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Death Masks (Dresden Files) Paperback – August 5, 2003
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“Think Buffy the Vampire Slayer starring Philip Marlowe.”—Entertainment Weekly
“Fans of Laurell K. Hamilton and Tanya Huff will love this series.”—Midwest Book Review
“Superlative.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“One of the most enjoyable marriages of the fantasy and mystery genres on the shelves.”—Cinescape
“Butcher...spins an excellent noirish detective yarn in a well-crafted, supernaturally-charged setting. The supporting cast is again fantastic, and Harry’s wit continues to fly in the face of a peril-fraught plot.”—Booklist (starred review)
“What’s not to like about this series?...It takes the best elements of urban fantasy, mixes it with some good old-fashioned noir mystery, tosses in a dash of romance and a lot of high-octane action, shakes, stirs, and serves.”—SF Site
“A tricky plot complete with against-the-clock pacing, firefights, explosions, and plenty of magic. Longtime series fans as well as newcomers drawn by the SciFi Channel’s TV series based on the novels should find this supernatural mystery a real winner.”—Library Journal
“What would you get if you crossed Spenser with Merlin? Probably you would come up with someone very like Harry Dresden, wizard, tough guy and star of [the Dresden Files].”—The Washington Times
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That said, the series makes it more and more difficult to persist in my resolve. I mean, this particular book features the Shroud of Turin (as a particularly powerful magical artifact, of course), a gratuitious bondage sex scene, and more lame comeback insults than you can shake your stick at. Oh yeah, there is also a black Russian man named Sanya who is a member of a distinctly Catholic knightly order but also an atheist and apparently a communist except he's more of a Trotskyist (wat?). Go on, read that last sentence again and see if it makes any sense. I mean, The Dresden Files has always been a bit cheesy, but until this point never seemed to unironically embrace its own cheesiness with truly disastrous results.
And one more thing: maybe, just maybe, Harry Dresden does not need to mention how he's sticking to old ideas of chivalry and getting himself in trouble because of that, every time he sees a nice piece of ass. I mean, imagine a female protagonist who says she is fiercely independent and does not need men in her life every time a male character is in her field of view. Yes, that's how annoying it is. Besides, if we're to judge by Death Masks, Dresden is perfectly capable of normal human interactions with women, just as long as they happen to be his friend's teenage daughter or an omniscient entity who is also a little girl. Perhaps he could expand this approach to the grown-up specimen.
His girlfriend's back stronger than ever. Michael Carpenter is back and he's got two other Knight's of the Cross to help fight the Denarians and even Gentleman Johnny Marcone helps out.
All in all it's a really exciting story and, even though I've read it before, it still kept me on the edge of my seat.
Five books in and the world and characters keep expanding a little at a time. I enjoy reading this series to a certain extent but the thing is Harry isn’t the reason. Mostly I like all of the side characters more than him. Each doesn’t get a lot of page time but the glimpses I see of them…well usually the side character steals the show from Harry, at least for me.
It isn’t specifically Harry’s fault I mean sure he is a wizard with a snappy wit, pop culture references and a keen sense of humor in the face of danger but here is a list of the side characters that make an appearance.
BOB - Although he is a little out of it this time and didn’t get his normal page time for banter the spirit/lab assistant to Harry housed in a skull almost always steals the show when on page.
Micheal - *Swoon* I totally crush on The Fist of God. Good men are hard to find and he is the best of them. Anyone with a holy sword and Crusader Armor is interesting in my book.
Molly - The Fourteen year old daughter of the Fist of God. She was hilarious, a little bit of a romantic and full of enough teenage rebellion to be interesting but not annoying she was one of my favorite new additions.
“Ohhhh,” Molly said wisely. “Those are fun-time handcuffs, not bad-time handcuffs. I gotcha.”
“No!” I protested. “And how the hell would you know about fun-time handcuffs anyway? You’re like ten.”
She snorted. “Fourteen.”
“Whatever, too young.”
“Internet,” she said sagely. “Expanding the frontiers of adolescent knowledge.”
Shiro and Sanya - Holy Crusaders and Michael’s equals Shiro is like the Mr. Miyagi of the book much knowledge and a great sense of devotion to his cause while Sanya is very different from what you would expect of a holy crusader of God.
IVY - Also known as the archive. Imagine all of the world’s knowledge in a 7 year old girl. I’m thinking of the daughter in Dune, slightly creepy but infinitely powerful. I hope she shows up in future books as she was really interesting.
“You know how to use magic?” I asked.
“I prefer calculus.”
“But you can do it.”
“Yes.” Yikes. If the reaction of my wards was any indication, it meant that she was at least as strong as any Wizard of the White Council. Probably stronger. But if that was true… “If you know that much,” I said, “if you are that powerful, why did you hire a bodyguard to bring you here?”
“My feet don’t reach the pedals.”
Waldo Butters - Medical examiner who has caught on to the supernaturalness of some of the some of the corpses coming in lately. A little on the unusual side, I can tell I’m going to love him in this series.
There are so many more including staples such as Murphy, Charity, Marcone, Thomas and Susan. There are some and new additions including the Oracle, Ortega, the Fallen and Nicodemus. So many people for Harry to interact with it gets staggering at times.
While I really like most of the characters of this series I sometimes find the plotting kind of thrown together. It sometimes feels jumbled crashing together until we get to the end. Don’t get me wrong I’m entertained the entire time but I feel like I have a difficult time following parts of the plot occasionally.
That said though Harry is an easy guy to root for even if the entire world seems out to get him and really it seems like the ENTIRE world IS out to get him.
In this corner, one missing Shroud, one impossibly and thoroughly dead corpse, one dedicated and deadly vampire warlord, three holy knights, twenty-nine fallen angels, and a partridge in a pear tree. And in the opposite corner, one tired, bruised, underpaid professional wizard, threatened by his allies and about to get dumped by his would-be girlfriend for John Q. Humdrum
Seriously, tell me that isn’t a lot to deal with. I will give it up to J.B. for the way he pushes the expectations of people’s roles in the story. Sanya in particular is a Warrior for God but…..he isn’t quite what you would expect at all. I loved the twist to his character. The inclusion of the 30 pieces of silver that were paid to Judas as well was a fantastic re-imagining of how to incorporate Christian lore into story. I also very much liked the addition of a duel between Harry and a Duke of the Red Court and how the rules for that were incorporated.
There are a ton of great ideas in the story. Possible even too many which is why at times it felt slightly jumbled to me at times. Still right now this is a series I could read a few and walk away for a few months then read a few more. I haven’t fallen in love with Harry’s character enough yet to want to plow through 15 books before I move onto something else like has happened to me with a few of the other series I really love.
Still Harry is a good dude to hang out with and go on a ride into crazytown. Also you can feel better about your life because I guarantee he has way more problems with romance, people trying to kill him and just paying the rent than you do.
Top international reviews
Moments of peril for Dresden are pretty much nullified by him telling us the story... if he does then it would be a much shorter story and a rather abrupt ending.
This isn’t a criticism of the book more an observation of the point of view story telling that is common in all books that employ this method.
Overall I really enjoyed it and found myself planning time in my day to grabs a few pages or more.
There is the usual mix of apical action and witty banter, and a stronger emotional undercurrent than perhaps we’ve seen before in the series, as events from previous books are followed up and some plot threads are seemingly tied up. At the same time, this book introduces a number of new threads, which look like they are going to spread through the series to come.
While I enjoyed reading this, possibly the most of the books so far, I did feel that it was leaning towards the more implausible end of the urban fantasy spectrum, particularly in some of the detail around the scenario in this book. Additionally, the introduction of a range of new enemies made for a lot of new information to absorb, and I don’t think I managed to digest everything that it had to offer.
Unlike the first few books, which could be described along the lines of ‘Dresden does Vampires’, ‘Dresden does Wereworlves’, etc., this story defies such classification, and I think that’s a good thing - it shows a little maturity of the series that it can start to do its own thing, and begin to build up some of the ongoing plot threads that I hope build into something fantastic int he books I have yet to read.
Death Masks is the fifth instalment in the Dresden series, and I was hoping (expecting?) to find the same kind of flawless plotting and execution that had made me love Summer Knight so damned much. I wanted to be thrilled, surprised, amused by this book just as much as I had been by its predecessor. And as much as Death Masks was a good book, it just never made it to awesome.
The first thing that struck me was that every damn female in this book was attractive. And I mean every single one of them, even the razor-sharp-fifteen-foot-long-haired-demon. Harry appears to see women as curves, breasts, pretty throats and nice eyes. It happens when he first sees Francesca, anytime he's around Anna, and at times I think he does more ogling of Deirdre (the demon-girl) than actual fighting.
My second point of contention with this book was also one of the things I found coolest about it: the Denarians. Their concept is awesome, and they make for some kickass bad guys with a great backstory and powers enough to make them stay around and become a real problem. Their execution was what didn't sit well with me, however. I'm not particularly against shapeshifting, but when dealing with shapeshifting, writers need to think long and hard about what their characters are turning into and what that implies.
Nicodemus, head of the Denarians, seemed to escape the shape-shifting issue of losing any seriousness by, well, not shape-shifting. Instead, Nicodemus is the talkative type, whilst saying he isn't, and he likes to gloat. He would have been a better bad guy, in my opinion, had he been a little less one dimensional. But hey, I guess that if you willingly became a Denarian, you might just happen to be a bastard through and through.
Those things aside, the rest of the book was awesome. Susan returns for a brief period and she seems to have shaken off the I'm-a-stupid-woman-who-doesn't-realise-the-danger-she-is-in-although-she-once-did character, and is a much less annoying addition to the cast. Actually, Susan kicks some serious ass--literally, too, mind--and is much more than the plot device Grave Peril had turned her into.
Death Masks also sees the introduction of a couple of new characters. Butters is an ME with a strange sense of humour and although we don't see a whole lot of him in this book, it is clear that he is going to turn out into a rather cool recurring character.
We are also introduced to the other two Knights of the Cross who join Michael in this instalment to battle the Denarians. Shiro, a small Japanese man who fights with all the skill and might of a samurai, and Sanya, a agnostic black Russian with some of the best one-liners of the entire book.
Overall, Death Masks was a real thrill ride: Harry has been hired to retrieve a stolen artefact but when the Denarians and Marcone both turn out to be after it, the stakes are seriously raised. Add to that the death threats from the Red Court vampires, and the Knights trying to keep him out of the loop and Death Masks quickly becomes one of the most action filled instalments of the series yet. It's just a pity that the final battle seemed rushed and almost clumsy. But the ending itself is one of the most powerful ones in the series, and definitely not one I'm about to forget.
I think these just keep getting better and better, I thoroughly enjoyed this, it was much darker and sinister than the previous - I felt it was this that keeps the reader gripped and on the edge of their seat. I would highly recommend this for Dresden fans!
Sometimes I think there's a danger with stories that are narrated in the first-person, with a laconic, almost film noir-ish feel to them, that they can become annoyingly smug, but Butcher always seems to walk the line very deftly. Harry Dresden is a hugely likeable character, and it sucks you into his life and makes you care about him. It's easy to warm to his friends and enemies, too, because they come across in a very believable (within the context) fashion, even out-and-out bad guys like the gangster Marcone or the demon Nicodemus.
As usual, there are several seemingly disparate storylines that seamlessly weave into the whole, and culminate in a breathlessly choreographed, edge-of-seat finale. It's funny, sexy, fast-paced and action-packed and, to Butcher's credit, he never loses sight of the rules he has created for his world, and often uses them to great effect.
I'm finding that these stories are very addictive, and they do seem to be getting better and better as they go along.
The Kindle edition is very well formatted, with only a couple of minor errors that do nothing to spoil the experience.
I've had this book on my Kindle to be read list for months - not enough time and a mountain of other books to read too.
I'm glad I saved it up but also kicking myself that I didn't read it sooner!
Before the first two chapters are over, Harry is immersed in a case - looking for the stolen Turin shroud (yes, that one!), been involved in an attempted mob hit, blown up a TV studio, Red Court Vampires challenge him and Susan is back in his life. From then on it is the usual breathless rollercoaster of a ride through the case and the competing influences (for good or evil) that shape Harry's life.
Also some significant backstory is hinted at in the later chapters - and when Harry figures it out (which he hopefully does at some point), well .... And also its not just Harry's backstory but that of another significant character - that 'can't' be just a coincidence....
Started this on Saturday and finished it (in between everything else) on Sunday. Amazing, amazing ride. Had to take a few deep breaths after I'd finished it. Going to get the next one sometime very soon!
The villains of the piece are fantastic creations, monstrous, frightening and yet believable. Harry really seems to be outmatched here, as he struggles to find the missing Shroud of Turin.
It's not just new bad guys introduced here, either. Michael's two brothers in arms make their debut, adding some real punch as well as emotion to the tale.
Add to that the continuing vampire threat in the form of a brutally charming Red Court duke, and there's loads to enjoy here. And I haven't even touched on Butters or Ivy!
Once again, Butcher has knocked it out of the park, producing another thrilling, cool and funny adventure. Here's hoping Harry's got a lot more stories to share...
Dry. Did I say Dresden has a dry wit. Great.
- I read this with the tab in the vertical position
- I have read this before with a paperback book
- changed the font to be as close to a book as possible, but screen is slightly to small
- some of the text seemed to be missing from the bottom of one page to the top of the next, but if you turn the tablet horizantal and change the page, go back to the vertical and go to where you were reading, the page has moved up or down a couple of lines and the missing text is complete.
- this only happened 3 times
- may not happen with a dedicated kindle