Meg’s Advanced Review: Ghost Story by Jim Butcher
This review will be free of Ghost Story spoilers (outside what has already been released by the publishers). All other books in the series are fair game.
I was so, so wrong.
The day after the midnight premiere, my ex-roommate/best friend #1 walked into the living room with her phone thrust in front of her.
“My mom is at the used bookstore,” she said. This was not entirely odd, as her mother practically lives at a used bookstore. But her tone said something else was afoot. “Look what she’s found.”
And there, on her phone, was a picture of Ghost Story. Dresden Files book thirteen. Just sitting on the shelf.
Two weeks before it was supposed to be there.
“Buy it!” I squealed loud enough to wake my current roommate/best friend #2 who was sleeping on the couch. “Buy it! Buy it!”
“Well, duh,” best friend #1 said.
We spent some time debating who would read the book first. (“This is the sort of situation that ruins friendships,” best friend #2 observed.) I didn’t actually believe the store had broken street date by two weeks until I was holding the book in my hands. Best friend #1 plowed through it in two days so we could take it with us, and that glorious, glorious book flew home with me.
Ghost Story picks up right where Changes left off…sort of. It does for Harry Dresden, at least, who we last left sinking into Lake Michigan with a bullet hole in his chest. But by the time his spirit makes it back to Chicago proper, six months have passed. And what a doozy of a sixth months they have been. Harry is tasked with finding his murderer (a private eye’s work is never done, it seems) as well as protecting the people he loves, three of whom are in direct danger.
Oh, and he’s in a plane of existence that is populated by not-so-nice creatures—some of whom Harry put there himself.
Oh, and without his body (which is completely MIA) he has no magic.
So, basically, a typical day in the afterlife for Harry Dresden.
As I settled into reading, I was delighted to see a return of the Harry Dresden that I had grown to love. The previous book, Changes, had a distinct tonal shift from the rest of the series—as was appropriate as the book was basically an apocalypse in 500 pages. Changes was, to put it plainly, a heavy book; it had dampened the dark humor and noir feel as it focused fully on its task, with no time for even dialogue asides. But Ghost Story refreshes the Dresden atmosphere. It’s as though Changes was a season finale, and Ghost Story is a season premiere.
And keeping with the television analogy, Jim Butcher spends considerable time setting up new players for the upcoming season. For the past eight books, the war with the Red Court of vampires has been a driving force, always simmering under the surface, if not dealt with directly. But now, with the Red Court decimated, the supernatural community is in an uproarious power struggle.
Some authors would have drowned in such a task, but Butcher once again displays his ability to float short-term story above overarching plot. By the time the halfway point of the book rolls around, no fewer than five crises demand Harry’s attention. But the narrative does not feel cluttered or heavy-handed. Instead, the plot is simply complex, in the best sense of the word, with each piece sliding against the next, tectonic plates just setting themselves up for an earthquake of storytelling.
If possible, Butcher has made his characters even more three-dimensional here. In fact, they may be verging on four-dimensional at this point. They don’t just sit on the page, waiting for their turn to pop up in the narrative again. The extra boost is especially true for Molly and Murphy. They’re omnipresent, constantly on the edge of Harry’s—and by proxy, the reader’s—thoughts.
The final twist of the book has such a marvelous depth and complexity that it begs the question: Just how long has Butcher had Dresden’s death and aftermath completely mapped out? This especially comes into play when Harry discovers the truth about his murder and the consequences of those actions–both to himself and to the only person who has known the truth all along. Basically, it’s everything a season premiere should be: a game-changer in the best possible way.
Ghost Story–which officially hits shelves on July 26–is a rush of narrative, never slowing and always immersive. After he pushed the book’s release date back by about four months, Butcher told fans that he was concerned with making the book as perfect as possible. In that desire, I would say that Butcher succeeded–and I would also say that Cold Days better come out on time. I cannot wait for the next installment of the series. Ghost Story has completely revitalized my love for the Dresden Universe.
Go back to the beginning with a review of Storm Front.