The Dresden Files: Proven Guilty by Jim Butcher
The Dresden Files for me has become my comfort food of reading. The books aren’t ground breaking or are masterpieces by any means. But when I pick up the next book in the series, I know I am going to have a good time. And after a marathon of scifi novels over the last few months. I decided to take a break and read a little more of the Dresden Files. Here is the review of the eighth book in the series, Proven Guilty by Jim Butcher.
So what is this one about? First off, if you don’t know what this book series, it follows Harry Dresden, a wizard for hire who often times helps the police with supernatural murders. But since the events of the last couple of books, Harry is in a very different place. Because of a secret war between the wizards and vampires, the white council (the army/government/police force) of the wizards has been decimated and Dresden has been drafted in. He at this point is on call for war, but most work from them so far has been as their police essentially banishing supernatural threats from the Chicago area. And he hates it. The system has way too many executions without fair trials and Dresden has some secrets they would kill him for on the spot.
He is given a job to find the source of the dark magic popping up in Chicago and also is asked to get aid from the fairy kingdoms in another realm for the war. But he hits dead ends, only learning the Winter Queen has gone mad. So when the teenage daughter of his friend asks for help, he decides to help. The girl is Molly. Now fully grown and is a bit of mess trying to rebel against her parents as she hangs out with junkies. He helps her and tries to get her to go home to her folks to sort her life out, but thing soon get complicated. At the place of her employment, a horror convention at a hotel, movie monsters crawl out of the silver screen murdering people. And it all has something to do with the Mad Queen and Molly.
So the good and bad? Let’s start with the good. I like the fact that this series move in a real time of release spaced over roughly a year apart from one to another. Molly has grown up. Harry’s relationship with his brother has changed so much. Over four books it shifted from intolerance, to trying to make things work, to forcing a life on him, to finally accepting the fact that there’s no changing that he’s related to a vampire. His relationship with Murphy was frenemies who work together to friends, to actually liking one another a little more than friends. All of this has happened nearly a decade in the book’s timeline and it feels real. And it also sad as well. As his friends grow older, it is brought up again and again that Harry hardly ages. He will live centuries and will outlive them all. This time line is so smartly done and I have not seen a timeline done so well since the Harry Potter series.
Beyond the timeline, I think Thomas was handled a lot better. In the last couple of books, he seemed wasted. But here he seemed to have good direction. And the fact that the heart of this book was about Molly was interesting. Though she was a pain in Dresden’s side, their relationship was great. Dresden has to step up and do things her parents won’t just to save her life, because no matter how much of a brat she is, he loves her. And there is one scene where she does something really stupid and he dumps her in a pitcher of cold water to get to stop being dumb and lay down some rules. It even made me laugh. She really deserved it. It was a really interesting dynamic. Also Charity, Molly’s mother, has an interesting arc. Murphy’s story seems to be coming to some sort of closer with her time with the supernatural crimes. And also the whole movie monster idea was great. I love the campy nature of all of it.
The bad? The story threads trying Molly’s story and the crazy fairy queen storylines together are thin. They are barely there. It barely makes sense. The author tries so hard to connect the dots, but it is just not well done. The mystery here is just not as tight and well written as the other novels, which is a shame. Butcher usually is the master of supernatural mysteries that thickens with a lot of layers and tight twists and turns. But here it feels like he had two really good ideas but was not sure how to bring them together. Also, the fairy realm has always been weird to me. When ever they leave Chicago to go there, it’s very abstract, empty, and lacking in detail. It never feels real to me and I don’t enjoy it because it is so hard to picture. And in this book, there’s are a lot of things that make little sense in the story's context. It seemed like something bad happened in fairy land. I was like “Oh my God. What happened?” Well, its never explained. Its never explored and is forgotten within a dozen pages. Also, there is a scene where Harry is spending fifty pages trying to perform a spell in a hotel room, which is something shouldn’t happen in this series. And lastly there is a subplot where Molly is hitting on Harry because she wants to have sex with him to piss her mom off. It’s weird. It might make some people uncomfortable, as she is seventeen. But don’t worry. Nothing happens. In fact, Harry teaches her a lesson about being so dumb.
Overall, this is probably the first Dresden Files book I didn’t really like. The last one, sure, I didn’t love that either. But even though the last book was over the top and silly, it made sense. I felt this one barely made any sense. The writing in this one was average at best. The drama between Harry and his friends was superb. But the urban supernatural mystery just wasn’t all that good. So if you are a fan of the series and love Harry, Murphy and the rest of the gang you’ll find the read worthwhile. If you want another supernatural mystery thriller with top-notch writing to keep you on the edge of your seat, then you’ll be disappointed. All the books up until this point are miles above in quality when it comes to that.
3 smoothies out of Five
Overall Rating: Movie Monsters Come to Life and a Lot of Family Drama