Harry Dresden’s faced some pretty terrifying foes during his career. Giant scorpions. Oversexed vampires. Psychotic werewolves. All par for the course for Chicago’s only professional wizard. But in all of Harry’s years of supernatural sleuthing, he’s never faced anything like this: the spirit world’s gone postal. All over Chicago, ghosts are causing trouble-and not just of the door-slamming, ‘boo’–shouting variety. These ghosts are tormented, violent, and deadly. Someone–or something–is stirring them up to wreak unearthly havoc. But why? And why do so many of the victims have ties to Harry? If Harry doesn’t figure it out soon, he could wind up a ghost himself.
The previous two books in the Dresden File series were very episodic. Cases were started, monsters were met, but luckily Harry Dresden came to save the day and everyone went home happy. This monster of the week style does make for some fun reading but I desired more. Many people have said that the third book is the turning point in the series and things will begin to heat up. While this third book still uses the same formula, I’m glad that there are finally hints to a greater story arc.
The majority of Grave Peril deals with the ghosts that are terrorising Chicago. Someone or something is stirring up the spirits and is targeting Harry’s associates. At the same time, the vampires have invited Harry to a masquerade celebrating the elevation of Madame Bianca, who you might remember from Storm Front, to Margravine of the Red Court of vampires. Harry knows that something is up but he couldn’t have guessed the impact of this vampire ball will have on his life.
One of the things I enjoy in this book are the new characters. Michael Carpenter is a Knight of the Cross and battles monster with his giant sword Amoracchius. Like all the magic in Dresden Files, the more you believe in something, the more powerful the magic effect will be. Being a devout Christian, Michael’s faith naturally becomes his armour and when vampires touch him, they will automatically burst into flame. Michael complements Harry nicely and often guides Harry to do the right thing.
Another interesting character is Harry’s faerie godmother, Leanansidhe or Lea for short. Harry had made a pact with her when he was younger and now she has shown up to claim what he owes her. She makes Harry’s life miserable as soon as she comes on the page and I wonder how far she would go to make Harry honour his pact.
My only issue with the books I’ve read is that the world building still feels like your usual urban fantasy setting. The monsters are still rather bland and forgettable. So far, Butcher has done some great work on his leading characters but the villains require much more work. I guess the plot formula doesn’t allow much room to add depth to those characters.
Although this book still hasn’t won me over on the series yet, I appreciate the new direction that Butcher is heading to with this book. The series is definitely improving as it reveals more of the world with each book. The one thing I can say for sure is that it is fun to read these books and I can understand why there is such a huge demand for this series.