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Grave Peril, by Jim Butcher Book Review | SFReader.com
Grave Peril, by Jim Butcher Genre: Dark Fantasy Publisher: Roc Published: 2001 Review Posted: 5/15/2015 Reviewer Rating:
Reader Rating: Not Rated
Grave Peril, by Jim Butcher
Book Review by Joshua Palmatier
Have you read this book?
This is the third book in the Harry Dresden urban fantasy series and I still have a hard time seeing why this is so popular. I'm much more of an epic fantasy reader, so maybe that's it. In any case . . .
The premise is that the world of ghosts is in turmoil and Harry Dresden has been forced to investigate it because it's weakened the barrier between our world and theirs, making it easier for them to pass through and harass us all. With he help of his friends, Harry discovers that many of the hauntings seem to be attached to him and a case of demonic summoning he helped resolve months ago. Meanwhile, the vampires in the area seem to be manipulating Harry into a precarious position, with the ultimate intent of taking him out. Not to mention that his fairy godmother is attempting to collect Harry's soul after he broke their previous bargain. Can Harry solve the problems with the ghosts while keeping his soul as well as his head?
I liked the intent behind this story--the ghosts being riled up, crossing over and causing problems, with Harry at first just attempting to deal with them one by one, but then realizing there was a root problem he needed to solve or it was never going to end. I was focused on this main plot and Harry's attempt to figure out exactly what was going on, further intrigued by the fact that someone appeared to be torturing some of Harry's friends and some of the ghosts with an interesting kind of spiritual barbed wire magic. I would have been happy if the entire book had focused on just these aspects of the ghostly turmoil.
But then the other two plots get woven into it--the vampires and Harry's fairy godmother. One of them ended up being part of the overall ghost plot, which is fine, but in this case probably unnecessary. And the other I get as being part of a larger story arc for the series. Also fine. But throwing in so many little story threads makes the reading muddy. And the more threads increases that muddiness. In this case, those three plots weren't enough, there are also at least four other smaller plots dealing with a young girl with Cassandra's Tears syndrome, Harry's relationship, his friend Michael and his sword, and then another vampire and his girlfriend. So there's a lot going on here and all of it together just made everything a little too chaotic. This coming from an epic fantasy lover, mind.
But the real issue I had with the book wasn't all of that. I can deal with tons of plotlines (even if I feel that many of them were unnecessary complications, making the book feel scattered). My main issue was with the structure of the book. As hinted at in the summary of the book, the main plot began with the demonic summoning case months ago. And yet, we as readers don't find out much of anything about this case until at least halfway through the book, and even then what we get is scattered. It isn't all brought together until toward the end. This element was so integral to WHY everything was happening that it should have been given to the reader early on, say in a prologue. The book should have begun with Harry and the special police force formed to deal with paranormal cases storming the demonic summoner's lair. Instead, the reader sits in the dark on these elements for the majority of the book, with only a few hints here and there that somehow this is involved in the current ghost case. I felt, as a reader, that key pieces of information were purposely not given to me. As soon as Harry suspected that this other case was involved, we should have had some kind of reveal of exactly what happened with that case, because much of the plot revolved around it in the end. So it felt like things were withheld from me, as a reader, and that seriously cramps my enjoyment of a book, especially what is ostensibly a mystery.
So, in the end I'd say there was a little too much going on here, confusing the plot unnecessarily with distractions, and some of the key elements that were part of the mystery were kept from the reader when it would have been easy to give us those pertinent details in either a prologue or with some type of conversation between characters once the connection between the ghosts and this previous case were suspected by Harry. Both of these things detracted from my enjoyment of a plot that had some intriguing elements to it. Overall, the plot and writing just felt . . . messy. And it could have been cleaned up easily.