Proven Guilty by Jim Butcher

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Book Information  
AuthorJim Butcher
TitleProven Guilty
SeriesThe Dresden Files
Book Reviews / Comments (submitted by readers)
Submitted by cbosteve 
(Jul 01, 2010)

Proven Guilty is the eight book in the Dresden series, so Iím going to assume that if you are reading this youíve read the previous seven. So there will be some spoilers about the series up to that point, but I wonít spoil this book for those yet to pick it up.

By this point in the series, Harry Dresden is a bit of a mess, physically and psychologically. He is effectively holding onto his sanity and his position as a wizard by the skin of his teeth. The war with the Red Court is not going well and he is still at odds with his mentor and surrogate father, Ebenezer McCoy. As such he has lost a powerful ally on the White Council, which he really needs given how much the Merlin hates him. His former girlfriend Susan is still out there somewhere trying not to kill people, so he is on his own in that way, despite the ongoing tension with Murphy. He does have his close friend Thomas living with him, but their bond is not really explored much further in this book, and itís not the kind of closeness he craves. Harry is also still actively avoiding his friend Michael, the Knight of God because of his previous dealings with a fallen angel who is still trying to tempt him down a dark path. So, on the whole Harry is alone, desperately so, and he is incredibly lonely. He doesnít have anyone he can just turn to and completely relax, take off all of his physical and mental armour and be himself, which is really really tragic. He is a good man, painfully so at times, and I appreciate a tortured character makes for a more interesting protagonist than a happy smiley one, but man, I wish the guy got a break sometimes!

There arenít that many overt references to his state of mind until later in the book, but there a couple of very poignant scenes that change his relationship with two people. To me it was obvious in the way Harry reacts in various situations that he is hurting badly and struggling to cope. Unfortunately for me this book isnít about Harry finding some female companionship and a modicum of peace, but it is a bit of a game changer. With each book Harry is growing and becoming a better wizard, but at the same time we are always aware he is not the strongest, or the smartest, and yet he is one of the best because he is a survivor.

Things will never be the same again. Itís a tired and worn out catchphrase, but after reading Proven Guilty there have been some dramatic shifts both with the War, and Harryís relationships with his friends and allies. So, it was a bit of a crossroads book and things canít go back to how they were before. The next few books might involve the familiar cornerstone of Harry investigating a case with the help of Bob, but the other elements of the book are growing in prominence and at some point they will become the main plot of a book. Maybe itís book 12, which is called Changes. Iím also glad to hear that it is not the last book in the series.

This book was very enjoyable and the main plot revolves around Harryís attempts to uncover who is behind a series of horrific attacks from physical manifestations of horror movie icons. It involves the Faerie world and some familiar faces from previous books, but once again, there has been a progression and a passage of time. The story never stands still and for me this is a good thing as the characters live and breathe in the spaces between the books. They donít stand around waiting for you to pick up the next book.

However, despite the mystery surrounding the attacks of the main plot, I actually enjoyed the sub plots more, as there is a lot of cloak and dagger stuff going on and we get a small peek behind the curtain. A few more clues are dropped and also more layers added to the complexity of the unseen adversary he is facing, but there are also implications that there is a long term plan in operation. There is a suggestion that Harry and a number of other characters are being manipulated as part of a master plan, and that they are merely pawns, being moved around on a giant chess board they canít see. There is a brief appearance by one of my favourite characters in the whole series, Rashid the Gatekeeper. He is the most mysterious member of the White Council, and as ever I get the feeling he is someone who operates on a different level to Harry. Perhaps on the same level as this unseen adversary where the games being played involve much higher stakes than a few lives or the fate of a city or even the fate of the war. I think the Gatekeeper cares about the present, but he actually cares more about what happens to wizards and magic in general in the long term. Butcher has done a very good job of keeping him mysterious, and perhaps that is why I am so intrigued by him, because we are told only tiny snippets of information compared to most.

There are definitely a few ominous echoes in this book, but Harry is a man who knows his limits, and he knows sorting out the shadowy conspiracy is something well above his pay grade. It canít be unravelled alone and I got the feeling this book was the start of him realising that and starting to pull together his own version of the Dirty Dozen for when they are needed.

Proven Guilty has echoes that go right back to Storm Front, to the core of who Harry is and where he came from. At the start of this book a young wizard is executed for dabbling with dark magic and making a terrible mistake. This haunts Harry and will continue to do so for a long time after because that could have been him if he had not been given a second chance. To me it served as a reminder of how far he has come since then, but also how unforgiving some people are as they still expect him to go crazy and slaughter people with dark magic. Harry is a wizard, but he is also human and prone to making. And yet he is still being punished for one mistake he made a long time ago. This is another common theme which runs throughout this book and it is perhaps the source of his conflict with some people.

This book is very much about redemption, forgiveness, family, and making choices. By the end of it Harry, and the audience, are still very much in the dark about what is really going on. Most of his relationships have now changed irreparably, some for the better and some for the worse, and overall he is no better off. There is a lot to be resolved in the next few books and not all of it revolves around the war with the Red Court. Signs and portents are abound and dark magic and unpleasant characters are going to crawl out of the woodwork at the most inopportune moment because he is just that unlucky. Plus there are a few more personal mysteries that need to be solved. The books are growing in complexity and at the moment I am not too bogged down by all of the detail, but I would like to see a few of them resolved so that we can focus and keep our eye on fewer balls in the air. This is just a personal thing for me, but if there were less, it might give them more space to breathe and give us, and Harry, more space to explore them. Overall I am still thoroughly addicted to this series and I really canít wait to read the next four.

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