GRAVE PERIL by Jim Butcher: a Dresden Files reread

Mark Yon has been a reviewer and web administrator at SFFWorld, one of the world’s biggest genre forum sites, for nearly ten years. He has also been on the David Gemmell Awards organisation committee for the last two years. In this series of rereads, Mark will guide us below through the whole of Jim Butcher’s fabulous Dresden Files series as we count down to the new hardback at the end of July.

In Grave Peril 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, things have been hotting up recently in Chicago. Ghosts have been appearing with much more regularity than they should and have been keeping Harry very busy. This becomes even more worrying when it becomes noticeable that they have some sort of connection with Harry. As you might expect, as a result, Harry’s soon back to being thrown around, and dealing with his dark moods and his exaggerated sense of chivalry. But his main goal must be to figure out why Chicago’s ghosts have suddenly gone crazy, sometimes with deadly consequences, and put a stop to it – if he can.In Grave Peril, Jim Butcher briefly mentions events in Harry’s past, though keeping the involvement of the police to a minimum here. He also introduces Michael Carpenter, whose family become increasingly important in these books. In addition to being Harry’s friend, Michael is also a Knight of the Cross. As such, he’s sworn to act as the Hand of God to fight the world’s evils – and possesses the holy sword Amoracchius in order to do so. We also visit the ‘other world’ of spirit and faerie, amusingly referred to by Harry as the Nevernever. Jim revives an old enemy too, Bianca of the Chicago vampires, not to mention Leanandsidhe, Harry’s faerie godmother.

Vampires, werewolves and now ghosts (there’s a hint in the title!) feature heavily with a good helping of the Fae to boot. Harry’s world continues to get more complicated – in a good way. And 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 very appealing. The style is still dryly humorous and engaging, but what’s also happening is that Butcher is developing the old ideas by adding a few new twists to Harry’s world. As one example, we have the idea that vampire saliva is an addictive narcotic. And two, we are introduced to 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 Butcher’s ongoing inventiveness that makes the series worth reading, as well as the engaging characters.

It is clear that plot and characters are developing as the series progresses. Harry still has his sense of humour too – just – even when things are looking bleak.

I felt that this one is a meatier serving of Dresden and has some nice consequences that leave me really wanting to read the next. Can’t say more than that!