Review: Grave Peril by Jim Butcher

Posted April 29, 2015 by Jessica in Jessica, Reviews, Urban Fantasy / 14 Comments

Review: Grave Peril by Jim Butcher
Grave Peril by Jim Butcher
Series: The Dresden Files #3
Published by Roc
Published on: September 1 2001
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Pages: 465
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
One StarOne StarOne StarHalf a Star
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HARRY DRESDEN — WIZARD
Lost Items Found. Paranormal Investigations. Consulting. Advice. Reasonable Rates. No Love Potions, Endless Purses, or Other Entertainment.

Harry Dresden’s faced some pretty terrifying foes during his career. Giant scorpions. Oversexed vampires. Psychotic werewolves. All par for the course for Chicago’s only professional wizard.

But in all of Harry’s years of supernatural sleuthing, he’s never faced anything like this: the spirit world’s gone postal. All over Chicago, ghosts are causing trouble—and not just of the door-slamming, ‘boo’- shouting variety. These ghosts are tormented, violent, and deadly.

Someone—or something—is stirring them up to wreak unearthly havoc. But why? And why do so many of the victims have ties to Harry? If Harry doesn’t figure it out soon, he could wind up a ghost himself....

wtf2 wellwritten magical HEARTBREAKING fangtastic

GRAVE PERIL was a kind of awkward installment.

A year has passed since the end of FOOL MOON, and in the interim, not only have Harry and Susan stayed together and are now in a committed relationship, but at some point Harry and our favorite officers of law enforcement have taken down a Bad Guy sorcerer who was using a demon, teenagers, drugs, orgies, and did I mention, a DEMON, to wreak various havocs in Chicago, the latter continually brought up in vague references . . .

And that vaguely referenced takedown is the source of this book’s plot.

But we weren’t there for that takedown, so it feels like we’re missing something; that the “vague references” are vague b/c we already have the 411, and more detailed explanations aren’t necessary . . . -Even though I knew, I KNEW, that, no, I had not accidentally skipped an installment, I found myself constantly wanting to check and make sure (*whispers* again).

Beyond that I had a (gaping) handful of other small issues, beginning with the fact that I don’t like ghosts.

That’s part of why I’m not much for steampunk: the Victorian obsession with contacting the dead is often inseparable from the gadgetry. And the concept of malicious spirits that are strong enough to physically harm the living . . . is rather horrific. Mostly b/c I can’t get past the “dead” part. I mean, what do you do when your attacker can’t be killed or stopped. . . b/c ALREADY DEAD?! Like Harry himself says:

There should be some kind of rule against needing to kill anything more than once.

If there’s a Winchester handy, then well and good, but I don’t have a Sam or a Dean in my back pocket (mores the pity).

I’m not much for vampires either. Oh, there are versions that I like well enough, but in truth they’re merely at the top of the “Dead Things” list. And these vampires . . . if someone told me the colloquialism “bat shit crazy” had its origins in this series . . . I would believe them. Entirely.

Then there’s Michael . . .

Michael is the illusive true Man of God. Were he a real man, I would not be surprised if he “walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.” Like Enoch.

Which can be uncomfortable, but mostly it’s dull. And hard to like. Everything is very black and white to Michael, who is demonstrably disappointed in Harry for beating his Faerie Godmother at her own game (that would be manipulation of words and intent, aka tricking), when the alternative is to allow her to literally own him . . . By the end, he was easier to deal with, but I’m honestly not sure it that’s b/c he got toned down, or b/c I really liked his wife, which made me like him more by default.

It’s also starting to irritate me how little consistency there is to Harry’s abilities.

A pattern seems to be forming: x happens, leaving Harry practically powerless, then y happens, not only re-energizing him, but giving him a surplus of power as well. Furthermore, many of the times Harry’s been depleted, he somehow manages to “dig a little deeper” and accomplish the same kinds of things he’d be able to do were he not depleted. There’s always some searing pain that accompanies these feats, presumably to account for the power surge in the midst of weakness, but as Harry seems to recover from his injuries at a remarkable rate, it feels like smoke and mirrors. (<------HA!) I'm not saying Harry should never encounter obstacles that inhibit his ability to wizard. BUT. If it continues to happen in every, single book . . . *frowns* Lastly, Harry says, "Hell's bells," twenty-eight times. So I had a LOT of problems with this book. BUT . . . I still really enjoyed it. B/c no matter what plot point or character issues I had, I immensely enjoy Butcher's writing. When he's not being a gross boy (b/c GORE. Yes!)---do not ask, I refuse to relive it, but I will say this: if you’ve already read this book, the fork in the WTF? button should have special meaning—he’s created an immensely engaging character in Harry, and between his amazing feats of wizardry and, yes, his adorkableness, I find myself able to stamp down the less-than-thrilling aspects of his story.

Plus now there are also interesting plot developments and new characters to counter the mounting exasperation. Like Thomas. I friggin’ LOVE Thomas. Speaking of Thomas, this is an example of the excellent writing that holds me in thrall:

The first sound to ring out was neither gunshot nor battle cry, but rich, silvery laughter. It drifted up, masculine, somehow merry and mocking, bubbling and scornful all at once. I squinted down through the lights, to see Thomas, posed like some bizarre post-chrysalis incarnation of Errol Flynn, one foot up on the stairs, hand braced, his other hand on the crystalline hilt of his sword. His head was thrown back, every lean line of muscle on him displayed with the casual disregard of skilled effort.

Bob is also a consistent source of hilarity, AND there was a View Spoiler »

So clearly it wasn’t all, or even mostly, bad, and with SUMMER KNIGHT, the almost universally acknowledged game changer up next, there’s no way I’m stopping now. I’ll keep you posted.

The Dresden Files:


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My name is Jessica and I live in Chattanooga, Tennessee. I’m trying my hand at writing, but mostly I read. My favorite genres are Fantasy, Paranormal Romance, Science Fiction, Urban Fantasy, and the YA versions of those genres, but if there is a book of a different color getting lots of buzz, I’ll read it too, just to be informed. If I’m not reading or writing, I’m probably on Goodreads or Pinterest or baking blueberry pies because I love them.

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14 responses to “Review: Grave Peril by Jim Butcher

  1. I only thought the first book was so so when I read it, which is probably why I haven’t picked up the second. To see that the third is still just kind of so so for you, but getting better, still makes me hesitant to pick it up. I want to completely be in love with a series after book two, especially one that has a huge list of books in it.

    I’ll be curious to see how you like the others as you go, maybe you can tempt me to pick this back up and give it another go. 😉
    kindlemom1 recently posted…WoW Pick of the Week!

  2. Mary from BookSwarm  

    YES! Okay, I don’t remember this particular story very well (thinking the series is in need of a reread!) but Harry does follow the pattern you describe. In pretty much every book. And he’s obsessed with “hell’s bells” (there are other curses out there in the world. Come on, Dresden.). But the writing and the stories are so darned addictive! Like Pringles.
    Mary recently posted…Pre-Squee: Legacy of Kings by Eleanor Herman

  3. Well, unsurprisingly, it sounds beautifully complex and definitely interesting. It also sounds as though Sam and Dean would come in handy (then again, when wouldn’t they?) I must continue this series… I feel silly because I’m likely the last person on Earth that hasn’t read it in its current entirety! Awesome review, Jessica, as engaging and entertaining as ever 🙂
    Ramona recently posted…Creative Writing Programs: Yay or Nay?

  4. Pili from In Love With  

    Hmmmm, I’m gonna hold my judgement on whether I want to start this series after you’ve read and pass judgement on book 4!

    I am really VERY annoyed when a book references events that happened out of sight (so to speak) not in another installment or novella or something! GAH! Feels like some sort of cheap trick to me!
    Pili recently posted…Waiting On Wednesday #92!!

  5. Ooooh I forgot this was the instalment where we meet Michael! All I’ll say about him is that his character arc has made him one of my favourite secondary characters; he loosens up a little, to say the least. I’ve never been the biggest fan of Susan but even so, the events of Grave Peril definitely tugged at my heartstrings. Keep forging ahead with this series – it’s basically all uphill from here (with a few sporadic lacklustre books in between)!
    Danya recently posted…Review: Cold Burn of Magic by Jennifer Estep

  6. Lupdilup from gmail.com  

    Again my series ADD hasn’t allowed me to continue this series. I’m still behind at number two. I don’t think I missed much in this installment, but I would hate to miss something important for the following books so I feel if were to continue I must listen to this one next, I can only hope for a better experience 🙁
    I need to meet Thomas!
    Lupdilup recently posted…The Audiobook Salad Edition Three (Audiobook Reviews)

  7. This is the keep reading comment 🙂 I can’t remember what is already learned about Michael or Thomas but I do remember liking Michael but could be from future books. Love Thomas and just recently read his short story.
    Kristina D recently posted…Some Thursday Randomness

  8. Good writing can, usually, overcome any flaws in the actual story, yeah? The funny thing is, Jessica, that the flaws or obstacles or whatever you want to call the issues you had with installment, only serve to intrigue me more with Harry’s story. 🙂 Yep. You’ve made me curious about the ghosts and the vampires (which I typically like with the exception of the vampires in Kate Daniels’ world). And the wizardry! Clearly, this is a series I need to invest some time in. Too bad I have so little time! *ha* I will try to fit in some Butcher this summer though – that quote you shared about Thomas…that is really something, honestly. It painted a pretty detailed picture in my mind and I can understand why Butcher’s writing can smooth over any other issues you may have with Harry. 😉
    Bookworm Brandee recently posted…#ShelfLove Review ~ Secrets #1 ~ HM Ward (Ella Steele)