One of the many books I’ve finished reading in the past few months is Blood Rites by Jim Butcher, published July 2010 by Roc Paperback. This is the 6th in the Harry Dresden series and I am both happy and a little relieved to have made it to this one.
I love the premise of this series. These books are told as a noir detective story complete with first person narration and Neanderthal views on women and an overall feel of a little darkness, a little grime, a loaded revolver, a shot of whiskey and the dame. Add to that the kind of dad-joke banter that Richard Castle would be proud of and you have a pretty good formula no matter what setting you’re in. The Dresden books combine crime lords and gangs of Chicago with vampires and wizards and tiny fairies who like pizza. It delivers what the urban Fantasy genre needs the most, uniqueness.
Do the books have their weak points? Sure and I’ll touch and some of them below but overall, if you, like me, are enchanted by the idea of a modern world setting with supernatural elements and disappointed again and again at most of the stories crafted in a genre with so much potential, then you should definitely read Butcher’s series. In fact, I’d almost have to insist upon it.
Remember there’s a vast difference between Urban Romance and Urban Fantasy. One may be a subgenre of the other, but it doesn’t mean they are the same thing at all. Arguably all genre definitions are ridiculous, but we do need some way to sort books so we can find new cool stuff. Besides Amazon and Barnes & Noble would blow up if we took genre classifications away from them.
Blood Rites delivers with the usual Dresden Files ingredients of fast-paced action-packed supernatural mystery sprinkled with trademark Harryisms on top. Such as the apartment, the beat-up car, Bob the Skull and the leather duster to name a few. All things that feature in every Harry book and are part and parcel of what make up the scenery and ambiance (sorry Bob!).
What I particularly liked and was relieved to discover was that in this book, Jim Butcher departs from delving further into the “Holy Avengers” storyline of the magic-sword-wielding knights, which the previous couple of books were leaded down with. That turn in the story caused me to put the series away three times before I finally, finally last week made it to this book. So yeay, back on track with beasties and ghoulies and wizard cabal, mafia vampires and Chicago mobsters (not the same thing!). I may need to eat those words in later books if the god brigade returns but for now, it’s a relief to not have the series paint itself into the same corner that Supernatural did with demons and angels alive, alive-O. Whether you’re on board with the bible stuff or not, angels and demons very easily pretzel a story into a clash of titans scenario from where there just aren’t many ways to go.
Kincaid and Thomas return to the set in this book. Both very interesting characters. Kincaid, in particular, could do with a lot more cameos in the Dresden books in my opinion. He’s a stone-cold killer-for-hire whose day job is bodyguarding a very special eight-year-old girl.
Thomas is an example of a “good” vampire and an incubus in the Dresden universe, with incredible good looks and a killer fashion sense (except when he dresses in fishnet, which did not happen in this book alas). His and Harry’s story take an interesting and very satisfying twist in Blood Rites.
And Murphy gives some gratifying smackdown which made up a little for her having to wiggle around gratuitously in her undies in front of Harry and Kincaid. If I were still dating I’d make a point of trying ‘Your butt is too close to the laser. You have to take your pants off,’ as a way to undress a man.
Three things irked me in particular in this book and there may be some spoilers in this section. You are forewarned.
The story took a bit of dive when Harry delivers a starving vampire to a victim, knowing full well what adding one to the other would inevitably result in and then proceeds to harangue the vamp later for doing what his nature demanded of him. And not one person points out Harry’s own responsibility in the matter. I suppose an argument can be made that that’s Harry through and through, smartass and a complete hypocrite. It still bothered me.
I also have a hard time buying Murphy, the clawed-her-way-up police detective and shining knight in armor to Harry’s damsel in distress, suddenly being ok with vigilantism. Just like that, no worries, let’s suit up and go in guns blazing. I remember thinking: “Wow, that was easy!” When Harry laid his trite arguments on her for why it’s ok to murderize the bad guys.
Lastly on the Not list was to some extent the main villain. Who in this instance felt a bit like a throwaway bad guy. Partly that’s because his involvement is saved for the very end to keep the reader guessing and that detracts from the threat he might otherwise have imposed on the story. His catspaws, especially the airheaded porn star were so very obviously not the instigators of the bad mojo so I’m not sure if it was worth saving that tidbit for so long.
On the other hand, with the exception of the aforementioned airhead, Blood Rites does quietly and economically portray porn industry workers as everyday people, of which I wholeheartedly approve of. Yeay! Harry has issues with the profession of course but it’s clear that Jim Butcher doesn’t. /hug!
Harry has issues with the profession of course but it’s clear that Jim Butcher doesn’t. /hug!
And finally, I enjoyed a new take on the primary tragedy of the vampire. That of devouring, literally, the beloved one. It’s always been the thing that’s most poignant about the vampire story and where I find that many modern tales of vampires completely miss the point with the vampire/human happy-ending romances. No! The chicken doesn’t get a happy ending when it’s dating a cat, where’s the story in that? Give me some Greek tragedy! Give me a reason to root for these bloodsuckers! Cut my heart a little! Jim Butcher delivers.
TLDR: Good enough to read twice. What more do you want from a supernatural detective romp?
Tweet to Jim Butcher @Longshotauthor.