Blood Rites by Jim Butcher

I love this series!  It seems like every book just gets better than the last – which is a pretty awesome accomplishment considering I enjoyed all the previous books in the first place.  How can they just keep getting better and better?  Well, I suppose it’s because we find out a little bit more about Harry during every adventure.  A little more about how he got where he is today and what motivates him, so that whilst every story is individual and self contained, they also follow on and link into one another – that just sounds total nonsense but if you’ve read this series you’ll know what I mean!  If you haven’t then – firstly, what are you waiting for? and secondly, get on with it!  This is a really entertaining series with some great characters.  If you’re not already aware Harry is a private detective working out of Chicago.  So far so normal.  However, he’s also a magician and he has fairly regular encounters with a range of unusual creatures ranging from demons to brownies.  He’s got a great sense of snarky humour, a soft spot for a damsel in distress and an ability to very quickly find himself in masses of trouble.

Blood Rites gets off to a fiery start with Harry rescuing a box of puppies from the clutches of some evil demon monkeys – demon monkeys who throw pooh!  In his escape he’s assisted by Thomas, one of the vampires from the White Court who we’ve met in previous instalments.  Thomas seems to show up unexpectedly on a number of occasions and this time he has a request for Harry.  It seems that somebody who he knows may have become the subject of an entropy curse and two unlucky people have already died as a result of getting in the way of this curse and Thomas wants Harry to intercede before its too late.  This involves going undercover a little bit and in this respect Harry poses as an assistant on a movie set.  The person he is assisting (or protecting) is called Arturo, the producer of pornographic movies who has recently broken away from the main studio to go it alone.  The plot quickly branches out from there with more than one thread being explored.

As you’ll know by this point we’ve been introduced to the White, Red and Black courts – all vampires, but all different in terms of their behaviour.  In this particular story the black court are still determined to make Harry pay for his past misdemeanours (at least in their eyes).  The Black Court vampires are particularly nasty!  The White Court on the other hand have always felt somewhat ‘softer’ somehow – that impression is set to change slightly in this story as we become familiar with some more of Thomas’s family and in particular the feared head of the family.  As we do so we get to see a different side of things altogether.

Straight away Harry is thrown in at the deep end.  He has the black court jumping out of dark corners at him at every opportunity and on top of this he’s trying to come to grips with the entropy curse and exactly what the motive is behind it.  He ropes in Murphy to help make discreet enquiries without drawing attention and then further needs her aid in helping to try and destroy a Black Vampires nest that has been established in the town.

Why did I really love this particular story.  Well, although it doesn’t appear to have any out and out wars in this one, more Harry trying to stay alive and solve a case whilst surviving no end of cuts, bumps and bruises, I really enjoyed the extra knowledge that comes with this story.  Thomas gains family in a most unexpected way.  He also finds out a few home truths about his mentor Ebenezer which don’t sit too easily with him.  We get an insight into Murphy and what takes place in her personal live – and OMG – her sister!!!  On top of this Bob obviously makes an appearance and Kincaid also reappears on the scene – and we get to see a different and darker side of him than previously, particularly when Harry uses his ‘sight’ to see what’s really there.

Harry’s adventures are always fast paced, rough and tumble.  There’s always plenty going on.  If you like dark urban fantasy with plenty of humour thrown in for light relief plus a mystery to be solved then you’ll love Harry.  Clearly Jim Butcher, has found in Harry, a character that is going to keep growing with every story thereby endearing him more to his readers and, as is proving to be the case, ensure his longevity.

I love this character and definitely recommend this series.

 

The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher: Ghoul Goblin

I just finished reading Ghoul Goblin which is a graphic novel combining six comics plus extras such as a summary of the series.  The story is set in the world of Harry Dresden and is a completely unique story (as oppose to being one of the already written books turned into graphic format).

I enjoyed this.  I can’t say that I’ve read extensively of graphic novels, because frankly I haven’t, but I find it’s something that I think I could quite easily become enamoured with!  That being said, I’m clearly no expert – I just like what I like – so, if I come up with a pile of gibberish in the eyes of all the experts out there than that’s my defence!

The story in Ghoul Goblin revolves around a family that seem to have been the subject of a curse.  Harry becomes involved when one of the local lawmen seeks his help following a couple of grisly murders of two of the Talbot family members.  This involves Harry travelling away from his usual Chicago stomping ground to the quiet town of Boon Mill in Missouri.  Of course not everybody there is pleased to make his acquaintance and he becomes particularly unpopular after causing havoc at the funeral for the most recently deceased.  The story involves near death experiences with a ghoul and a goblin, being thrown into a cell by the local law – who think he’s some sort of charlatan and seeking the help of a guardian spirit.  Something which is far from easy and involves encountering a rather large, okay huge, snake.

What I particularly liked about this is it’s a unique storyline that fans haven’t read before.  It gives everybody a little snippet of Harry whilst they’re waiting for further instalments and it brings together all the usual Harry trademarks.  The duster, Bob, the VW and Harry’s strange aversion to anything electronic, or more to the point the fact that he’s the glitch in the system.  It was also interesting to read a story about Harry accompanied by graphics – although I think Butcher does such an amazing job in the books that visuals aren’t really necessary. I thought the graphics were well done, the story, although obviously much shorter than I’m used to when reading about Harry, was intriguing and the overall experience of reading a graphic novel is so refreshingly different, almost less intense, than reading a novel (or do I just like ogling the pictures!)

In terms of criticisms.  I didn’t have anything major although I felt like the graphics could have been slightly darker.  That could simply be that my only experience with graphic novels is the Sandman series which is very dark but the Dresden Files is certainly not a series aimed at a YA audience.  It can be quite violent and doesn’t shy away from the grim and harsh realities of the strange world that Harry inhabits.  I think I wanted more creep factor is all but this wasn’t enough to spoil the experience for me.

I think if you love Harry and you’re just dying for your fix then this will be a great pick me up in between instalments.

I received this from Net Galley in exchange for a honest review.  The above is my own opinion.

 

Death Masks by Jim Butcher

Just finished reading Death Masks by Jim Butcher and at the risk of sounding repetitive this series just keeps getting better.  Harry Dresden is a private investigator working out of Chicago.  The ace up is sleeve is that he’s also a wizard.  He’s a wizard who seems to be storing up more and more bad feeling between him and a lot of nasty characters – such as vampires and demons.  Death Masks is No5 in the Dresden Files so beware of potential spoilers.

In the latest instalment Harry lands himself into all sorts of trouble.  As we all know the Red Court don’t like him very much.  Neither, for that matter, do his peers on the White Council!  (Well, there are a few exceptions – thankfully).  We start off with a new job, desperately needed by our wizard PI – the Shroud (of Turin no less) has been stolen.  Interest has been sparked and it’s recovery is essential to prevent a rather dreadful prophecy from being fulfilled.  On top of that we have a dead body – sans head and hands, some rather dastardly Denarians (more about that in a moment), the return of Susan, still struggling with her semi-vampiric nature and Michael and a couple of his co-workers, i.e. two other Knights of the Cross.

Firstly, the story.  Loads going on this time around that all comes together very well at the end.  There’s the theft of the Shroud, and the investigation to find the thieves and the intended buyer.  Something is going on with the Knights of the Cross who all seem to have descended – scenting trouble somehow.  And, Harry has been given a resolution to the impending conflict between the White and the Red – a challenge to the death with one of the Red Court Warriors – Ortega, with a promise that the war will be called off if Dresden accepts the challenge.

The characters.  We literally have the good, the bad and the ugly going on this time around.  These Denarians are some bad ass critters who I don’t want to meet, ever, thank you very much.  They’re incredibly powerful, very difficult to get rid of and can shapeshift into some pretty terrible nastiness.  We have a reappearance of Susan who has become a lot more clued in during her absence.  She can look after herself now and on top of that instead of being a bit ‘yippee here’s a life threatening situation lets have some fun’ she now seems to realise that the ‘life threatening’ bit is actually quite serious!  She has a man in tow and the sparks of jealousy coming off Harry could cause some serious damage.  We have two new Knights of the Cross – a Russian guy – who actually doesn’t believe in God – and Shiro who is like some sort of Japanese master – now, I don’t know why but I just kept picturing Master Shifu out of Kung Fu Panda – yes, I know, different countries and a whole other load of stuff that makes that wrong but the picture was there anyway.  And, is this crazy, but I liked the role that Marcone had this time round – could it be possible that I’m starting to like him??  Surely not, but he had a good bit of banter going on with Harry this time round and on top of this he jumped straight into the fray when needed, even if it was a little self-serving.

On top of all that Butcher continues with his world building and the world he is imagining is becoming a very easy place to imagine. The circle of friends and acquaintances who Harry mixes with is expanded upon each time with old characters sometimes taking a bit part or sitting out the story completely but resurfacing for a later instalment.

What else can I say.  I really enjoyed it and have no hesitation in recommending this series.

 

Summer Knight by Jim Butcher

Just finished reading Summer Knight by Jim Butcher.  The fourth instalment in The Dresden Files series.  I don’t know how he manages to do it but these books just keep getting better and better.  This story was really entertaining.  Hells Bells – it was brilliant.  Beware of spoilers in the text below – they might be unintentional but that makes them no less annoying!

Harry hasn’t been the same since Grave Peril when Susan became infected with a taste for blood.  He’s blaming himself and to a certain extent he’s having a bit of a pity party.  He’s also on a fast track to being evicted from his home and business and having very few friends left to speak of due to his ill humour and almost reclusive habits.  On top of that it appears that everyone seems to be interested in seeing him dead.  Assassins seem to be popping out all over the place and going out even for a stroll in the park with your werewolf buddy has become a dangerous business.

However, it’s funny how just as you’re thinking that things can’t get any worse they sink ten feet lower and then they continue to all new record breaking levels of badness.  Not only is Harry about to be visited by the White Council and potentially be offered up as a sacrificial lamb, but he’s also going to make a deal with the Winter Queen of Faerie.  Making deals with the fey is never recommended, they twist and turn like a twisty turny thing, they talk in riddles, they’re mischevious at best and downright evil at worst and they take pleasure in the perverse.  They cannot tell a lie but this doesn’t mean they always speak the truth.

So things are about to get very hairy for Harry – pretty quickly.  As usual, he’s a complete sucker for a female in distress therefore not only is he working as the Winter Queen’s emissary and trying to appease the White Council but he’s also taken on a separate job for a bunch of changelings.

There’s so much going on in this novel that it’s difficult to put it down – basically because there’s never a good point to break off.  It’s hair tearing and almost maddeningly entertaining.  Harry seems to stagger, roll, fall or plain get pushed from one almost death situation to the next gathering clues like moss along the way.

In terms of characters we have the usual appearances from Bob and Murphy, Toot Toot and his mini army also come out to play and we get to meet someone in this story that we’ve only heard about previously.

I really like Harry.  He’s not perfect but he does the right thing.  He’s not a wuss.  He gets stuck in and he keeps his sense of humour in the face of terrible odds.

On top of this I love the way that Butcher is building up this whole world of other beings around Harry.  With each new instalment his world expands and we have different tie ins from previous stories.

Without a question of doubt for me each of these books has got better, I don’t see how that can continue – it seems against the odds doesn’t it?  But, I’m willing to suspend my disbelief here.

Surprisingly I don’t think I have any criticisms at all for this one.  It was downright good fun.  Thoroughly entertaining and a definite must read.

I’m really falling for this series and the good thing about this is that there’s plenty more to look forward to.

 

Grave Peril by Jim Butcher, No.3 of the Dresden Files

Just finished reading Grave Peril by Jim Butcher.  This is Butcher’s third in the series of the Dresden Files and for me was a definite improvement.  The first two books are Storm Front and Fool Moon.  I liked the first two but wasn’t as ‘wowed’ as I would like to or thought I would be.  Well, that feeling was more so probably with No.2.  But, I figured this is a series I could get in too so I continued.   If you’re planning on reading this series then be warned that the rest of the review may contain spoilers.

Grave Peril gets off to an immediate and spooky start.  Ghosts are running riot and terrorising the Town and Dresden his battling against the odds to discover what’s going on and why the world of ghosts is in such an uproar.  (I must confess that reading the start of this I couldn’t help picturing the Ghostbusters and the scene with the ghost librarian).  On top of this the vampires again enter the scene.  The Queen of the Vampires has not forgotten her grudge at Dresden and is eager to see him pay for the insult he gave her previously and perhaps an invitation to the annual vampire ball would be the perfect occasion.  On top of that there is a much more sinister entity at work, one that is stalking it’s prey carefully.  And, as if that wasn’t enough for Dresden to deal with he has to enter the world of the Nevernever where the veil between the realms is stretched thin, demons roam and his fey godmother and her hounds are baying for Dresden’s blood (or soul).

This was definitely a packed instalment.  Dresden wasn’t so much investigating anything this time round as just trying to find out why things were becoming so heated and at the same time simply trying to stay alive.  We have the usual cast.  Bob puts in an appearance as does Murphy and Susan’s relationship with Dresden seems to be going fairly strongly.  On top of that we are introduced to a number of characters from the White Court of Vampires and to top it all off a dragon makes an appearance at the Ball.  And, Dresden is lent a helping hand by Michael, a knight templar who helps Harry to defeat the baddies using his blazing sword.

Lots of the characters come under threat in this episode.  And nobody is going to escape completely unscathed.

What I like about this series is Harry.  He’s a readable character.  He likes to pretend he’s tough but really he’s a raging softie.  He’s developing much more as each book goes by as we find out more about his character and his history and in the same way his magic seems to be growing.  In fact the whole world that Harry inhabits is developing.  It’s almost like that the author was giving us a slow introduction to this strange and fantastical world – like if you had to read about all these strange creatures from the get go you just wouldn’t accept it.  It’s the frog soup recipe.  Basically we’re being slowly brought to the boil so we don’t have the sense to jump out of the pot.  I’m quite nice and cosy now so I’m staying where I am – just waiting for the carrots and herbs to be added!

I also like the dark and sinister world that is created here.  We’ve been for a visit round Nevernever now and it’s not particularly friendly. You certainly wouldn’t want to stick around or start asking for directions.  Fey and demons and probably more sinister creatures inhabit this world beyond the veil and for me it was good reading.  The sort of make believe fantasy world where anything can happen and I like that I can’t always predict it.

In terms of criticisms.  I wouldn’t say everything was quite rosy with me with this series just yet!  I’ve already made reference to the way that a formula is being followed and to be honest I would say that is still the case here, although as mentioned above this installment isn’t your typical investigative story so that’s something of a step change.  But, as in previous novels, Harry does get terribly beaten up, then beaten up some more and, yes, then beaten up again before finally having his lightbulb moment.  I know that these style of books usually do operate to a formula but I would prefer it to be mixed up a bit more.  I also wasn’t really that keen on the character of Michael – again, given the number of adversaries in this novel I think Harry needed all the help he could get – and yet somehow I couldn’t quite get along with him for some reason and it felt as though the whole ‘tone’ of Harry was diluted in some way due to the addition.  Also, that brings me to the final point which is that I did have a couple of ‘uugh’ moments.  For example, with the character Michael – he just appeared in the novel as though we knew who he was – I almost thought I was reading the wrong book in the series or had skipped ahead at first, and I actually have done that before!  I mean the book just started and it was all ‘Michael this, that and the other’ and I was thinking who is this Michael – same with the evil fey godmother – where did she suddenly pop up from without any explanation.  I don’t mind not having an explanation and I’m fairly sure even with my limited grey cells I can pick up what’s going on however it jars a little bit with the continuous repetitious explanations that you get in each novel about other aspects.  I expect there to be repeat explanations because the author wants people to be able to read the novel as a strand alone but I just don’t get why these new characters came so unintroduced. Although, now I’ve made that point I’m starting to disagree with myself so I’ll just move on…

Now in spite of the above.  I enjoyed this.  There’s plenty of action and the author doesn’t shirk away from getting a bit dark and gritty.  I feel like there’s going to be plenty more to this series and I like the fact that I’ve got so much yet to look forward to.

If you want a dark urban fantasy with all sorts of paranormal activity and a slightly unconventional won’t stick to the book magician then you’ve got plenty here to look forward.

This novel is one of my R.I.P reads for the book event taking place at Stainless Steel Droppings.  Drop in here and take a look.  There’s plenty of activity and loads of bloggers taking part so it’s never too late to join.

 

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