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Monday, August 15, 2011

“Ghost Story” by Jim Butcher (Reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

Order “Ghost StoryHERE (US) + HERE (UK)
Read An Excerpt HERE
Read FBC’s Review of “Changes

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Jim Butcher is the bestselling author of The Dresden Files, which has been adapted into a SyFy television show and a series of comic book adaptations produced by Dynamite Entertainment. He is also the author of The Codex Alera epic fantasy saga. In addition to writing, Jim Butcher is a martial arts enthusiast and live-action gamer. He currently lives in Independence, Missouri with his family.

OFFICIAL PLOT SYNOPSIS: When readers last left the mighty wizard detective Harry Dresden, he wasn’t doing well. In fact, he had been murdered by an unknown assassin.

But being dead doesn’t stop him when his friends are in danger. Except now he has no body, and no magic to help him. And there are also several dark spirits roaming the Chicago shadows who owe Harry some payback of their own.

To save his friends—and his own soul—Harry will have to pull off the ultimate trick without any magic…

CLASSIFICATION: The Dresden Files is an Urban Fantasy series that blends humor with action.

FORMAT/INFO: Ghost Story is 477 pages long divided over fifty-one chapters, an Author’s Note and an Acknowledgments page. As usual, narration is in the first-person, exclusively via the private investigator/wizard Harry Dresden. Ghost Story is the thirteenth volume in The Dresden Files after Changes. It is highly recommended that new readers start at the beginning of the series since Ghost Story builds on plot developments and characters that are introduced in the previous books.

July 26, 2011 marked the North American Hardcover publication of Ghost Story via Roc Books. The UK edition (see below) was published on July 28, 2011 via Orbit Books.

ANALYSIS: With the way Changes ended, readers were understandably excited and anxious for the arrival of Ghost Story. Ghost Story begins much like any other Harry Dresden novel except for one glaring difference . . . he’s DEAD! Well, sort of. Harry soon learns that he’s neither completely dead nor fully alive. He also learns that three of his friends are in dire jeopardy, but not who, so now he must go back to Chicago to try and save his friends and discover who murdered him, all without the use of his magical powers.

In many ways, Ghost Story is pretty similar to the other Harry Dresden books with the same accessible prose and the same blend of humor, supernatural action, and gravitas. Then again, Ghost Story is also different. After all, it’s been months since Harry ‘died’, so Ghost Story has a gloomier feel to it and it’s interesting to see how others—Karrin Murphy, the Alphas, Father Murphy, Molly Carpenter, etc.—are coping with his loss. It’s also interesting to see how Harry handles things without his powers, which may result in fewer epic battles compared to the rest of the series, but definitely brought a smile to my face.

The supporting cast remains large and revolving, with a couple of characters receiving an upgraded role that will excite the fanbase, while others are noticeably absent or only make a cameo appearance. There is also a brand new character who I’m sure will have a much larger role to play in future volumes.

Plot-wise, Ghost Story resolves the mystery of who murdered Harry and why. The clues were all laid out in Changes, so I—and a host of others—had already guessed the killer’s identity. However, I was very interested in the reasoning behind Harry’s death. Unfortunately, I thought the author utilized the easy route with the killer’s motive, when he could have made it more sinister or even fantastic, so I was a bit deflated by the revelation. The ending though goes a long way in redeeming the novel’s twist and revelations, while nicely setting up the next volume in the series, Cold Days. There is also a revelation about a major event in Harry’s past which doesn’t do much with the main plot in Ghost Story, but is very appreciated since it shines a light on things that could come into play in the future.

The major negative factor in Ghost Story is how much time & effort Harry spends rationalizing his actions in Changes. There’s no question Harry faced some horrific choices in the previous book, but up till now, Harry has always been a person who does things fully committed with no middle ground. So it felt rather strange and false to me that Harry would spend so much time trying to justify his actions. More like an authorial decision than actually acting or thinking in line with Harry’s personality.

CONCLUSION: Ghost Story was a difficult book to review. As usual, Jim Butcher delivers another entertaining blend of humor, action and urban fantasy goodness, but after twelve volumes, The Dresden Files is starting to show cracks. Ghost Story certainly has its share of weak points and could have been tighter overall. Nevertheless, Ghost Story is still a good book and I can’t wait to see what kind of trouble Harry gets into in Cold Days...

4 comments:

Alan Blank said...

I think your review is pretty much dead on. You hit the negative points well, and I haven't decided if my waffling (negative and positive feelings about the book) are because of my expectations for it or the actual book itself. I would say I had high expectations because I enjoyed the last three very much.

Anonymous said...

I agree mostly with the review how ever i found that, "Ghost story" was the flip side to, "Changes". Harry went nuts in, "Changes" and completely lost his purpose in his need to protect his child. (his past plays a big part) I found ghost story was a way to show harry's evolution into someone who is becoming more aware of the repercussions of his actions. Granted i am a massive fan so my opinion is kinda scewed.

Anonymous said...

Changes' was my least favorite of all the Dresden series, because Harry felt very out of character throughout the entire novel.

In Ghost Story, by turning the finality of Death itself into some trite plot device, Butcher has evaporated the tension needed to make the novels work.

Readers must identify with the protagonist. When Harry gets burned, beat and hurt, (as he always does) we feel his pain. Now try feeling the same empathy about a blob of ectoplasm and memories...

My guess is that Butcher got bored with the character... in which case he probably should have stopped at Turncoat; In my opinion, the best of all D.F. novels.

Anonymous said...

I am filling up with doubts as I start this book and I am not comfortable with the way butcher is taking the story,,

Anyway I am waiting with patience as I read. Did Butcher jump the shark on this series ?

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