151 of 161 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars odd duck in the series
Jim Butcher is one of those authors I count on. Usually his books are like the reading equivalent of a weekend at a five-star hotel with a personal chef and a cabana boy. GHOST STORY was was more like a weekend at a four-star hotel with a nice dinner out. Not bad - not even close to it - just not the same superlative wonderfulness that Butcher usually delivers...
Published on July 26, 2011 by Erin Satie
91 of 108 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Moving the story along, but . . .
It's hard to review Ghost Story without dropping spoilers. I will try, but no promises.
When I recommend the Dresden series to friends, especially in the last couple of years, I always end by stressing that of all the fantasy/urban fantasy series I follow, Butcher has done the best job building his characters and world, fulfilling the promise of early...
Published on July 27, 2011 by Glinda Good
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151 of 161 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars odd duck in the series,
Jim Butcher is one of those authors I count on. Usually his books are like the reading equivalent of a weekend at a five-star hotel with a personal chef and a cabana boy. GHOST STORY was was more like a weekend at a four-star hotel with a nice dinner out. Not bad - not even close to it - just not the same superlative wonderfulness that Butcher usually delivers.
In GHOST STORY, Harry is forced into a passive role. The title is literal: he's a ghost. He can't do much of anything. He has to stand by and let other people act, or, if he's lucky, persuade them to act according to his instructions. In terms of Harry's character development and moving the series forward, I think this is exactly what Harry needs. For example: there's a sideplot with a gang of kids who are ordered to do a drive by shooting on Murphy's house. Harry ends up hanging out with the top kid, learning about his situation, and then working to change it by rustling up some caretakers and competent adult supervision. He achieves a better, more humane result than he would have found if he'd been able to jump in and fight, like he usually would.
In general, Harry is forced by his circumstances to do a lot of listening, waiting, and reflecting. Harry's always been a smart, thoughtful guy but not someone who dwells unduly on the past. I think that being forced to change his tune is good for him as a person and ultimately for the series - but, just like having Harry be so passive, it's not great for the reading experience. I think half of GHOST STORY might be flashbacks. Taking a stroll down memory lane with Harry is enjoyable...but it's still a STROLL, and Harry Dresden books are usually a lot more like, I don't know, a freight train crashing down Mount Everest. GHOST STORY simply does not have the momentum and muscle of the average Dresden book.
The overall feel is uneven. The action either occurs in the material world without Harry's participation, or else in the spiritual plane without any help from the cast of supporting characters. Harry finds ways to communicate with his friends, but he can't interact with them. The sense of disconnection and compartmentalization is pervasive. A book narrated by a ghost OUGHT to feel like that, so in a way this is a compliment, but it's not as much fun as a book with a live narrator, what can I say?
Then there's the last, final, biggest problem. Harry's told that he has to go back to Chicago and find out who killed him before he can move on to the next world. And while I was VERY interested to discover the answer, it was also, weirdly, a letdown. I felt a little bit like at the end of a TV episode where you find out everything that happened was a dream - that's not what happens here, the book is not just a big dream sequence, but I had that same feeling of having been cheated.
My final judgment is an odd one. I like GHOST STORY just the way it is - I think that cutting Thomas and Murphy out of the plot was cheating, but I wouldn't change the fundamentals. I think I'll like Harry more with these new lessons under his belt; I have no trouble seeing GHOST STORY as a springboard to better things, a necessary step in the series arc. But most Dresden Files books would clear five stars easy for me, and this one is four.
252 of 281 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Harry Dresden is More Fun Dead than the Other Wizard Named "Harry" is Alive.,
At a time when so many sci-fi and fantasy writers produce two or three good books and then start phoning it in, Jim Butcher stands apart from the crowd. He just keeps getting more imaginative, more sophisticated and more entertaining with every new book in this series. Ghost Story is the 13th novel of the Dresden Files and it rivals White Knight and Turn Coat for the best.
I have to admit that I was somewhat skeptical that Ghost Story would work as well as some of the other books in the series. Changes, the previous installment in the Dresden Files, ended with the main character left for dead. So much of the appeal of the previous novels derives from how Dresden uses magic to combat enemies in the realm of the living that I couldn't really think of how Ghost Story could be made interesting. Leave it to Jim Butcher to turn an unlikely premise into a great read.
As it turns out, Harry Dresden's luck is not much better in death than it is in life. In fact, he doesn't get to go to the great beyond because there was something that was not right about his death. Instead, he has to return to earth as a ghost to find out who murdered him. If he fails, he learns, three people who are close to him will come to great harm. Harry returns to earth to find that the planet is deeply troubled. The destruction of the Red Court has led to a power vacuum and chaos in the supernatural world. Magical beings are attacking and destroying both each other and humans who connect with the world of magic. The stakes are as high as they have ever been.
Harry's adventures as a ghost are hugely entertaining. He is invisible and cannot communicate with others in the absence of help from Mort the ectomancer or other mediums. But he develops a new array of powers such as passing through walls and short range teleportation a la Nightcrawler (from the X-Men). Dresden still manages to get involved in countless fracases with supernatural beings and, as usual, take his fare share of beatings along the way. Butcher guides us through all of this with a kind of page-turning suspense that has now become a hallmark of this series.
In fact, bringing Harry back as a ghost proves to be the ideal mechanism for showing his maturation as a character. Although Harry cannot connect with the real world physically as a ghost, emotionally everything that he feels is made more visceral. Throughout the novel, when he runs into people he has both helped and hurt during his life he is forced to come to terms with the consequences of his own actions in a unique way. This is why I disagree with those who express disappointment that Dresden is slightly more contemplative and not quite as involved in the action as in previous installments of the Dresden Files. In this novel we may get more of Harry's thoughts than his deeds than we have become accustomed to. But this allows Harry to take some huge strides as a character.
Butcher's prose in Ghost Story is as crisp and light as it has ever been. In fact while the writing in the first few Dresden novels was generally serviceable and at times a bit workmanlike, here he gives us some passages that are truly elegant compared to other books in the genre.
The only caveat I would have about buying this book is that it might not be the best for a new reader of the series. Many of the plot lines and characters are quite developed at this point so it is better to start with one of the earlier novels if you're new to the Dresden Files. Since most of the suspects in Dresden's murder are characters that have appeared in previous novels, it is important to know a bit about their back-stories if you really want to get into this novel.
Most fans of the series will likely agree that this novel cements Harry Dresden's status as one of the most, if not the most, entertaining characters in fantasy and science fiction toady. I can't think of any other character in the genre that brings his mix of unique abilities, hard-boiled realism and humor.
70 of 80 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Read it cover to cover without putting it down.,
When I first picked up Ghost Story, I was expecting another high-octane thrill ride, picking up where Changes left off. My assumptions were incorrect. This volume of the Dresden files takes a much more simple, introspective approach to what's going on. The first half of the book feels a bit plodding, but you come to realize later than this was purposeful, and that it made for a much better second half.
Dresden again finds himself in over his head, this time on the other side. He's got a mystery to solve, and just about no way to solve it, considering he's incorporeal. Characters that you have come to know have changed, sometimes dramatically, in the wake of what has happened to Harry. After figuring out a way to interact with mortals, that method is stripped away from him, and he's again left with nothing but his wits.
If there's one thing that Jim Butcher does right consistently, it's that he knows how to plant a completely unexpected emotional moment into his stories. This one is packed pretty full with these, as Harry sees the world from an outside perspective.
The writing is solid, ad the plot moves on at an appropriate pace. the only complaint I have is that the villain was far too predictable. From the first encounter, I had the identity pretty much locked down. That's not to say that the baddie wasn't effective, just that there could have been a red herring or two thrown in the mix to keep things interesting
Also, prepare yourself to be left with some of the same questions you had at the end of Changes, along with a slew of new ones. Overall, this is a great read, and a worthy addition to the series. I recommend buying it immediately if you're a fan of the Dresden files!
91 of 108 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Moving the story along, but . . .,
It's hard to review Ghost Story without dropping spoilers. I will try, but no promises.
When I recommend the Dresden series to friends, especially in the last couple of years, I always end by stressing that of all the fantasy/urban fantasy series I follow, Butcher has done the best job building his characters and world, fulfilling the promise of early storylines, maintaining a sense of story "integrity". Things happen, choices are made and there are consequences. When I picked up Ghost Story I was still riding a high from Changes. It was so amazing to see how Harry's choices brought him to Chichen Itza, prepared him to make terrible decisions and take terrible action. The peeling away of portions of his life to that point, the final moments of Changes hit hard.
And here's the biggest problem with Ghost Story. Nothing hits hard.
Butcher has always been able to juggle a large number of characters and do them justice, so adding Sir Stuart, Fitz (too close to "Fix") and the lost boys, yet another cultist style black wizard wasn't unusual. Treating major characters to brief cameo appearances, having Harry wallow in guilt for a few paragraphs then move on, is unusual for the series. Mort the Ectomancer comes out of Ghost Story with some of the best page time. Butters, who also gets a lot of page time, actually seemed to become less of a real character, even though it's explained how and why Butters has "grown" I never felt it. Murphy, Will, other formerly major characters hover on the edges of the story, do a little here, a little there, provide reasons for Harry to agonize, but at the end felt more like ghosts to me than Sir Stuart did.
For me, Molly is the biggest problem with Ghost Story. The choices Harry made that affected her, everything about how they interacted in Ghost Story felt off. One of the lynch-pins between Changes and Ghost Story doesn't pull the novels together, it feels contrived, and seems like a choice Harry never would have made even under duress.
Ghost Story is one big info dump -- flashbacks to crucial past events, Harry hovering like the Ghost of Christmas Presents to see where the people in his life have got to (and either I'm slow, or I missed something about Justine and Thomas. Or maybe it was just boredom and the chance to hint at a little girl on girl action that was responsible for that bit. This wasn't the only interlude that had me scratching my head. I'm still trying to decipher what the exchange between Harry and Stuart -- "You're a mane" meant.)
I'm looking forward to the next book in the series, don't get me wrong. Harry Dresden and company are still an entertaining crew, and Butcher is too good a writer not to recoup from this bridge novel.
I went into the novel with a suspicion about Harry's taking a bullet at the end of Changes, and -- go me -- I was 90% right. There's more to the event than Butcher shares at the end of Ghost Story, I'm sure. If you want to avoid spoilers, avoid my last words: didn't anyone notice who the new Winter Knight was after Dresden got shot?
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A very different Harry story,
Six months have passed since Harry was shot and fell into Lake Michigan and much has changed in that time. The spell he'd done to kill the Red Vampire King and all the vampires with him that had kidnapped his daughter, Maggie, wiped out almost every Red Vampire in the world. Only the very young and very weak managed to survive and it left a huge power vacuum throughout the world. Not only is there a lot of fighting and shifting territories, but monsters have arrived from other dimensions to grab their piece as well.
But Harry has had no awareness of any time passing when he finds himself in a ghostly version of Chicago and he's offered a choice of passing over or being given the chance to go back and find his killer which would also save the lives of three people close to him. Of course he chooses to help his friends, but it's rather difficult without a body, the use of magic or the ability to communicate most of the time.
This is a very different Harry Dresden story than what we are used to. The other books were loaded with action, tension, magic and Harry was always hurt. There is some action but not nearly as much. Harry eventually learns how to use magic against other ghosts, but when it comes to the fighting between those still living, Harry is just a bystander who can't do anything. A good portion of the story has Harry contemplating and reevaluating his past actions and how they affected others. And without the ability to immediately attack or defend, Harry learns to see the reason behind the actions of others and the result is a somewhat gentler man who is willing to extend a hand to help the misguided.
Harry's death--his body was never recovered--has greatly affected those closest to him. Murphy refuses to believe he's dead and doesn't want to believe it's Harry's shade that's now with them. Molly has built herself a reputation as a vigilante now dubbed as the Ragged Lady and her magic has become more powerful. Seeming to be bordering on black magic, even those she's working with have become afraid of her. Butters now has Bob and has a more confident demeanor. Butters, the wolves, Molly's brother, Daniel and Murphy are now working together with Marcone in keeping Chicago safe and out of everything that's happened, Harry has the hardest time reconciling that concept.
Two others from past books have large parts in the story. Mortimer the ectomancer and someone that Harry had already killed, The Corpsetaker who is a ghost trying to become strong enough to possess bodies again.
The humor is still there, as is Harry's explanations for all of the hows and whys as he evaluates situations and possibilities. Harry does find out who ordered the hit on him, and it's a real shocker, as is the ending. I probably felt more emotion than normal when reading this story, especially when it comes to Molly and the burden she carries as well as Harry's thoughts on how what he's done has affected her.
So why only 3 stars? Too much of the story drags. It's never taken me so long to read one of these books and I found it too easy to set aside to do other things. Even some of the fighting seems long-winded, most likely because I just wanted the book to end. But by the time we do get to the end, you realize how important this story actually is to the series as it will explain Harry's changed circumstances and most likely a more mature attitude.
Don't pick this book if you haven't read any others in the series. You are missing out on too much and this is a transition story. Start at the beginning with Storm Front to get a better appreciation for just how far Harry has come.
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Expected and Unexpected,
First off I must say that the previous book in the series Changes, was probably my favorite to date. This book is still a wonderful one, but don't read it expecting another Changes. For one thing so many things were fundamentally turned on their head throughout the course of Changes that much of Ghost Story is spend dealing with all the fallout. And it is some impressive and far-reaching fallout. One of the many talents which Jim Butcher has as an author is his ability to create world changing events while at the same time focusing on the personal and the individual.
Ghost Story is of course predominantly about Harry and his life-after-death experience but in many ways it deals with how his actions have set the world on end. There is snow three feet deep in May, South and Central America are in turmoil and even the United States is feeling the effects of supernatural predators as their confidence grows. In spite of this, this is primarily a book about the characters that we have come to know and love. We the readers along with Harry, learn the sometimes devastating consequences of well-intended actions and that we can't control the pain we cause others. One of my favorite parts in the book comes near the end when something Harry had said in Changes comes backs to haunt him. It doesn't necessarily change who he is but it does change his comprehension of who he is.
One of the most impressive areas of this series has been its progression. The Dresden Files has so far seen Harry Progress from a barely competent wise-cracking private investigator who happens to know a couple of spells, into a spell wielding arcane force-to-be-reckoned-with. And his growth is not limited to his magical abilities either. Having just finished the book, I am inclined to think that Ghost Story is mostly about emotions and growth. There are numerous deeply poignant parts of the book which made me seriously consider the feeling of loss that occurs because of someone's death. The reactions from each character as they converse with Harry's ghost were both unexpected and yet perfectly in character. There were some things that I anticipated about Ghost Story for example the reintroduction of Mort but there was even more that I didn't see coming. Jim Butcher has created an awe inspiring juggling act with this series and he lets us know that he has not forgotten them even if he does little to extend them in this book.
As has been mentioned by others this is not a great book to start the series from. There is no way it will have the same impact on someone who is meeting the characters for the first time, not to mention that it will be somewhat confusing. But for those of us who have read all the way through, the only grievance that we will have is that it comes to an end. I have had to wait a year and a half for this book and while I am not disappointed I am almost apoplectic at the thought of having to wait that long for the next one for the next one.
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Harry's Ghostly Adventure Is Pale and Wan,
I waited for Harry Dresden's newest adventure eagerly, but it's only a ghostly shadow of Harry's previous outings. Jim Butcher's trademark action scenes are dull, and he disses his wonderful stable of characters, none of whom have anything to do. Thomas, one of Harry's most interesting brothers in arms, doesn't appear until a few pages from the end of the book and then he's given an unappealing, unsatisfying scene with no dialogue. Karrin Murphy gets--er--short shrift, too. We last see Bob fighting for his life and Harry just leaves him to it. Butcher apparently forgets about him because we never learn what happens. All the characters we've come to know and love--including Harry-- drift in and out of scenes with no purpose or emotional resonance. Jim Butcher just seems tired of Harry, which is heartbreaking for those of us who would love to see him continue to develop in interesting ways on this side of the veil.
26 of 31 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Still wasn't ready to be published,
This was such a letdown in comparison to the rest of the series. An unfortunate snoozer of a setup for the next book in line. I've been reading the series for years, have reread all of the books more times than I can remember and still enjoy them every time, but Ghost Story ends the streak at 12. Slow to start, a boring cruise through the middle with a retread villain that hardly merits the little time spent on her, then are we graced with a resounding thud for an ending. I didn't even crack a smile until page 88.
This book easily could have been a couple of hundred pages shorter, it feels like it was at one time until someone pulled Robert Jordan's ghost out of a closet so he could muse about inner conflict for a chapter or ten.
Wait to pick this one up used, Amazon will have plenty of copies available very soon.
31 of 38 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Death should be a learning experience, after all, or what's the point?",
When we last saw Harry Dresden, he had lost everything... and was dead. Usually it doesn't get worse than that. But Jim Butcher's "Ghost Story" proves that for a meddling wizard, things can get infinitely worse -- and while the book has some bits that should have been trimmed off, it's still a powerful, bleakly vivid experience.
Harry finds himself scooped up by a sort of heavenly police force, who inform him that there were some irregularities with his death. He's being sent back to Chicago as a powerless ghost to find out who killed him.
But Chicago has changed in the last six months. The Red Court's destruction has allowed other powers -- mainly the Fomor -- to rise instead. Hordes of wraiths and lemurs are following a monstrous shade called the Grey Ghost and a Bob lookalike. Molly has become a half-mad magical vigilante, and a guilt-ridden Murphy is leading a ragtag alliance of local powers.
And making contact with his friends is the least of Harry's problems. Without his magic or his physical body, he has to unravel the identity of the Grey Ghost, thwart a small-time sorcerer, stop a flood of murderous ghosts, and figure out who killed him to start with. But even if he works that out, he's still facing the ultimate unknown...
"Changes" ended with the mother of all cliffhangers, and in a way most of "Ghost Story" is also a cliffhanger -- Butcher keeps you wondering what will happen to Harry and if he's truly imitating the Norwegian blue parrot. And if he isn't all-the-way dead, how the heck can he come back from a shooting/drowning six months afterwards?
So there's a heavy grey cloud of suspense over this book, especially as Harry stumbles through the grim, blood-spattered world that has resulted from HIS ACTIONS. But when Harry drifts back into an active role again, the bleakness begins to lift, and the plot revs up into a slam-bang magical war involving ghosts, Star Trek, and some old enemies of Harry's.
Don't worry, humor fans. Butcher hasn't lost his hilarious knack for the snarky and silly ("It was like The Lord of the Rings and All My Children made a baby with the Macho Man Randy Savage and a Whac-A-Mole machine").
Butcher also puts his hero through the emotional grinder -- Harry is forced to see how his questionable actions have hurt the people he cares for, and have thrown the world into turmoil. This is perhaps the most painful part of the story, seeing Harry grapple with all that he's done.. But Butcher doesn't neglect the supporting characters, like Father Forthill, Morty the ectomancer, Bob, the ever-majestic Uriel and the stalwart shade Sir Stuart.
The book's biggest problem? It feels rather loosely edited -- Harry angsts that he shouldn't have brought Molly to Chichen Itza at least three times, and the flashback to Harry's youth would have made a better short story. Also... WHAT HAPPENED TO THE OTHERS?! I can't wait a year to find out!
"Ghost Story" leaves some threads hanging, but the powerful tale of an undead Harry Dresden trying to set his little world aright is also filled with action, pathos, and sharp bleak urban fantasy.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Clumsy Pacing, Lack of Plot Development, But Still Dresden,
Around 430 pages in hardcover, dealing directly from Dresden's perspective, and half of them left me with an unsatisfying feeling. I feeling like I wasn't reading a Dresden story. Why? In earlier volumes of the Dresden files, we learned that ghosts are generated from a traumatic experience (death qualifies), but it is possible to NOT die and still generate a ghost. This leaves the reader up in the air if this shade of Dresden is the *real* Dresden. Butcher doesn't play that angle, and because he doesn't, I had a degree separation from the early adventures of Ghostly Harry.
My first criticism of the book is the first five chapters should have been released as a short story and NOT put in the novel. 'Ghost Story' could have easily began with Ghost-Harry getting out of the car with a resolve involving his after-death decision. It felt like a non-connected short story because of the fast forward of months between "Changes" and "Ghost Story". This would have cut about 55 pages, improving the pacing. Harry on page ones and fifty-five are identical in their progress of the basic plot.
My second criticism is the short story of Harry's youthful encounter with He-Who-Walks-Behind in the mid-book. It's a flashback used to illustrate a minor point about ghostly memories, and it lasts 30 pages. Again, Butcher should have released it as a separate short story and made this point succinctly in one paragraph.
My third criticism is Butcher went a little overboard with the pop-culture references. Too much. The Star Wars vs Star Trek debate adds something (especially with the series long parallel between Harry and a Jedi Master), but adding in the X-men, Dickens, and old Swayze movies diluted the experience. The Dresden Files *are* pop culture for sci-fi/fantasy geeks! Don't dilute your own brand.
My final criticism -- Butcher doesn't blatantly explain the point of the Seven Words. He doesn't emphasize how scared Harry is of becoming a soulless Winter Knight, so motivations in Ghost Story are tepid and counter to Harry's character. (Would have been a major memory to weaponize.) This underemphasis gave the novel a 'bridge' tone, since nothing major in terms of non-emotional advancement happened with the series. All we see is Team Dresden fighting the good fight without Dresden, and I like the Dresden files for Harry himself, not Team Dresden.
That said, I still enjoyed the novel because it contained 250 pages of good Dresden. Needed another draft to hit five stars. Oh, and really hope the next book is titled 'Cold Shoulder'. Seems like a good title for what might be coming next.
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Ghost Story (The Dresden Files, Book 13) by Jim Butcher