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Proven Guilty (The Dresden Files, Book 8) Mass Market Paperback – February 6, 2007
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Praise for the Dresden Files
“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
About the Author
A martial arts enthusiast whose résumé includes a long list of skills rendered obsolete at least two hundred years ago, #1 New York Times bestselling author Jim Butcher turned to writing as a career because anything else probably would have driven him insane. He lives mostly inside his own head so that he can write down the conversation of his imaginary friends, but his head can generally be found in Independence, Missouri. Jim is the author of the Dresden Files, the Codex Alera novels, and the Cinder Spires series, which began with The Aeronaut’s Windlass.
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A year since the confrontation depicted in Dead Beat, Warden Harry Dresden starts the book attending a trial of a teenage boy found guilty of black magic. Given he violated the law of using magic to control the minds of others, the Merlin has no choice but to have him executed. This feels like a message of sorts to Harry - a reminder of his place in the Merlin's view of the world and a warning that there are those who are prepared to strike him down as soon as he makes a mistake.
After this initial incident, Harry receives a message from the enigmatic Gatekeeper to track down use of black magic in Chicago before it's too late. As he begins to puzzle over this charge, Harry then receives a call from Molly Carpenter, daughter of Michael. She begs Harry's help in some police matter and it becomes a stark reminder that she's no longer the little girl he once knew and that he had been consciously avoiding the Carpenter family after his dealings with the Denarian Lasciel, whose echo now lives in his head.
What I Liked: I'm a bit of a sucker for stories that involve the Faerie world and Harry resorting to reaching out to the Summer Court early in the book already got me excited about where things would go. Spoiler alert - they're involved in the story as a whole and are not just a cameo of past characters and it does make the book all that much better.
Its funny how I enjoy so many parts of this book that I'm actually uncertain how much I can write about before totally geeking and revealing too much about things because of that. Molly Carpenter is a great character and I was not expecting her to be reintroduced into the series his way. Harry is certainly growing in his own abilities but is once again attempting to isolate himself given the Denarian threatening to take control of him. And Murphy and Harry finally have a somewhat meaningful conversation and that's also a big deal. So much good stuff in this book!
What Could Have Been Better: There's not much that I'd change in this book so we can only be left with nitpicking.Sure there are parts of Molly's story that initially seem more annoying than they needed to be but Butcher has a way of making even the most mundane, incidental characters end up being important later on. It may feel like you have to suffer through some of the early bits of the story with the horror convention and all that but that's just the beginning.
If I were to complain about anything else, it would be the lack of more Michael Carpenter being involved. Yes, this was a narrative requirement to really have Harry looking out for Molly and bringing that relationship back up to speed but it's totally fun to fanboy over Michael as a Knight of the Cross so I'll just take this time to complain about things.
TL;DR: Proven Guilty is a great Dresden book and one that feels like it setups up a lot of new stories for the future centered around the Faerie Courts, Molly Carpenter, Lasciel and a whole lot more. It's very well done and it really celebrates its characters so I really enjoyed it.
This book opens with an execution -- of a teenager who'd stumbled into his magical abilities (without proper supervision) and used them to control the minds of others. Despite the severity of the teen's crimes, Harry is upset by the punishment. He can see a bit of himself in the executed boy, I think. And his reaction to this scene will affect his actions throughout the rest of the book.
Once again, I'd say this is NOT the place to start the series. While there is (as with previous books), a self-contained mystery, there are many, many events depicted that relate to the overall series arc of war between vampires and wizards, and quite a few recurring characters make appearances (Maeve, Lily, Fix, Charity, Michael, Molly, Murphy, Father Forthill, Lloyd Slate, Thomas, Lasciel, Morgan, Mouse, Mister, Bob the Skull, and several members of the wizards' White Council, just to name a few) and others are referenced (Butters, Kincaid, Nicodemus, the Archive, Billy the werewolf, etc.). Some of these characters get brief re-introductions, but you'd be missing out on a lot of depth by only relying on those introductions (as opposed to reading all the background material from previous books). Even a building (from Fool Moon) is re-used. (If it's been awhile since you've read the earlier ones, try the Wikipedia summaries. They're usually enough to jog my memory. And there are character lists floating around online, too, if you forget who someone is.)
The mystery in this volume is introduced early on -- Harry gets a message that there have been incidents of black magic in town and, acting in his capacity as Warden, he should investigate them and figure out what is going on. Further, attendees at a horror convention are being attacked in a violent and gruesome manner and Molly (Michael's and Charity's oldest daughter) asks Harry to help solve those crimes, as well.
Once again, Harry has to accept help from others. At various points, Detective Rawlins of the Chicago police department assists him. Murphy, Charity, and Thomas accompany Harry on a particularly dangerous mission. It's not surprising that Murphy and Thomas go along and are prepared to do battle -- they've helped Harry before. But we learn a lot about Charity in this book. I like the trend of meeting a character in a previous book and then learning more about him or her later on. For example, in the last book, it was Butters. This time, it's Charity. We begin to understand her animosity towards Harry (exhibited in previous volumes) and we learn some important information about her past. But everything flows logically. We've gotten hints that she was capable before, but now we see her in action. I hadn't cared a lot for her before (she seemed to be mean with no reason), but now it all makes sense, and I've got a lot more sympathy for her as a character.
Harry's driven to protect Michael's family, and his experience at the beginning of this book has an impact on him, throughout, as well. He also still struggles with Lasciel, but sometimes accepts her help -- grudgingly. His relationship with Lasciel is rather like his relationship with John Marcone, especially in the earliest books in the series -- frequent refusals to associate followed by teaming up out of necessity/self-preservation. Harry doesn't grow as a character so much in this book, but it's difficult to show development of a character in EVERY book in a long series, when it's a first-person POV sort of series as this one is. He still has something of a hero complex, but I've often found that first-person POV characters come off like this; it's not unique to these books.
As with past books, a new supernatural element is introduced -- the phobophage, a species from the Nevernever that feeds on fear. It fits in well with the self-contained mystery aspect while also expanding our view of the world Jim Butcher has created. I don't know if we'll see these guys again (would be a bit repetitive for them to reappear).
The characteristic humor is present, once again. There are some of the standard one-liners, but there's situational humor, as well. In one (very early) scene, Harry is preparing for a ritual. He's bathed, he's meditated, he's gotten his mind just right -- and he's taken two hours to do it. Then the telephone rings and all his preparations are wasted.
I don't have much to say about the setting that I haven't already said in past reviews. All the action is, as usual, in Chicago. It's summer but we're not beaten over the head with that fact. We get little reminders periodically (Harry is wearing shorts, or the air conditioning is blasting in a building). The writing style is similar to what has come before, as well. There's a lot of violence in this one, and some references to teen pregnancy and drug use, as well as some 4-letter words. Not an issue for me, and not surprising considering what we've seen in past books, but I thought I'd throw that information out there for anyone who cared.
Overall, I think all the individual elements are brought together into a cohesive whole. I found this to be an enjoyable read. Though the ending was not nearly as fun as the ending of Dead Beat, I think this volume marks an important turning point in the series. Looking forward to the next one!