Grave Peril: Book Three of the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher
Published October 2005 (UK), by Orbit UK, US 2001.
Last time I read Harry Dresden, in October 2005, I was a little disappointed. Though I enjoyed the book, I felt that the book was a little too downbeat and perhaps a little too violent, and my last words as I headed off to the next was that “Though I doubt it, I did rather hope the next book will lighten up a little – just a little”. I also hoped the next one would be ‘a little less gory’ “.
OK. I’m now up to Book 3 of the Dresden Files (Book 1(Storm Front) review here; http://www.sffworld.com/brevoff/219.html; Book 2 (Fool Moon) review here: http://www.sffworld.com/brevoff/232.html). In Grave Peril, poor old Harry Dresden, professional wizard and Psychic Investigator, continues to make a number of choices which may be seen in this book as errors. (Good taste stopped me from typing ‘grave errors’, though I’m sure the author had thought about it.)
Things have moved on a little from the previous book; Harry now has a girlfriend, the sexy Susan Rodriguez of earlier novels, and this adds another level to the story. However, this does not mean that Harry is resting on his laurels in some sort of a love-fugue. In fact, Chapter One drops the reader straight into the action, with page one showing Harry and his colleague Michael having a rapid car drive through Chicago, off to deal with a ghost nanny who is taking the lives of babies in the Cook County hospital. You see, since the events of Book Two, things have been hotting up in Chicago. Ghosts have been appearing with much more regularity than they should and been keeping Harry very busy. This becomes even more worrying when it becomes noticeable that they seem to have a connection with Harry. As you might expect, as a result, Harry’s soon back to being thrown around, dealing with his dark moods and his overemphasised sense of chivalry.
OK. In summary – more plot, more complexity, less gore.
Here, in Grave Peril, Jim Butcher briefly mentions events in Harry’s past, keeps the involvement of the police to a minimum, introduces the new character of Michael, the Hand of God, and revisits an old place – the ‘other world’, amusingly referred to as the Nevernever. He also revives an old enemy, Bianca of the Chicago vampires, not to mention Leanandsidhe, Harry’s faerie godmother.
As mentioned before, though the series uses lots of fantasy and horror tropes, Butcher manages to use the formulas to good effect. The characters, both new and old, are still appealing. The style is still dryly humorous and engaging, but what also happens is that Butcher then develops the old ideas by using a few new twists in Harry’s world – for example, one, the idea that vampire saliva is an addictive narcotic, and two, the idea that homes have magical thresholds, and that wizards like Harry lose some of their powers if they use their powers in a home (rather than just a house) without the owner’s permission. It is these that make the series worth reading as well as the engaging characters.
It is clear that things are developing as the series progresses. Book 1 basically set up the scenario; Book 2 was mainly about werewolves; in Book 3 we’re with vampires (though they were an important part of Book One, too). As this is the third book, Butcher is able to develop the subplots and the characters as you might expect in a book further into a series. The background has been laid, the characters have been introduced and have evolved, though there are new ones to add to the mix.
What I was most pleased about is that there is more of the sense of humour I found rather lacking in Book Two, though events in Book Three are just as dire. Indeed the ending leads to things looking very bleak in the following books for Harry.
You could read this book without reading the earlier two – there are odd references to earlier events through this one – but I think you will gain more if you’ve read the earlier books – which is why we keep reading a series, of course. I felt that this one was a much meatier serving than the last one and some nice consequences that leave me wanting to read the next. Much more like what I was expecting. Can’t say more than that.
Hobbit, December 2005