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Blood Rites
Jim Butcher
Roc, 384 pages

Blood Rites
Jim Butcher
Jim Butcher lives in Oklahoma with his wife and son and a houseful of computers. He's also the author of Storm Front, Fool Moon, Grave Peril, Summer Knight and Death Masks, all part of The Dresden Files

The Jim Butcher Fan Attic
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Interview: Jim Butcher
SF Site Review: Death Masks
SF Site Review: Grave Peril
SF Site Review: Fool Moon
SF Site Review: Storm Front
Excerpt from Grave Peril
The Dresden Files

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Michael M Jones


"The building was on fire and it wasn't my fault."
Harry Dresden, the only openly-practicing wizard and private investigator in Chicago, is on the job once again. But for him, even the most routine of jobs are fraught with danger and the extraordinarily unusual.
"An errand is getting a tank of gas or picking up a carton of milk or something. It is not getting chased by flying purple pyromaniac gorillas hurling incendiary poo."
Over the past few years, he's tangled with everything from vampires to werewolves to demons, and helped to save Chicago, and sometimes the entire world, from destruction. He's been used as a pawn by forces far greater than he can imagine, stared into the abyss, and laughed at death. He's made some strange allies, and strange enemies along the way. But old enemies lurk in the shadows, and some history is about to come back and bite him in a very sensitive spot.
"The Lone Ranger impersonation. You get pounded to scrap every time you turn around and you barely get by on the gumshoe work. You live in that dank little cave of a basement. Alone. You've got no woman, no friends, and you drive this piece of crap. Your life is kind of pathetic."
One of Harry's erstwhile acquaintances, Thomas Raith, a vampire of the White Court, sums it up perfectly. Not just a workaholic, Harry's a "white hat" personality, driven to do the right thing for all the noblest and most foolhardy of reasons. Unfortunately, it has wreaked havoc on his social and love lives. All he really has left is the job. So when Thomas offers him an actual paying gig on behalf of a notorious adult film director, Harry takes it. The job seems fairly simple: who's calling down deadly curses upon women associated with the director's new movie? But things are never simple in Harry's world. The White Court vampires feed off of the energy produced by lust and sex, so clearly, there's a connection between Thomas and the movie. So what role does the rest of his nasty, manipulative, all-too-seductive family play in the murderous events surrounding the movie? And what secret is the King of the White Court willing to kill to protect? And how does it all relate to Harry?

That's not all. Some old enemies from the vampiric Black Court, the truly deadly "real" vampires of myth and legend, are in town to see Harry dead. No, scratch that, to see him very dead. When Harry gets wind of their presence, he decides it's time to go on the offensive for a change. To that end, he gathers some allies, including his old mentor, a high-priced hit man, and Lieutenant Karrin Murphy, Director of Special Investigations for Chicago Police. But once he has got his forces together, the sparks immediately begin to fly, as old history rears its ugly head.

Not one, but two major showdowns with the heavy hitters of the vampire Courts will drive Harry to the breaking point, test the loyalty of his friends and allies, and unlock some valuable secrets to his past... secrets which could change everything about how he looks at himself, and how he approaches the world. A major milestone in the ongoing saga of The Dresden Files, Blood Rites is the culmination of years of setup, creating as many new questions as it answers, and marking a transition in the personal journey of Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden.

What's not to love about this series? Harry's self-destructive blend of nobility, stubbornness, and masochism makes him a vulnerable, yet compelling narrator. He's a throwback to the noir detectives of old, willing to take any punishment to see the job done, because he can, because he has to, and because he won't risk seeing anyone else hurt. Karrin Murphy continues to provide that cold splash of common sense and reality, though her own brand of overcompensating (being a small female in a macho man kind of job) renders her just as blind as Harry to certain truths. Their chemistry, two parts friendly antagonism to one part unspoken loyalty, makes them a joy to watch in action. Jim Butcher further populates the series with a host of memorable secondary characters: Thomas, the sex vampire with an unexpected fondness for his girlfriend/food; Ebenezar, whose good-old-boy country attitude hides a ruthless side; Bob the Skull, Harry's lab assistant/familiar, a spirit of intellect with a taste for romance novels and strip clubs; and Kincaid, the cold-blooded killer whose only loyalty is to money.

What I like about Butcher is that he manages to keep several plots going at once, and there's always something on the back burner as well. The ongoing mystery regarding Harry's parentage and history has slowly been spun out over six books, dropping hints and clues along the way. The revelations here only shed light on some of the big picture; there's still much left to be seen, as later twists show. And there's a feeling of continuity and growth, the clear sense that while each book is capable of standing on its own, they all tie into something much larger, that Butcher knows exactly what he's doing, and doesn't forget anything for long. Enemies left alive are bound to come back. Allies who fade off screen for a while return when last expected. Even tiny subplots have long-term repercussions.

As always, there's that sense of urgency to the story: once the action starts, Harry gets very little downtime, his energy, resources, and creativeness stretched as far as they'll go, in scenes so vivid they practically leap off the page. Once I started reading, I just couldn't stop. I know I'll regret finishing Blood Rites so quickly as I wait for the next in the series, but I was sucked in.

The Dresden Files is a series I would, could, have, and will continue to recommend for as long as my breath holds out. It takes the best elements of urban fantasy, mixes it with some good old-fashioned noir mystery, tosses in a dash of romance and a lot of high-octane action, shakes, stirs, and serves. Blood Rites may be the best book in the series yet, and that's saying something. Dresden fans won't want to miss this, and new readers are encouraged to start with Storm Front, right now, especially since the SciFi Channel has greenlit a television-movie based on the series, which could hopefully lead into a full series. My only complaint is ... what do I read now?

Copyright © 2004 Michael M Jones

Michael M Jones enjoys an addiction to books, for which he's glad there is no cure. He lives with his very patient wife (who doesn't complain about books taking over the house... much), eight cats, and a large plaster penguin that once tasted blood and enjoyed it. A prophecy states that when Michael finishes reading everything on his list, he'll finally die. He aims to be immortal.

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