GHOST STORY by Jim Butcher

Maybe the most impressive thing about GHOST STORY isn’t that Jim Butcher has managed to write an engaging and interesting novel about a character who is dead, and┬átherefore faces some serious challenges in impacting the world around him, but that this is the thirteenth book in The Dresden Files and Butcher has somehow found a way to raise the stakes each time.

In this one, Butcher picks up six months after Dresden was shot and apparently killed at the conclusion of CHANGES. Of course, a dozen books into the series, Dresden has picked up a shit ton of enemies, so readers can immediately go through a laundry list of suspects, but even if readers were able to guess the gunman, I’ll bet they didn’t figure out who hired him — a plot twist that much impressed me, in part because it fits perfectly with the characters.

Those characters are the best part of The Dresden Files. I’ve long said that the first book or two are decent fantasy reads — nothing difficult, nothing deep, with a narrator in Dresden who’s amiable enough to carry the reader along. But around the third book, as Dresden’s adventures grew in scope and we began to peel back the layers of the world Butcher has created, we also began to meet some terrifically interesting characters. I know myself as a reader well enough by now to know that I’m a sucker for great characters, and that’s probably why I’ve got all thirteen of The Dresden Files books on my shelf.

Even better, Butcher knows how to use a cast of characters that’s grown to pretty epic proportions by now. Molly Carpenter is a big supporting character in this book, and she’s becoming a bad ass wizard in her own right. I’ve always liked Father Forthill, so I was glad to see him back as a minor supporting player, and Mort Lindquist returns, and he (perhaps like the series) has turned into a character worthy of your respect. We see a bit of how Murphy’s dealt with Dresden’s death, and their back and forth repartee struck me as more entertaining than usual in this book. There’s not much of Mouse or Thomas, but they both make an appearance near the end, and the werewolves show up a couple times to rip bad guys to shreds. Good times.

Speaking of the end, I liked it. We find out who set up Dresden’s shooting, and it worked for me. Butcher again sets things up for the next book. The end isn’t as dramatic as in CHANGES, with Dresden getting shot in the chest and falling into the lake, but for some reason, even though he’s done it in most of the books now, the endings where Harry looks at the people around him and recognizes that he loves this odd assortment of characters works for me. It’s probably because, much like Dresden, I too like these characters.

NEXT UP: Black Gate Magazine, Issue 15