Published 2011 477 pages
Summary (from the book jacket)
Meet Harry Dresden, Chicago's first (and only) Wizard PI. Turns out the 'everyday' world is full of strange and magical things - and most of them don't play well with humans. That's where Harry comes in.
But he's forgotten his own golden rule: magic - it can get a guy killed. Which didn't help when he clashed with unknown assailants intent on his murder. And though Harry's continued existence is now in some doubt, this doesn't mean that Chicago’s resident professional wizard can rest in peace. Trapped in a realm that's not quite here, yet not quite anywhere else, Harry learns that three of his loved ones are in mortal danger. Only by discovering his assailant's identity can he save his friends, bring criminal elements to justice, and move on before he becomes trapped in his own unending nightmare.
It would just be easier if he knew which three friends were at risk. And had a (working) crystal ball. And had access to his magic. Instead, he must accomplish his mission unable to interact with the physical world – invisible and inaudible to all but the most specialised of magical talents. He's far from the only silent presence roaming Chicago's alleys. Hell, he put some there himself. And now, they're looking for payback.
Warning: there are some spoilers for Changes (the previous Dresden Files novel) in this review.
Ghost Story is the thirteenth book in Jim Butcher’s bestselling Dresden Files urban fantasy series. The Dresden Files books follow the magical investigations of Harry Dresden – wizard, PI and all round good guy – as he keeps the supernatural peace on the city streets of Chicago. Some of the Dresden Files books work well as stand alone stories however Ghost Story isn’t one of them – it’s vitally necessary to read Changes (book 12) before attempting Ghost Story otherwise it’s going to be hard to understand quite how Harry ended up in his current predicament.
Changes closed with Harry having successfully saved Maggie, his little girl, from being sacrificed by the Red Court vampires. As a result of that action he actually managed to defeat the entire Red Court, ending their power forever. The price he paid for victory was high. The choices he made along the way were the only ones available to him… but they became increasingly bleak as his options ran out and eventually he allied himself with a dark power in order to save his little girl. His victory was short lived. A bullet in the back ended both Harry’s life and the Changes storyline.
Now for most heroic protagonists death would be the end of the series not just the end of single instalment but this is Harry Dresden and his life has never been so simple. Waking up dead in a strange shadowy version of Chicago he is tasked with returning to the mortal world as a spirit. If he doesn’t solve his own murder, three of hid friends will die. If that wasn’t bad enough, returning to the mortal world has its own risks. He could end up trapped there forever unable to ever move on to his eternal reward.
Ghost Story is a wonderful addition to the Dresden Files series. Harry as a ghost has none of the magical abilities of Harry the live wizard. Instead of blasting his way through problems with his magic staff he is forced to observe his friends battling the forces of darkness without being able to help them. This gives him some time for introspection, swiftly followed by the realisation that his desperate actions to save his daughter had more consequences than he imagined – with Murphy and Molly taking the brunt of the damage on a personal level. On a broader level the entire supernatural world is now caught up in deadly upheaval as a result of the power vacuum left by the death of the Red Court vampires. For a guy who’s always tried to do the right thing that’s not an easy thing to accept.
There are no new villains in this instalment. Ghost Story sees a welcome reprise of the bad guys from Dead Beat. Yes, we thought they were dead and gone too but it seems that death is optional for some wizards! The Fomor, first encountered in the Aftermath novella (Side Jobs) make another appearance and this time they look like they will be around for the long haul. On the good guy front there is a reprise for Mort (a shady fake medium from earlier novels – only he really can see ghosts) and Mort’s ghostly ancestor companion Sir Stuart provides a new friend for Harry as well as some light comic relief.
For Dresden fans there is no shortage of all the usual attractions – magic, mayhem and monsters. Even without a body Harry still manages to get beaten up while trying to rescue his friends – so it’s pretty much business as usual! Eventually Harry is forced to confront the consequences of his choices which looks set to provide plenty more fodder for future instalments of the series.
The Dresden Files is still one of the most consistently well-written urban fantasy series in existence, which after thirteen books is something of an achievement in itself. Better yet, Jim Butcher shows no signs of running out of steam anytime soon. More please!
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