04 November 2013

Review: Grave Peril

Grave Peril
Grave Peril by Jim Butcher

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Closer to a 4.5, but the short answer for Grave Peril is that I ain't afraid of no ghost.

The plot of this volume gets a little more complicated than previous volumes. On one hand, we've got vampires. Lots and lots of vampires. A vampire court. Vampires. I wasn't initially excited about the prospect, because vampires, but Jim Butcher hasn't steered me wrong yet, and it wasn't long before we got to the other hand: crazed ghosts wreaking a lot of havoc and problems throughout Chicago.

The one negative I've found with The Dresden Files so far is the way Butcher establishes his world. There are rules and issues to follow, and occasionally we'll be pulled out of the narrative, often by Harry himself, to explain them. That sort of establishment is not very organic at times, and falls into the key issue I've had with urban fantasy to start - the almost automatic need to make sure the worldbuilding is secure because it's not standard majestic sword and sorcery.

This isn't always a bad thing. Part of what makes Dresden work is Harry's need to follow the arcane rules of the magical world around him, and it introduces a lot of danger not only for him, but now for others around him. Could they be introduced in a better way in the narrative? Sure, why not? With that said, the only urban fantasy I've read so far that hasn't gotten hung up in that sort of descriptive speedbump is Max Gladstone's Three Parts Dead, which is arguably not a traditional urban fantasy anyway. It might just be part of the genre, and that's okay.

With all that said, my criticisms feel a little empty because this book was even better than the first two, and watching the trajectory of these stories continue to rise even as things get a lot more complicated? It's great, especially in comparison to my last readthrough of The Wheel of Time, which could charitably be called painful at some times. At 340 pages, it never felt overdone, the last 100 pages may as well have been pure action, and it's fun to see smart, heroic characters making choices that you expect smart, heroic characters to make, even when they don't necessarily work. Kudos to Butcher as well for continuing to put his characters in real danger and giving real consequences to the actions made. A great gut punch occurs in this book that wasn't anticipated for me at all, and it was both stunning and refreshing.

I am so glad I'm reading these, and moreso that I'm enjoying them as much as I am. I actually can't wait for the next volume at this point.

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