Let’s Read The Dresden Files: Grave Peril ch. 1-2



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.

Chapter 1

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.

Yep, angel.

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.”


“Okay, yes,”


“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.”


“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.”


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)

 Chapter Two

It seems our old friend Butcher has discovered the cardinal rule of horror: hospitals are hella scary.


Especially Silent Hill hospitals

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.

Next Post ————>  


20 thoughts on “Let’s Read The Dresden Files: Grave Peril ch. 1-2

  1. Pingback: Let’s Read The Dresden Files: Grave Peril ch. 3-4 | Doing In The Wizard

  2. braak

    You know what’s bonkers — Butcher decsribes all these rules for ghosts, about what they can perceive and when and so forth. And in one of the later books, Harry gets shot and becomes a ghost (hahaha SPOILERS MOTHERFUCKERS).

    Isn’t that a really great idea for a book like this? It’s told in the first person, so all these ways that Harry’s perspective is limited, you could write it so that it sort of all makes sense from in the inside — it seems perfectly reasonable that he only goes to the same places that mattered the most to him when he died, we accept that he IS just being attacked by whoever he’s most suspicious of when they show up, that the people he loved ARE just turning up in random places and not being misidentified by his ghost vision.

    The idea for Ghost Story is actually one of the best ideas for an Urban Fantasy series anyone has ever had, because it would let Butcher take time out of his regular formula and re-investigate both the world and character through a purposefully-distorted perspective that the readers wouldn’t be immediately privy to, but would still be concomitant with the rules that he had set down for the world in the previous books.

    Spoiler, though:


    1. Signatus

      As I was reading through your comment I was wondering whether we had read the same book, because Ghost Story is, by far, possibly the worst book he has. When I reached the end of your comment and everything made sense, I couldn’t but agree with you… A LOT.
      He could have used this book to explore all these dimensions and he just uses it to ruin every other character.

  3. Austin H. Williams

    Why only after World War II? They had radios before then, are those not susceptible to wizardly energies?

    Radios? Shit! Spark plugs! Light bulbs! When does technology actually start being technology? That’s something that always bugs me when I see this magic vs. technology dichotomy. It’s an irritating trope to begin with for me, but when it’s handled poorly (as most people who invoke it, Butcher included, do), my frustration rises exponentially.

    1. Aaron Adamec-Ostlund (@AaronAO)

      Sadly we don’t get to read about how needle-nose pliers explode in Harry’s presence. It paints a pretty ignorant view of the world, that he takes so much for granted, after all technology isn’t just what you have and foreigners don’t.

  4. andrea harris

    True story: a couple years ago I panned one of the later Dresden books that happened to cross my radar. I’ve since stopped posting to that blog (it’s my blog, I just stopped posting to it). Yesterday I got an email alerting me to an attempted comment. It was some dude calling me a “cunt” because I criticized a book that was later in the series. Yes, one of the “you have to read them ALL in SEQUENCE” brodouches sharted in a blog post that is almost two years old. This is how sad Jim Butcher fans are.

    1. ronanwills Post author

      Good…..books? I’m not sure I follow.

      (no I do, I’m reading The Amazing Adventures of Kavelier and Clay right now, plus a friend’s WIP that looks to be a good fantasy palate cleanser after Wizard’s First Rule)

      1. Signatus

        I’m right now reading Wolves Behavior Ecology and Conservation, which is not exactly a light read, but it’s absolutely amazing.
        Also, I’m hoping to buy C.A. Lopez Garcia’s latest book, which just came out and basing on what he mentioned on the release conference he gave, his latest work seems to be heavily influenced by Dr Adam Miklosi.

        Someone passed me the Divergent trilogy but… I need to desintoxicate myself first. The last five or six books I read have been TERRIBLE. I think I’ll buy something from Terry Pratchett, or maybe from Neil Gaiman. Any suggestions on good fantasy or urban fantasy?

      2. Austin H. Williams

        Catherynne Valente’s books are all pretty stellar, and are, I feel, fantasy in the truest sense of the word.
        Nnedi Okorafor’s books are pretty brilliant, intense, and, again, fantasy in a very true sense of the word.
        I enjoy Michael Swanwick’s work, and recommend The Dragon’s of Babel and The Iron Dragon’s Daughter, in that order, for some gritty, but not “grimdark,” deconstructions of long-standing fantasy tropes.
        China Miéville’s Bas-Lag novels I would definitely say present a good cure for the common fantasy.
        I haven’t read it in full yet, but Sofia Samatar’s A Stranger in Olondria seems pretty fantastic from what I have seen of it, and it’s getting awards nods left and right.

        So, some possible recommendations there…

      3. ssellis

        Responding to signatus: in the “What Butcher pretends to be doing but isn’t” department, Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London books are a very fun urban fantasy detective series. Harry Connolly’s now-defunct Twenty Palaces series is believably hard-boiled supernatural noir. And Lauren Beukes’ Zoo City is an really good standalone urban fantasy, less like the conventional genre type than it seems.

      4. Lin

        Max Gladstone’s recent Three Parts Dead trilogy — the third book is coming out just now — is great as well.

  5. Signatus

    I think this was one of the best books he wrote… I think. I remember that intro clearly and thought it was very cool, but I can’t remember what the rest of the book was about.

    I really, really hate Susan… very much. She’s such an obvious example of quota woman it’s annoying.

  6. Rob S.

    I dated a girl that knows Butcher’s sister somewhat well, and this is from her. Michael’s wife, in the books, is based on Butcher’s sister (who is probably named Butcher too). Might want to keep that in mind when the HARRYVISION kicks in. I think she shows up in this book?

  7. Reveen

    So the only women Harry interacts with in this book are creepy ghosts with names like they’re cartoon witches right? RIGHT?

  8. UBM

    Yeah, in my opinion the books get a lot better (better in the sense of “more entertaining to read in the train) before they get worse again. I guess you’ll find out if you plan on reviewing all of them 🙂



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