Monday, January 8, 2018

The Dresden Files: Grave Peril by Jim Butcher

Hello.  Thank you for joining me for this review.

The Dresden Files has been a fan favorite for most of two decades now.  Today, I'm reviewing the third book in the series, Grave Peril. 

Grave peril further immerses the reader into the Dresden files setting.  In this book, we get a lot of information about ghosts, death, and the true nature of the vampires of the Red Court.  The reader is also introduced to examples of two other factions of vampires in the character of Thomas of the White court of vampires (incubus and succubus who feed on the life force of victims they seduce) and Mavra of the Black Court (classical vampires of the Bram Stoker variety).  Mix in with this a cameo appearance by a dragon, the revelation of the nature of ghosts, Harry's faerie godmother (yikes!), and some robed characters who re-appear in later books. 

Grave peril also teaches us a lot about Harry Dresden as a person, and reflects his underlying humanity.  In spite of impossible odds, against all reason, he launches an assault to rescue his girlfriend/lover Susan and a sex addicted victim (Justine) from the Bianca of the Red Court.

There are a few underlying story elements that deserve recognition:

1) In many ways this story is facilitated by Bianca's need for revenge on Harry, as he revealed the ugly truth of her nature in their last encounter.  Harry bested her in that meeting, but Bianca never forgot it.  She orchestrated a plot that put Harry in a no-win situation that should have cost him his life, and his soul.  In the end, her search for revenge is frustrated, she is downed by the ghosts of her past (literally) and through her actions, she brings about an incident that the supernatural community cannot ignore.  Bianca's rise to power, is reflected upon later in the series, as she amassed a considerable amount of mystical power in a short time.  It is later speculated that unseen puppeteers who have been throwing the supernatural world into chaos may have facilitated her rise to power.

2)  Thomas of the White Court:  There are a lot of spoilers I will not dish out here.  I do want to point out to you, that you should consider Thomas's actions carefully.  As the series evolves you'll find that this is a vampire who is acting with a purpose, but not one you would immediately expect.  If you read through the series, do so in order of release, so that once you get to "White Night" you can fully appreciate the subtle, and sometimes not-so-subtle actions from Thomas. 

3) Harry and Susan, the star crossed lovers:  Remember the old saying, that a man will destroy himself for love and quite readily?  Remember also the old saying, that you should be wary of the man of peace who is provoked to war?  Yeah, keep those in mind.  People do crazy things for love, and Harry Dresden as a young man in his twenties and early thirties isn't the most emotionally stable character to begin with.  Add in the horrors he has faced, the stress of his chosen profession, the power he wields, childhood trauma, and it should be evident that this is a person you should not wish to push over the edge.  Bianca made the mistake of counting on Harry's humanity to be a weakness, on his commitment to his organization to be his constraint, and she made a horrible mistake in doing so.  If you wondered whether Harry Dresden loved Susan before, this book will put that question to rest.

4) The underlying story of Harry's faerie godmother.  This storyline is still very much in play.  Pay attention to her.  She's tricky.

5) (Spoiler) ~ The events of this book lead the White Council and the Red Court of vampires to war.  It gets ugly in the streets from here on and the war is an ever present back drop from here all the way to the end of "Changes".  War changes people, and in the Dresden Files, this war changes Harry Dresden a bit at a time. 

6)  The underlying story of the manipulation of the supernatural world's communities.  There are things in this book that don't seem important (at all) until way later in the series.  Beware of strangers giving strange gifts.

Edit:  Item (7)  I can't believe I forgot to include this originally.  Michael Carpenter is in this book.  One thing you can count on, is that when Michael Carpenter is involved in a Harry Dresden story, things are going to be extremely dangerous for Harry.  So dangerous in fact, that only the knight of the cross can keep him safe.  Michael Carpenter is an incredible character, so savor his every appearance.


My Thoughts:

Grave Peril is another great example of the evolution of Jim Butcher's writing skills.  You will see that by the time he has written this book, his narratives are much more compelling and his crafting of his story is fabulously done.  As fine a work as this book is, Butcher continues to improve his story telling and his writing abilities over the next several books.  Grave Peril gives you a glimpse at the great write Jim Butcher becomes.

Recommended for:  Everyone who read Storm Front and then read Fool Moon.  Fans of supernatural romance, romantic tragedy, stories of loss and revenge. 

Not recommended for:  People who have not read Storm Front and Fool Moon.  Seriously, read those two first, then come back to Grave Peril.  It makes a world of difference in how you perceive the character interactions. 

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