Thursday, February 25, 2010
Proven Guilty by Jim Butcher
"Hell's Bells" count - 14
It's one year later....
Many things have changed for Harry Dresden, some of it good and much of it not so much. He has family now, in the form of his half-brother Thomas (who happens to be a vampire of the White Court) and a giant dog named Mouse. His relationship with Karrin Murphy of the Chicago Police Department is as solid as it's ever been, and making very tentative exploratory steps into becoming a different type of relationship altogether.
He has a job - a real one, as a Warden - and all the responsibility that goes with it. The job of Wardens is to be the police and foot soldiers of the White Council of Wizards. When a Wizard breaks one of the seven Laws of Magic, the Wardens can act as investigators, judges and, all too often, executioners. The irony, of course, is that the same Wardens used to watch Harry like a hawk, as he had been accused of using magic to kill, thus breaking the first law. He got off light, under a "One strike and you're out" form of probation with the melodramatic name of The Doom of Damocles. The Council needs Wardens, though, and Harry got tapped. Like it or not, he's part of the Establishment now.
As if all that weren't enough, he also has the shadow of a fallen angel in his head and an ongoing war with the vampiric Red Court to contend with. And in the midst of all this, he's given two small, seemingly unconnected jobs to do: find who's been dabbling in black magic in Chicago and find out why the Red Court vampires have been allowed to use the lands of the Faerie to attack the White Council of Wizardry.
They should be simple, or reasonably so. But they're not. They never are.
Someone is using black magic to create fear. That fear is allowing terrible, terrible Things into the world, creatures that feed on fear and take the forms of some of the most terrible movie monsters we know (all of whom are, of course, based upon real characters, with only the names changed to protect Butcher from Lawyers). These creatures have already killed, attacking at a crowded horror movie convention, and Harry is determined to see that the person who called them forth pays for doing so. With blood and pain, if possible.
The discovery of the Black Magician, however, puts Harry in an impossible situation where he has to test his loyalties to both his friends and the Council. Fortunately, Harry being Harry, he puts his friends first and is determined to do the right thing, whatever it takes.
Oddly enough, "whatever it takes" happens to involve storming Arctis Tor, the stronghold of the Winter Faerie Queen, to chase down the creatures that stole off Molly Carpenter - the daughter of Michael, the Knight of the Cross. With his friends by his side, Harry goes off into what is almost certainly Certain Death, knowing that even if he saves Molly, she may ultimately be doomed.
When all is said and done, we get another glimmer of insight into how Dresden's world works. It's not a very nice place, and although the history of Wizarding is something that Butcher has avoided thus far, we get the impression that it was, until recently, a tumultuous profession. Easy to understand, really - you get someone with Phenomenal Cosmic Power, and odds are that he's going to abuse it. Perhaps bend someone to his will, or try to turn some hapless victim into a frog. Even such things as time travel and contacting the Things that live beyond the Outer Gates would be possible, were it not for the swift and draconian execution of the Laws of Magic.
Harry represents an institutional change here - he's someone who's suffered under the Laws, who has seen how the merciless application of a rigid law can do more harm than good. Now, as a Warden, an authority figure, he has a chance to change all that. But it won't be easy for him - wizards are a conservative bunch, by and large, and many of the more powerful ones are not well inclined to the idea of changing with the times. But they will have to change - their numbers are depleted, the war is going badly, and it seems that there is a Black Council out there, well-equipped to fight and destroy their White counterpart.
And of course there's his relationship to the world beyond the Council. As was noted in the last book, Harry has changed. He's become famous, not so much for saving the day and foiling the plots of evil masterminds, but for bringing death and destruction wherever he goes. As much fun as that sounds, it seems that watching people flinch when you raise your voice is not something that stays fun for very long.
And still in his mind is the shadow of Lasciel, a Fallen Angel, the merest fraction of whose consciousness is enough to tempt Harry into greater and greater levels of power - for a price.
It is, as with the rest of the books, a very good read. The tone has changed somewhat - it's more tired, more cynical than the early books, which reflects the internal struggles that Harry is going through. But it's fast-paced and exciting, with more than a few very interesting surprises along the way.
Also, because of the movie convention setting, there are plenty of good movie references peppered throughout the book. It makes me feel closer to Harry, since quoting movies was a major form of communication with my friends and me back in college. People here in Japan just don't do it, and I feel the loss.
"When everything goes to hell, the people who stand by you without flinching - they are your family."
- Harry Dresden, Proven Guilty
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