Overall Rating: Recommended with Reservations (How I Rate Books)
Personal Rating: Unexceptionally readable. Not bad, not good.
Genres: Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, Mystery, Crime, Paranormal
Previous books by the author/in the series I’ve reviewed:
- Academ’s Fury by Jim Butcher
- Cursor’s Fury
- Captain’s Fury
- A Fistful of Warlocks
- B is for Bigfoot
- Brief Cases
- Princeps’ Fury
- First Lord’s Fury
- Storm Front
- Dog Men
Look out for spoilers!
I’m re-reading this as a part of the Legendarium Podcast bookclub. I’m going to be spoiling a lot of things in this, so stop reading now if you aren’t familiar with this book/the series.
This was an okay book, but upon re-read I had a lot of problems with it. I think this is the weakest story in the series. But before I get into what I dislike, I’m going to say what I like so I can keep this review somewhat positive.
I liked the worldbuilding in this story more than that in the first book, and maybe net-total for the series as a whole. The author does a fine job of introducing not one, not two, not three, but four different species of werewolves; the author introduces the main conflict of the main character vs the forces of hell/evil; and the author introduces the politics of the police precinct. All together, it made the story feel authentic.
I liked the subplot of the strained relationship between Dresden and Murphey. It seemed realistic that Harry not telling her 100% of everything would make her not trust him. I liked that she was being put under pressure by her higher ups for turning to a ‘psychic adviser’ Dresden to solver her cases, because that skepticism seemed realistic. Their whole relationship in this book was mostly well done.
Okay, now on to everything I didn’t like.
Just above I said ‘mostly’ well done when talking about Dresden and Murphey’s relationship. What bothered me was the fact that Murph arrested Dresden and then beat him up once he was in custody. I don’t object to her arresting Harry, for it was the logical thing for her to do under the circumstances. I object to her beating up a prisoner. That’s just straight up police abusing her power. Given how we’re supposed to think that Murph is one of the good guys, this action is… bad. She only had circumstantial evidence against Dresden! He wasn’t resisting arrest, but she just went to beating him up.
Next, I have to bring up the book’s depiction of women. I didn’t really notice it the first time I read it 15 years ago, or when I read Storm Front a few months back. This time around I was left me, a dude, feeling a bit uncomfortable about the sexist language. In particular Tara Wolfe had some dialog which was a bit yikes.
And finally, the villains kinda sucked. By and large I don’t really like the villains in the Dresden Files. I feel that the author doesn’t do a good job of writing compelling villains who are the heroes of their own stories. In this case, the two villains are a werewolf gang leader and a werewolf FBI agent. They never were compelling characters, and were all-too-often depicted as little more than monsters in men’s clothing.
Here’s the problem: monsters can’t be empathized with. I can’t empathize with the gangsters or the FBI agents because their motivations are entirely alien to the human condition. You can make a reader empathize with a person who is infected by a monstrous disease (see the loup-garou), which makes for a compelling cursed anti-villain. But the gangsters and the FBI agents never were presented by the author as ‘heroes of their own story;’ they were always presented as ‘inhuman monsters in human skin.’
I don’t care about the werewolf villains in this book. I don’t care about Nicodemus, or the eldritch horrors, or the Black Council or the vampire clans. In the end, all of these villains are motivated by goals which by their very nature are entirely outside of human ken, and as I’m human I just don’t get why they’re doing what they’re doing. That’s why the mafioso ‘Gentleman’ Jonny Marcone is the most compelling antihero/villain in this series, because he’s a human with complex motivations and desires. I can understand why he does what he does (he likes money, and he has a soft spot for children). Jonny is a hero of his own story, to a certain definition of hero.
And there you have it. In and of itself I liked this book, but it wasn’t very special. If it weren’t the subject of a book club I probably never would have read it again. On the bright side the series is only going to get better from here.