You may recall that I read and reviewed Blood Rites, Dead Beat, and Proven Guilty back-to-back over the course of two weeks last year, unable to stop myself from doing so. I hadn't realized how much I'd missed Jim Butcher, so I couldn't help but pick up the next book as soon as I finished the one I was reading! And it took a lot of self-control to forgo continuing reading subsequent installments. Understandably, it was with excitement that I sat down to read White Night.
If Dead Beat turned out to be the point where the Dresden Files shifted into high gear, for its part Proven Guilty did build on the storylines introduced in basically every other volume and pushed the envelope even further. Far from losing steam, the Dresden Files continued to grow in size, scope, and inventiveness. Having grown as an author, Jim Butcher has definitely hit his stride and he seemed to be more confident, more ambitious. And with so many plot threads coming together to form an impressive tapestry, the potential for what came next was enormous. Hence, White Night had lofty expectations to live up to. And though it is a fun and entertaining read in its own right, it's not as good as its last few predecessors.
Here's the blurb:
Someone is targeting the city’s magic practitioners, the members of the supernatural underclass who don’t possess enough power to become full-fledged wizards. Many have vanished. Others appear to be victims of suicide. But the murderer has left a calling card at one of the crime scenes–a message for Harry Dresden, referencing the book of Exodus and the killing of witches. Harry sets out to find the killer before he can strike again, but his investigation turns up evidence pointing to the one suspect he cannot possibly believe guilty: his half brother, Thomas. Determined to bring the real murderer to justice and clear his brother’s name, Harry attracts the attention of the White Court of vampires, becoming embroiled in a power struggle that renders him outnumbered, outclassed, and dangerously susceptible to temptation. Harry knows that if he screws this one up, a lot of people will die–and one of them will be his brother.
One of the hallmarks of the series remains the first-person hardboiled narrative of the engaging, if frequently inept, wizard Harry Dresden. I've said it before and I'll say it again: Harry's heart is always in the right place, and his flawed nature definitely makes him one of the most likeable SFF characters out there. Witnessing events occurring through Harry Dresden's eyes is never dull. Although he's gaining experience with all these misadventures, wisdom doesn't always come easy to the only wizard in Chicago's phone book. Which is why following his point of view remains such a pleasure.
As always, as the only POV protagonist, Harry takes centre stage. And yet, as has been the case with the majority of the last few Dresden Files installments, it's the supporting cast which helps make this ninth volume another memorable read. The relationship between Dresden and Murphy continues to evolve, but I thought there would be more between them now that they have finally faced the fact that they have feelings for one another. Thomas moved out of Harry's apartment in Proven Guilty and his secretive activities are at the heart of White Night. Molly Carpenter played a big role in the last book and she's now Harry's apprentice. The girl is one mistake away from a death sentence at the hands of the White Council, and as her mentor the wizard will share her faith if anything bad happens. So he has no choice but to be hard yet fair as far as her training is concerned. Trouble is, Molly is a hard-headed teenage girl that may be the death of Harry.
Proven Guilty was the most convoluted installment yet. Alas, though White Night does raise the stakes even higher, as a self-contained story it's not as elaborate and interesting as the last two volumes. To a certain extent, it often felt as though this was some sort of interlude. One that allowed the greater story arc to progress, true, but one which seemed to focus more on the storylines dedicated to Molly and Thomas. New revelations are made about Warden Ramirez, Lara Raith, and "Gentleman" Johnny Marcone that allow readers to see them all in a new light. Add to that revelations regarding the Black Council, Lasciel, the reappearance of one of Harry's old flames, as well as the proverbial shit hitting the fan during the White Court vampire conclave, and you have all the ingredients required for another compelling novel.
White Night raises the stakes yet again and the odds are stacked even higher against Harry Dresden and his allies. The book may not be as intricately plotted and satisfying as Dead Beat and Proven Guilty turned out to be, yet it nonetheless sets the stage for another chapter in the Dresden Files. One that should raise the series to another, deeper and more complex, level.
With lots of new and startling developments, further complications, and even more heart, White Night is hard to put down! Roll on Small Favor!