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The Dresden Files: Ghost Story – Jim Butcher

*Spoiler Warning* Major Spoilers for Changes, Minor Spoilers for Ghost Story *Spoiler Warning*

 

Where to begin with this? Well I guess at this point it’s worth saying if you haven’t read Changes yet then don’t go any further because there’s major spoilers ahead I will try to keep spoilers for Ghost Story to a minimum but I’m sure there will be some slipping in so read on with caution if you don’t even want minimal spoilers.

It’s been a long wait for the follow up to that ending in Changes. Then we got Aftermath in Side Jobs and then some more waiting, and now we finally get to follow up on Harry’s apparent execution, and where we go from there. Well (un)surprisingly Harry is pretty spray for a dead guy. The story begins with Harry going towards the light, only this is Harry Dresden we’re talking about so of course the light at the end of the tunnel is a train coming towards him at full speed. After his fight at Chichen Itza the night before and his death he understandably feels beat and a bit pissed off about that, so decides to just stay there in front of the oncoming train. Only to be dragged off the track by a man, a man who seems to know him and who seems familiar. The man is Carmichael, Murphy’s lately deceased partner, only he looks younger, fitter and healthier.

It appears Harry was stood in front of the “Southbound train” and that’s not somewhere he wanted to go. And so Carmichael takes him to headquarters to talk to the Captain. Harry is in the “Between” he’s not ready to move on so here he is in an empty “Could have been” Chicago, it’s not quite the Chicago that is, but all the possible buildings that could have existed, and it’s empty but has a strange feeling of danger to it.

When he talks to the Captain he discovers the other side cheated and his death wasn’t what it appeared, he has a choice, he can stay there in the between and work with them and what appears to be guardian angels, or he can try to move on and in order to move on he has to solve his murder, and if he can’t solve it 3 of his friends are in danger and could die. So of course Harry has to go back and help his friends, though will be a ghost, they won’t be able to see or hear him. He’s given a lift back to real Chicago, and given no one can see him, he chooses to go to the one place he knows he will be able to get help, Mortimer Lindquist, Ectomancer.

On his arrival Harry notices Mort’s house has changed since he last saw it. A much nicer place, less like a dressed up spooky place and a more calming and quiet place. Walking up to the house he’s stopped by a big ghost at the door, Sir Stuart of the Colonial Marines, he won’t let Harry pass without good reason, after a quick chat Harry convinces him to take him to Mort so he can talk, and once in the house Mort decides Harry is trouble and runs off and hides in a room, where Harry tries to run in and follow, and being Harry, runs smack in to a solid wall and falls on his arse. Mort it seems is smarter than Harry gives him credit for, he painted the wall of this room with Ghost Dust and made it impenetrable to ghosts. And just then an attack starts on the house. Wraiths are attacking Mort’s house, and Sir Stuart and his gang of soldier ghosts are protecting the house, from a distance Harry notices are the back there’s a grey cloaked ghost and a floating skull, looking a lot like Bob, but Harry being a newbie in the ghost stakes knows nothing of how to fight against these things, his magic won’t come to his command and he’s practically helpless.

So this is how things start with this Ghost Story. The main mystery of the story is Who Killed Harry Dresden? But the main thrust is Harry trying to do what he’s always done, only being stymied by not actually being able to do anything to effect the physical world. His usual tactic of kick in a door and throw fire around won’t do him any good, so he has to think round things and do put in to practice what he’s been telling Molly for the past few books. Of course, this is a Dresden book and there’s more than a little magic thrown around and more than a few stupid moves by Harry, as per usual.

As you’d expect a large part of the book focuses on ghosts and what they are, ghosts are build on the memories of the person, so we get a lot of backstory from Harry’s life, we finally hear the full story on what happened with Justin, Elaine and He Who Walks Behind. And it’s not quite what I imagined, but it fits what we already knew, and also gives us some interesting ideas to dwell on for the future. There’s some real insights for Harry here, in his own life, who he is and what he could be.

I guess at the start I was thrown a bit by the shift in style here, there’s some really dark stuff here. Not that The Dresden Files is a light series, and Changes was Dark but here is seems really hard, I loved it in the end, but it started out a difficult to take. Jim has taken a bat to Harry in the past, it seems now it’s time the other characters got in on the action, too. I doubt it’s going to get much lighter in the books ahead either, but it seemed harsh here for some reason.

That said I loved the book, as I do all books in the series, there’s plenty of the humour you expect in there to balance out the dark, there’s a lot of nice moments where you feel glad to be with these familiar characters again, but there’s also times that bring a lump to the throat or a heart breaking sadness at the tough decisions and hurt that is being dropped on them.

As always I recommend the series to any one. This book feels like it could be a jumping on point for new reads, as there’s a lot of explanation of the situation, the rules, the relationships and everything else governing the Dresdenverse, but I would really recommend anyone starts at the beginning and reads them all, even being a long haul it’s well worth it.

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Reviewed by Kevin on 02 August 2011

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