midst of a fight. She’s not a total bad ass, but she has learned a bit and she does have some vampiric strength too.

Wow! The Denarians! Let me say that these are some of the most dangerous foes yet for the series. The Denarians, lead by Nicodemus, are a collection of fallen angels/demons. Each one resides within a coin and the owner of that coin can communicate with the specific demon, gaining knowledge and power. Of course each demon does their best to insinuate themselves into their master’s life and eventually take it over. Couple that with the supposed powers of the Shroud of Turin and you have a formula for disaster for Chicago. Which means that Michael Carpenter, knight templar extraordinaire, is returned to the story. And he brought friends (Shiro from Japan and Sanya from Russia).

As always, the plot is fast-paced and with the several threads weaving in and out of each other, I was never bored. Butcher does a great job of packing character development into the little downtimes (such as driving from point A to point B) the plot permits. For instance, Charity and Harry get to have chat while making dinner together. Charity is not a fan of Harry and they get to clear the air a little.

The duel with the Red Court vampire War Lord Ortega comes up early but doesn’t happen until later in the book. This particular plot thread brings into play two very interesting side characters –  the Archive (who presides over the duel to ensure fairness and record the outcome) and her bodyguard Kincaide. Also, Thomas (the white court vampire we met in Book 3) makes a reappearance. The White Council (ruling body of good wizards) are quite willing to sacrifice Harry if it means an end to the war with the Red Court vampires. Argh! Makes me want to strangle them!

Butcher ups the ante with this book, sacrificing some characters and forcing others to make tough choices. I really like how the seriousness continues to ratchet up for each series installment so far. The Denarians play rough and Harry and his friends will not get out unscathed. We also learn a very interesting thing about John Marcone that makes him a little more human. There’s very little Murphy in this book and I missed her. However, we get to meet Wizard Ebeneezer McCoy, who fostered Harry in his late teens.

So far, Harry has ended up in cuffs in each book for one reason or another. That happens again here. I find that amusing. Harry continues to grow as a character. We know he isn’t invincible and he knows it too. Yet he can’t stop helping his friends, protecting Chicago, and standing up to the bullies. The ending had a little unexpected twist for me that I expect will have major repercussions for Harry later on.

The Narration: James Marsters continues on as Harry Dresden and he does a fine job of it. In this book, his performance includes believable Spanish, Japanese, and Russian accents. I especially liked his kid’s voice for the Archive. He also does a great job with Wizard McCoy who comes from Arkansas and has that noticeable regional accent. 

What I Liked: So many bad guys for Harry to deal with; even those on the side of good aren’t always on Harry’s side; John Marcone does have a heart; Susan returns and is a useful character; Michael returns with friends; the Denarians are a major complication; interesting little twist at the end; excellent narration.

What I Disliked: I did miss Murphy.

What Others Think:

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Summer Knight by Jim Butcher

ButcherSummerKnightWhere I Got It: Own it.

Narrator: James Marsters

Publisher: Buzzy Multimedia Publishing (2009)

Length: 11 hours 12 minutes

Series: Book 4 The Dresden Files

Author’s Page

Note: Even though this is Book 4 in the series, it works mostly OK as a stand alone. There is a significant spoiler for Book 3 (Grave Peril) that is referred to in this book, but if you don’t mind that, then it works fine as a stand alone.

 

Things continue to intensify for the only phone book listed wizard PI in Chicago, Harry Dresden. After the events of Book 3, Harry has been in a slump. His girlfriend had to leave him and he is guilt-ridden over the reasons why. He’s not taking cases and, quite frankly, not showering often enough. He’s also not paying rent and you can forget about food shopping. However, he does still have friends and one of those friends, Billy the college student werewolf, makes sure he makes it to an appointment on time that could lead to a paying PI case.

This episode in Harry’s life explores the world of the Fae. There’s the Summer Court and the Winter Court and each court has three queens, denoting the rise, peak, and fall of each of the two main seasons. Someone has killed the Winter Knight, a champion of the Winter court who is given great powers to carry out his tasks. Now, Harry has been hired, or rather compelled, to find out who and why. We briefly met Harry’s fairy godmother in the last book and Harry fears few others like he fears her. So I was very interested to see how the other Fae compared the first time I read this book. My enjoyment of the book has not diminished with time. Harry is in for a wild ride!

In the previous books, Harry has briefly mentioned his first girlfriend Elaine. Now, Elaine’s character gets filled out and Harry has to deal with yet more emotions. Plus he has to save the world. I think for Harry, saving the world is easier on him than dealing with emotions. The Fae courts have set Harry and Elaine at odds with each other and that makes things rather interesting. There’s plenty of sneaking about and trickery in order to unravel the mystery.

I like this book quite a bit because we have some demented characters and we don’t always get to damage or kill them. This is to the plot as the fifth taste, umami, is to my tongue. It’s a little sour, a touch sweet, and chunk of it is bitter. Harry can’t undo all the damage they have done. The sweetness is the anticipation (or sometimes merely hope) of these unsavory folks getting trounced eventually. Then, sometimes, the bad guys do get away.

Counter to that, is Harry’s humor. It’s nearly always bravado against something bigger and tougher. It sometimes veers into self-depreciating, but who wouldn’t want to rename the attacking saplings as a chlorofiend? It sounds bigger and nastier. The chuckle here and there helped relieve the tension.

Once Harry has a grasp on what happened to who and why, he then has to figure out how to save the world, literally. The final chapters are big and epic and if I had not come into this series late, I would have been concerned that the series might end with this book here and now. A lot of worthy scenes played out in those last few chapters.

The Narration: James Marsters continues on as the voice of Harry Dresden, and doing it quite well. I feel that he’s a bit more refined in his skill for this book. While I enjoyed his pauses or sighs or light coughs of embarrassment for Harry’s character in Books 1-3, I found there to be quite a bit less of that for this book. I don’t particularly miss it and I think this is more in line with audiobook narration instead of leaning towards radio drama. Marsters did great with all the smug female Fae voices. I continue to enjoy his TootToot fairy voice. 

What I Liked: The Fae courts!; Harry is forced out of his slump and into a case; the college werewolves; Harry’s old flame returns unexpectedly; the epic battle scenes at the end; some truly unscrupulous characters; great narration.

What I Disliked: Nothing – a great story!

What Others Think:

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J. N. Cahill

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