We’re back! It’s time for book three of the adventures of Harry Dresden, the urbanest wizard around. This one is called Grave Peril. It probably involves ghosts or zombies or something.
We find Harry just as we left him: being an urban wizard and driving around in his quirky mid-life-crisis-mobile, The Blue Beetle. Anyone who gives their car a cutesy nickname is a serial killer, true fact.
For another, I don’t get along so well with technology
How many times will this be used to explain plot contrivances? Let’s find out!
Anything manufactured after about World War II seems to be susceptible to abrupt malfunction when I get close to it.
Why only after World War II? They had radios before then, are those not susceptible to wizardly energies?
Anyway Harry is hauling ass to a hospital for some reason. There’s a sarcastic dude named Michael riding shotgun. I predict that Michael is an angel because guys named Michael in urban fantasy novels are always angels.
If God wills it, we’ll be there in time.
They’re on the way to the hospital because Bob the talking komedy skull said there’s a ghost there and I guess that’s bad. Ghosts are more interesting than werewolves, so I’m down with that.
“Lord be with us,” Michael said, and crossed himself.
Okay, we get it.
Michael starts asking Harry when he’s going to marry Susan Rodriguez and Harry is all “huuuuuuuh? marriaaaaaaaage? what is this I don’t even” and it’s all very funny, let me assure you.
“Hell’s Bells, Michael,” I scowled. “You and I have been chasing all over town for the past two weeks, going up against every ghost and spirit that has all of a sudden reared its ugly head. We still don’t know what’s causing the spirit world to go postal.”
“Yes, Harry, I know. I was there.”
“AND THEN WE WENT TO GET PIZZA”
“I GOT BELL PEPPERS ON MINE DO YOU REMEMBER”
“At the moment,” I interrupted, “we’re going after a nasty old biddy at Cook County, who could kill us if we aren’t focused. And you’re asking me about my love life.”
“THIS IS WHAT WE’RE DOING RIGHT NOW”
“No seriously, you don’t have to summarize the situation that’s happening right now. I’m aware of the thing that we’re currently doing.”
“I’M DRIVING A CAR”
Michael asks Harry if he loves Susan and Harry doesn’t answer because he’s a hardboiled urban hero who is as the wind, flitting aimlessly from place to place and unable to put down roots. Poor Susan! At least you won’t get killed off nine books from now in a contrived excuse for Harry to feel manpain.
Then he reached back in for a white cloak with a red cross upon the left breast, which he tossed over his shoulders in a practiced motion. He clasped it with another cross, this one of silver, at his throat. It clashed with his flannel workman’s shirt, blue jeans, and steel-toed work boots.
“Can’t you leave the cloak off, at least?” I complained.
Yes, because your outfit totally doesn’t look ridiculous. Michael actually points this out, which is another example of Butcher’s habit of being self-aware enough to make fun of himself for writing juvenile nonsense but not enough to actually stop writing juvenile nonsense.
I shot him a withering glance, to which he turned the other cheek
Almost in a biblical sense, you could say.
“He cast the white cloak back from his right arm, and put his hand on the hilt of the great broadsword. Then he bowed his head, crossed himself, and murmured, “Merciful Father, guide us and protect us as we go to do battle with the darkness.” Once more, there was that thrum of energy around him, like the vibrations of music heard through a thick wall.”
Urban Fantasy generally doesn’t address the existence or not of the Christian god due to the kinds of follow-up questions it invites. I wonder how the Dresden series will handle this?
And we broke into a run, knight and wizard
“Knight and Wizard” would be a good name for an English folk rock band.
I grabbed the arm of the first orderly I saw. He blinked, and then gawked at me, from the tips of my Western boots to the dark hair atop my head
Sometimes I really can’t tell whether these books are secretly parodying themselves. Also wouldn’t it make more sense to scope the area out quietly first instead of charging in armed to the teeth? I’m pretty sure if a huge dude with a five-foot broadsword burst into a hospital lobby the police would very quickly show up and start shooting.
(Also harry is carrying some sort of sack in his teeth for some reason. I guess that coat doesn’t have pockets)
It seems our old friend Butcher has discovered the cardinal rule of horror: hospitals are hella scary.
The nursery floor is dark and spooky and has wheelchairs and flickering lights and shit. It’s also unusually silent, which probably isn’t a good sign.
A sign on the wall, decorated with a brightly colored plastic clown
Also not a good sign.
Michael draws his cool sword, which has a latin name and according to the Dresden Files wiki is the “sword of love”.
I set the candle down upon the floor, where it continued to burn pinpoint-clear, indicating a spiritual presence. A big one. Bob hadn’t been lying when he’d said that the ghost of Agatha Hagglethorn was no two-bit shade.
Harry strides forward boldly, rod and sack firmly in hand. He opens a pair of swinging doors and hears spooky singing. It’s dark inside so he uses his mother’s amulet to shoot magic into the darkness and let him see. The nurses are all in an enchanted sleep. I have to say as far as depictions of ghostly activity go this is actually pretty cool.
Row upon row of little glass cribs on wheeled stands stood in the room. Tiny occupants, with toy-sized hospital mittens over their brand-new fingernails, and tiny hospital stocking caps over their bald heads, were sleeping and dreaming infant dreams.
As we know from the previous book, babies are the source of all magic. This must therefore be the most magically potent room in the world.
Hey so Agatha Hagglethorn (AGATHA HAGGLETHORN) is a woman. You know what that means- DRESDEN SCAN ACTIVATE.
Her face was pretty, in a strained, bony sort of way,
Unfortunately she’s wearing an old-timey 19th century dress so Harry can’t comment on her boobs or her shapely figure.
I crept closer. I had enough ghost dust to pin down Agatha
I wonder if Harry buys ghost dust from the same place that Zedd gets his wizard dust.
The ghost did not appear to have noticed me-ghosts aren’t terribly observant. I guess being dead gives you a whole different perspective on life.
For some reason ghosts can’t be harmed unless they know you’re there, so Harry stands up and calls her name. She doesn’t realize what’s happening and thinks that he’s been sent by her husband to steal her child.
But I’m a sucker for a lady in distress.
Yes, Harry, we know you’re a condescending little ass.
I always have been. It’s a weak point in my character, a streak of chivalry a mile wide and twice as deep
That’s a really weird mis-spelling of “misogyny”, I wonder how the editors didn’t catch it.
Harry sees how hurt and lonely ghost-Agatha is and decides to try and reason with her instead of throwing the ghost powder in her ghost face and letting Michael ghost-kill her with his ghost-killing ghost sword. This is particularly ridiculous considering Agtha just accidentally stopped a baby breathing.
Harry reveals that Agatha Ghostface has a backstory truly worthy of a wannabe feminist like our boy Harry: her husband beat her and one day, fearing that he’d turn on their baby daughter, she covered the baby’s mouth with her hand and accidentally smothered it.
I felt like such a bastard to be going over the woman’s past so coldly
She’s KILLING BABIES, just throw the fucking ghost powder.
Agatha becomes consumed by grief and engages Evil Ghost Mode, then starts flipping her shit at Harry. To be fair to Butcher the way this scene is described is pretty cool- I could see it looking totally awesome in a big-budget movie.
Harry manages to use some ghost-dust, then Michael charges in with his ghost-sword. They think they’ve banished her, but it turns out she’s still trying to smother babies from b e y o n d t h e g r a v e (or the nevernever, in this case). Michael suggests they cross over and fight the ghost on its own territory.
“We don’t have a choice,” Michael snapped. “Look.”
I looked. The infants were falling silent, one by one, little cries abruptly smothered in mid-breath.
That is legit pretty spooky.
Harry protests a bit and worries that “his godmother” will kill them, whatever the fuck that means, but Michael insists that he has “a good heart” so of course he decides to open a window into ghostland for them.
So as far as Dresden books go that was a pretty killer opening. It’s fast paced, has some cool imagery and Harry is marginally less annoying than usual. This probably won’t last, but his snarky oh-aren’t-I-so-funny quip-filled narration appears to have been severely toned down since last time.