Monday, September 5, 2016

Grave Peril - Jim Butcher

   2001; 436 pages.  New Author? : No.  Book 3 (out of 15) in the Dresden Files Series.  Genre : Urban Fantasy.  Overall Rating : 8½*/10.

    Something’s gotten into the ghosts around Chicago.  Not literally, of course, ghosts have no substance to them, at least not over here in our world.  But they seem to have grown more powerful, and meaner too.

    So Chicago’s only practicing wizard, Harry Dresden, and his thinks-he’s-a-knight pal, Michael, have their work cut out for them as they do battle with a particularly big and beastly shade who's making mayhem in a nursery wing at the local hospital. Don’t let her name – Agatha Hagglethorn – lull you to sleep, Harry.  She can pack a mean wallop.

    But ghosts can’t beef themselves up, can they?  Something – or someone – has to be behind all this.  And besides all that, there seems to be a sudden increase in the sheer number of undead creatures crossing over from Nevernever into the real world.

    And that’s perhaps the scariest aspect of all.

What’s To Like...
    Grave Peril is the third book in Jim Butcher’s incredibly popular Dresden Files series, which I’ve enjoyed immensely so far, despite only reading it sporadically.  The action starts immediately, and really doesn’t let up until the final page.  It’s been a couple years since I read Book 2 (reviewed here), and I’d forgotten some of the supporting characters, but I quickly became reacquainted with everyone.  Bob’s back , who I do remember, and I liked meeting a new guy, Thomas, a vampire of the White Court.

    There are a bunch of nasty critters for Harry and Michael to deal with, from ghosts to hellhounds, from vampires to demons.  Perhaps the most dangerous of all is Harry’s godmother, Lea, who keeps trapping both our heroes in increasingly desperate “deals” in exchange for bailing them out of difficult scrapes.  Some of these are still unresolved at the end of the story, and no doubt will spill over into Book 4.  Nonetheless, Grave Peril is a complete story in itself.

    As always, there is an abundance of Butcher's/Dresden's wit and dry humor.  I also liked the Kenny Rogers reference, and the concept of Cassandra’s Tears.  The writing is good, and the storytelling is tight.  There are no “wasted” characters; if Butcher takes the time to develop someone, take note, because they will figure into the tale somewhere down the line.

Kewlest New Word ...
Sidhe (n) : the faerie people of Irish folklore.
Others : lambent (adj.); surcease (n.); demesne (n.).

    The male vampire opened his mouth, showing his fangs, and laughed.  “Peace, wizard.  We’re not here for your blood.”
    “Speak for yourself,” the girl said.  She licked her lips again, and this time I could see the black spots on her long, pink tongue.  Ewg.
    The male smiled and put a hand on her shoulder, a gesture that was half affection, half physical restraint.  “My sister hasn’t eaten tonight,” he explained,.  “She’s on a diet.”
    “Vampires on a diet?” Susan murmured beneath her breath.
    “Yeah,” I said back, sotto voce.  “Make hers a Blood Lite.”
    Susan made a choking sound.  (pg. 67)

    Thaumaturgy is traditional magic, all about drawing symbolic links between items or people and then investing energy to get the effect that you want.  You can do a lot with thaumaturgy, provided you have enough time to plan things out, and more time to prepare a ritual, the symbolic objects, and the magical circle.
    I’ve yet to meet a slobbering monster polite enough to wait for me to finish.  (pg. 146)

“Holy brillig and slithy toves, Batman.”  (pg. 377)
    I don’t really have any quibbles with Grave Peril, and I can see why the series is so popular, especially among teenagers.  There is some cussing, which prudes may find offensive, but it isn’t excessive, and I feel it adds to the tone of the tale.

    So too with the violence.  Wherever you find vampires, you’ll also find victims, and there is collateral damage whenever you’re fighting the Undead.  And poor Harry gets beat up more times than Bruce Willis in a Die Hard flick.

    It all builds to an exciting ending.  Despite knowing that Harry will prevail (there are after all another dozen books to go in the series), I still kept turning the pages, wondering how he was going to overcome the forces arrayed against him and Michael.  The “key mechanism” by which he turns thing around felt a bit clichéd to me, but I think most readers will have a better opinion of it.

    8½ Stars.  This is actually the fourth book in the series (Books 1, 2, 6, and now 3) that I’ve read and I have yet to be disappointed.

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