Book Reviews: Grave Peril

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.”

(Grave Peril, 150)

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you, Harry Dresden:

The Headband is hiding his lightning bolt scar.

The spirit world is in an uproar. Ghostly disturbances are wreaking havoc in Chicago, when Harry and his friend Michael, a Knight of the Cross, discover that someone has been casting a curse on ghosts, causing them to rampage. Harry is approached by a girl, Lydia, who is afraid for her life, saying that something is coming after her. When a cop friend of Harry’s is attacked by a violent, powerful spirit, Harry begins to realize that there is more going on than just a disturbance of the spiritual realm and one frightened girl begging for protection.

Grave Peril takes place a year after Fool Moon. The events from that book to this are unrelated, but it is here that we start to see threads that will connect on to the rest of the series. You could say that this is where the plot starts. While Fool Moon was a fun read, Grave Peril takes that fun and ramps it up, while at the same time showing significant improvement in plotting and prose that I can only assume will continue to improve.

A strong point of this book is the introduction of several new characters to the series. Michael, Harry’s friend, and a Knight of the Cross, is the conservative Christian character that no other writer seems to be capable of writing, the kind of Christian character I would love to see more of in literature. The humble believer who is stalwart and resolute in their beliefs, without being overbearing. Of course it helps that in The Dresden Files faith is power, and Michael’s strong faith translates into the power to strike down evil with the literal Power of God. I can’t help but love this character, simply because he is portrayed with dignity, rather than derision that devout Christians are too often subjected to in fiction. Besides, Power of God and a Holy Sword. What’s not to love?

Thomas, a Vampire of the White Court, who is introduced later, is an interesting one. I won’t go into too many details, lest I spoil it for you, but suffice it to say that he’s one of those outrageous characters who is just too bizarre to hate. It’s almost like someone took the stereotypical effeminate, self centered Vampire stereotype that is so common these days, and made a parody of them. In fact, that’s what Jim Butcher has done, he’s parodied modern Vampire stereotypes, while at the same time making him a sympathetic character. Well done!

Unfortunately this next section is going to contain some spoilers, as I have an issue with this book that needs addressing. So if you haven’t read the book yet, please skip this next section and come back after you’ve read the book. If you want to read it, but can’t see it, just highlight the text.

*Spoilers*

I’ll be honest, I don’t like Susan. Harry’s Girlfriend. She really isn’t all that developed, and exists solely as a stereotype of the liberated woman, while at the same time being there as a character that we are meant to be emotionally invested in because Harry cares about her. Nothing wrong with this really, even if it is a bit amateurish. The problem I have with her is that she’s stupid. Very, very stupid.

Now, you may say that she’s intelligent, career driven, and observant, but I’m afraid her actions speak otherwise. It’s one thing for an author to say a character is a certain person, but when they have that character do something contrary to what they’ve said the character is, then that’s poor characterization. And Susan, like it or not, is stupid.

I can overlook the fact that she spends most of her time digging into a world that she doesn’t understand, which could put her in danger. We all want to know what we don’t know, and I’m sure everyone reading this would jump at the chance of discovering a magical world hidden from our own. But when Susan ignored Harry’s warning about attending the Red Court’s Ball, and went with a fake invitation, because she’s a “liberated woman” and won’t stand for any man telling her what to do, I realized that she really, really isn’t very smart.

Sure she comes with an arsenal of items meant to protect her, but in the end they would have done her no good. In fact, they did her no good. She was able to fight off a few vampires, even taking out one, before being overpowered and taken hostage. I know that scene is meant to show how capable she is, and maybe she is, if it weren’t for the fact that she failed to realize that coming alone and uninvited to a gathering of Vampires probably isn’t a great idea. In fact it’s a suicidal idea.

Of course, the obvious happens and she gets turned. Not yet a full vampire, but under their curse. I can only assume that this will lead to some more character development, because she needs it. I don’t mind romantic interests, in fact I’m a fairly big fan of romance in fiction. As long as the characters involved in a romance are first developed as their own characters. I don’t really like romance for the sake of romance. That’s really what Susan is for me so far, a character who exists to give the main character a romantic interest. There’s a reason why I like to imagine romance in series where there is none (often shonen manga series) because I see characters whose interactions would be entertaining, or touching if romance was introduced. I only do this because I like the characters.

Hopefully Susan will get some proper development later on. I can only imagine that she must, given her current condition. But for now I’m not going to be putting her on my list of favorite Dresden Files characters.

*End Spoilers*

It was after finishing this book that I realized I need to finish the Dresden Files as quickly as possible. Whatever comes next, I now trust Jim Butcher to do right. I’ve been interested in Urban Fantasy for a while, but haven’t really come across any series that interested me just right. I’ve finally found a series that is exactly what I’ve been looking for.

While I enjoyed Fool Moon it didn’t quite drive me to finish the series. It wasn’t till halfway through Grave Peril that I realized exactly how much I like this series. The blend of mythology and fantasy with the real world makes for a perfect combination that I can’t help but love. I for one can’t wait to see how Butcher manages to tie practically every mythology together into one whole that makes sense. You know that when you’ve got werewolves, vampires, fairies and gods, including the christian god, co-existing that you’re in for a crazy read.

The introduction of several unresolved plot threads gave the book a strong feel of potential. Jim Butcher introduced us to several things that he could at one point examine. While the ending leaves you with questions, it resolves the important plot threads, and leaves you hungry for more and ready to start the next book. In fact, I’m almost done with Summer Knight so be expecting that review soon. I probably won’t be reading any other books till I finish this series.

That’s it for now, I’ll probably have the Summer Knight review up sometime next week. I have it scheduled for next Tuesday, and should easily be done with it by then.

If you liked my review, buy the book here:
Grave Peril (Paperback)
Grave Peril (Hardcover)
Grave Peril (Kindle)
Grave Peril (Audio CD)

If you want the Audible Audiobook you can get that from Amazon as well. I’d provide a link, but Amazon won’t let me.

2 comments

  1. You probably shouldn't worry too much about Susan. She practically disappears from the series soon after, and only resurfaced in the latest Dresden book that was released this year.

    I only jumped into the Dresden Files about halfway through, and didn't even know that she was Harry's main squeeze. I thought there was enough subtle chemestry between him and the policewoman. Probably why it hasn't been too followed-up on is because the pairing seems too obvious.

  2. @DeBT I'm finishing up with Death Masks, and she's been playing a pretty big role in that one, which I guess is the last time she shows up before the most recent book (no spoilers on that one please :P, I've been told it's amazing and don't want to ruin it).

    I enjoy Harry's relationship with Murphy, especially considering how it's a relationship between a man and a woman that is platonic, which not enough westerners seem to understand. It's fun when two people of the opposite sex can be close without it being sexual. Not that I'd mind, but Dresden Files is definitely not a series I'm reading for the romance. I have a bad habit of trying to insert romance in series where it doesn't belong, so I've been a little more judicious about it recently. 😛

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