Okay, this book technically isn’t out yet, but thanks to my bookstore connections I borrowed an advanced reader copy. I promise there will be absolutely no spoilers (and don’t ask, because I’m not telling) and I will try as hard as I can not to give anything to infer from.
This is the 14th book in an urban fantasy series by Jim Butcher. It follows the adventures of Harry Dresden, Chicago’s only practicing wizard, as he battles vampires, werewolves, fairies, fallen angels, ghosts – you name it, and it’ll probably appear at some point in the series. Non-Western mythologies make appearances, too, though the majority of the series is heavily based on versions of things found in European mythologies. (This is a long, but planned, series, so it’s quite exciting as we’ve passed the midpoint and things are beginning to come together in the past few books.) If you like urban fantasy, this is a series you should check out. Butcher does a great job of combining escapism fantasy with the occasional flash of thought-provoking brilliance. His characters are somewhat pulled from the whole “Good/neutral/bad” spectrum but they’re still fun to be around – if you don’t do a lot of roleplaying games or read a lot of fantasy this will not be noticeable to you. His dialogue is witty and funny, his plot lines are mostly tight and connected, and it is one of the most entertaining worlds I’ve ever entered through a book. And, hey, occasional thought-provoking flash of brilliance! The books start off dark and get darker, mind you, though they never lose their sense of humor and the inherent fun in reading them. (I’m looking at you, Animorphs.)
First off, this is one of the best books the series has put out in a while. I love this entire series, mind you, so that’s not a backhanded compliment. This book is just one giant piece of epicness. One of the things I like best about Jim Butcher’s writing is the way he manages his plot lines – so, so well. Rarely does anything not get followed up and throughout the series small plot points convincingly lead to other ones. Normally I find long series irritating, because at some point it feels like the author is just throwing things in to keep things going, but Butcher doesn’t feel like that even at book 14. Like the other books in this series, this one is soundly based on the events beforehand. The books tend to be a wee bit exposition heavy, so I assume you could read it without having read the others. I say assume because I’ve read this series so often I don’t think I can separate myself from the backstory.
The one thing I will tell you about this book is that Butcher is on top of his game with nerd culture and cult classic references, so bone up before you read it for maximum enjoyment.
The book has plenty of action – a Harry Dresden trademark. If you haven’t read them before, be prepared for battle, bloodshed and unclear/uncomfortable moral decisions. If you have read the series, the blurb of the book and the ending of the last book lets you know this book is dealing with faeries. I love the Faerie storyline(s) and the book did not disappoint! The reader – and Harry – gains more information about the world of Faerie (and, man, is it cool!). One tiny piece of information I had already predicted (c’mon, Harry, how could you not get that?) and the rest was unexpected but made complete sense within the realm of the story. Expect – anything. The ending is fantastic and you will be trying to figure out what happens next when you reach the last word.
To be fair, Butcher is not a brilliant writer. His plots are excellent, as is his world-building, but I wouldn’t read him just for his writing style and command of the written word. His characters are getting more complex as he goes along, but if I didn’t like them so much I would be inclined to admit they can be a wee bit stereotypical at times. (Nonetheless, they are all hugely enjoyable! Hugely enjoyable!) These books are mostly for escapism and fun, dashed with moral dilemmas and sprinkled with thought-provoking fare. I really, really enjoy them. So much. (Also, I read this book in one evening/night because I kept on wanting to know what happened next. Arg!)