Let’s Read The Dresden Files: Grave Peril ch. 17-18


Chapter Seventeen

Last time: a wizard-detective and a vampire walk into an abandoned warehouse….

Harry stumbles home, still high as a kite on vampire-saliva. Mister harasses him for some food (good cat) and exposits a bit on vampires.

Something about a bite being a link to a victim. If she’d bitten me, she could have gotten into my head. Usual mind-control enchantment.

Look, see, this version of the trope is very slightly different from all of the thousands of other versions of the trope!

I’d learned to block out pain, when necessary. Studying under Justin, it had been a practical necessity. My teacher hadn’t believed in sparing the rod and spoiling the potential wizard. You learn very quickly not to make mistakes given the correct incentive to avoid them.

I don’t think people can actually learn to “block out” pain, just tolerate it. And it would be nice to actually find out something about these shadowy characters from Harry’s past that get name-dropped a few times in every book.

Anyway Harry has to try and “block out” the pleasure of the vampire saliva, a process that’s dismayingly similar to Kvothe’s thing where he splits his mind into pieces or whatever. Once that’s done he tries to figure out what Lydia’s deal is.

I thought of what I had seen of her in the van, of the bracelet on her wrist. Her beating pulse. Had it been slow? I’d thought so, at the time-but then my own had been racing. I focused on the moment I’d been touching her.

Harry remembers that her heart rate had been at around sixty beats per minute, because apparently he sat there and took her pulse for a full minute in order to know that. Or maybe he just extrapolated from a few beats, I don’t know. This seems extremely unlikely.

She left the church and had been taken, perhaps, by the Nightmare. Then gone to Malone’s house under its guidance, and gotten an invitation in.

Wait, what? How does he know Lydia went to Malone’s house or that she did so “under its guidance”? When did he learn all of this?

Malone and Lydia. They’d both been attacked by the Nightmare.

Okay, I’m sure it’s going to turn out that this is in fact the case, but Harry doesn’t have any reason to assume it with this much conviction. It’s like he’s read a rough outline of the plot. That’s really a problem with a detective story.

Harry moves onto more solid speculative ground (Bianca is obviously interested in Lydia for some reason and might therefore have some connection to the Nightmare) and then passes out due to erotic vampire sex-spit and has a dream. I am going to very quickly skip over this because fuck a dream sequence are you serious: Harry, Michael and Murphy are all about to storm yet another abandoned warehouse where a sorcerer (evil wizard) is cooped up. This is apparently a previous operation that the Wizard Patrol undertook, the one that Harry mentioned off-hand earlier. In the actual version of events they prevailed fairly easily, but in the dream Harry’s spell gets turned back on him and everyone is gruesomely slaughtered.

It shook its head, and I exploded, shreds of meat flying out of me, into it, my blood rushing out while I strained and struggled helplessly, screaming

As you can tell, this is the best chapter ever.

Something rippled along my skin. Something cold and dark and nauseating. I sat up, blinking sleep from my eyes, struggling through the remnants of the vampire’s poison and sleep to focus on the presence-but it was gone.

Ah, so that’s why it’s called the Nightmare!

Harry crawls down to his lab and closes himself in a magic circle, but then Bob announces that something just tried to eat him and he totally knows what it was.

 Chapter Eighteen

It was…. the Nightmare! Yeah thanks Bob, I had already figured that out.

Turns out the Nightmare doesn’t come into people’s homes- instead they go to it in their dreams, by like, creating a bubble of alternate reality in the fabric of whatever. Isn’t it great how we can just make up new shit as the plot demands? All mystery writers should do that! What’s that, the killer couldn’t have gotten through the locked door? Well you see, there was an invisible window in one wall that was hidden with cloaking technology!

Since Harry dreamed about the demon Michael killed prior to the story he speculates that the Nightmare is actually the demon’s ghost. GHOST-DEMON.

I shook my head. “But that doesn’t explain the barbed-wire spells we’ve been finding on those ghosts and people.”

Maybe the demon-ghost is also being controlled with one of those.

Bob suggests Bianca the revenge-vampire as a suspect and suggests they go and kill her, but Harry is like “no brah we don’t have enough evidence”.

I reached for the nearest candle, but there weren’t any matches handy. So, I pointed my finger at it, frowned, and muttered the words, ” Flickum bicus.”

“Flickum Bicus” sounds like the name of a crotchety old man that the kids in a 1950s story would be afraid of. “And then we kicked our ball into old man Bicus’ yard and now we can’t get it back”.

For some reason the spell didn’t work, and Bob reveals that the Nightmare, like, ate some of Harry’s magic or something.

I put my hand to the base of my stomach, pressing there, and felt my eyes go wide.

Bob winced. “Oooooo, chakra point. That isn’t good. Got you right in the chi.”

I’m not sure if Bob is supposed to be joking here. If not, magic is now governed by chakra points and internal body energy, as well as being some sort of field and also life force and also baby’s giggles or whatever the fuck.

Anyway Harry’s all pissed because the demon has part of his power and it might tear shit up with it.

” Grrrr,” I said, still pacing.


Ghosts can only have the kind of power this Nightmare has while they are acting within the parameters of their specific bailiwick.

Okay more arbitrary bullshit rules. Basically this means ghosts can only affect stuff relating to their death somehow, hence Agatha Ghostface and the babies. Harry figures out that the ghost-demon wants revenge against the people who killed it (the cop who got super-possessed was part of the raid that killed it) and rushes off to go warn Murphy. Of course he can’t just call her, because of plot contrivance wizards and technology don’t mix. Butcher really should have just set these books in the 80s.

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13 thoughts on “Let’s Read The Dresden Files: Grave Peril ch. 17-18

  1. Pingback: Let’s Read The Dresden Files: Grave Peril ch. 19 | Doing In The Wizard

  2. redsilkphoenix

    ” Flickum bicus.”

    Five will get you ten that this is a reference to an old US advertising campaign. Bic Lighters used to have ‘Flick my Bic’ as their tagline for their disposable lighters.

    On the one hand, small joke to keep things somewhat light. On the other hand, I don’t think there’s too many people outside of US citizens of a certain age group who’ll get that bit of humor.

    Ymmv, of course.

    1. Signatus

      To be honest, I thought it was some lame attempt at latin mumbo jumbo, because apparently all wizards in fiction speak in latin or in other bullshit madeup ancient language. Wonder what shamans in prehistoric times spoke in.

      1. braak

        It is both. The jokes is that he made a spell in fake-ass “wizard latin” that is the tagline for an ad campaign about bic lighters. I think somewhere in one of these books, Harry says something to the effect that the language of a spell isn’t really important, the important thing is that it’s not your natural language, so you have to concenrate on it.

        (I don’t know though, that could be a post-hoc rationalization that I made up in order to try to make sense of it all.)

      2. Signatus

        Yeah, Butcher does say the language is not important, which I’m going to give him was slightly original (although a part of magic lore does attribute power to certain words). However, because his character could choose, it would have been interesting to see him talking, I don’t know, ancient hebrew? German? Japanese?
        The word “fuego” is spanish (I ignore whether it is latin too), so spanish would have made the trick well enough.

        Anyways, all of this would start working (maybe) if he actually kept a consistent magic system (which he does not). In the last book, the whole “magic affects technology” trope is all but forgotten, that is without mentioning what Butcher does to Murphy for no good reason at all.

      3. braak

        A neat idea would be if the spells only worked if 1) they were REAL words, and 2) they only worked while you knew the words, but before you knew them so well that you didn’t have to think about them, so that wizards had to constantly research increasingly-obscure languages in order to redo their spells.

  3. Austin H. Williams

    Isn’t there some sort of TVTropes entry about when characters are able to hoover up some incidental source of information that they would realistically never have the chance to get, just for the sake of moving the plot forward?

    I’ve been in a lot of strange situations in my life, and never have I once managed to register another person’s heart rate in beats-per-minute.

  4. braak

    How come Harry doesn’t have a magic spell that lets him send information to Murphy? She knows he’s a wizard already, he can’t do some kind of “face in the mirror” spell or something?

    Alternately he could get some pigeons like in Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai.

  5. Pingback: Let’s Read The Dresden Files: Grave Peril ch. 16 | Doing In The Wizard

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