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Book Review: Ghost Story

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Ghost Story, by Jim Butcher


Ghost Story is the thirteenth book in the Dresden Files series, written by Jim Butcher.  The book follows Harry Dresden, a modern-day wizard fighting crime in Chicago, following his death at the end of Changes and his attempt to find out who murdered him.

Warning!  Spoilers follow here.

The book picks up as Harry is entering the afterlife.  Or so it seems.  He is greeted by Carmichael, an old friend from many books ago, who takes him to an office building.  There, he meets a man named Jack.  Jack informs Harry that he isn’t in “purgatory,” necessarily, but that he can’t continue to What Comes Next until he finds out who his killer was.  Harry is given the opportunity to be dropped off anywhere in Chicago to start investigating, and he chooses the home of Mortimer Lindquist — an ectomancer also from several books back.  Harry hopes to use Mort as a medium to talk to his friends, but Mort wants nothing to do with him.

Upon arriving to Mort’s house, Harry is greeted by a fellow ghost named Sir Stuart.  Sir Stuart guards Mort’s home, along with a large army of other ghosts called wraiths.  Shortly after arriving, Harry finds out that has been dead for six months, even though it seems like his death just happened, and also in spite of there being snow on the ground in May.  Harry joins Sir Stuart and his army to go up against a hooded figure as it attempts to invade Mort’s house.  Once the figure’s attempts are thwarted, Mort agrees to help Harry.

They head to Murphy’s house and, after some serious convincing, are let in.  Murphy calls a meeting of just about everyone from Harry’s life: the wolves, Molly, Butters, and Daniel Carpenter.  They all use Mort to ask Harry questions until gunshots are fired outside Murphy’s house.  Dresden and Sir Stuart run out to attack the shooters, a group of very young children straight out of Oliver Twist.  Out of curiosity, Dresden follows the gang back to a deserted warehouse where he meets their leader, a man named Aristedes.  One of the children, Fitz, can hear and communicate with Harry, something no one else but Mort has been able to do.  After convincing Fitz that he’s better than this and should be doing something better with his life, Harry, Butters, and Daniel take Aristedes out and set the other children free.

Harry spends a huge part of the text reminiscing and filling in a lot of gaps about his past and his childhood that weren’t previously exposed.

Mort is abducted and Harry finds him in the lair of the hooded figure, who turns out to be Corpsetaker from Dead Beat.  Harry rallies the troops and devises a plan to take out Corpsetaker.  There’s a short battle for everyone involved, until Corpsetaker attempts to possess Molly.  The two go at it inside Molly’s head, where Dresden gets sucked in to witness the war.  He finds Molly’s control room in her imagination and is then tipped off to the answer he is trying to find.

Turns out, back in Changes, Harry figured everything out first.  He knew that he’d have to become the Winter Knight to fix his back, but also knew that doing so would eventually turn him into a monster.  To escape this fate, knowing also that he would have to promise not to kill himself, Harry calls Kincaid and literally schedules his murder.  Molly then used her powers to erase that memory from his mind, so that neither he nor Mab would know what really happened, making his murder look unprecedented.

After finding this out, Uriel shows up and acts as the Ghost of Christmas Present to show Harry how all of his loved ones are getting along without him, hoping it will help him in making his final decision: to hang out in “purgatory” with Uriel and other angels/spirits, or to head into What Comes Next.  He decides to try What Comes Next.

He wakes up on the island of Demonreach with his head in Mab’s lap.  She informs him that she’s onto his plan and she won’t let him die because now she’s going to force him to be her Knight, like he promised.  The book ends with Dresden following Mab to her kingdom to start working.

Well, that was disappointing.  This book doesn’t deserve to have the Dresden Files name stamped on it.  It was so different, and not in a good way, from the rest of the series.  I feel like Butcher really missed an opportunity here.  When I first read the description for this book, I had a very specific idea in my head of how this book was going to go down.  Now that Harry was dead, all of the baddies from the previous books could get their revenge.  I pictured Harry being constantly on the run from someone that he outsmarted or killed in the past.  You know how many former baddies we got to encounter?  ONE.  The stupid Corpsetaker.  And on top of all that, the book moved at an absolutely glacial pace.  It took me forever to read this book because it legitimately bored me.  That’s never happened with a Dresden Files book, and I hope it never does again.  Memories are a huge part of this story, and while I did love hearing all these stories from Harry’s past and getting answers to questions I’ve had for the duration of the series, I also felt like the scenes with Harry’s reminiscing were random and ill-placed.  And what purpose exactly was the story line with Fitz & Gang supposed to serve, other than give yet another avenue for Harry to reminisce?  Another theme to this story are lies, and boy, are we fed them.  Basically the entire plot, at least, the motivation behind all of the events, of the last book was a lie, and the whole purpose for Harry solving his own murder in this book was a lie.  The actual story, y’know, the plot, doesn’t happen until the last fifty pages of this book, no joke.  The story finally started picking up, only to be over a short time later.  Not to mention: so much of the story isn’t wrapped up.  What happened to Fitz & Gang?  What happened to Morty?  Did Molly recover and get off the street?  And just how the hell is everyone going to react when he magically comes back from the dead in the next book, especially considering how certain Harry was that they were getting along so well without him?  Seriously, worse wrap-up ever.  This book had so much potential, and I really feel like so much of it was wasted.  You know those episodes of TV shows that they throw in mid-season that don’t follow the current story arc, but just serve as a fluff episode?  That’s how I feel about this book.  Did Jim Butcher even write this book, this text filled with nothing but irrelevant Harry back story and Star Wars references?  God, I hope not.  It would almost make me feel better.  2/5.

For Next Time

Cold Days, by Jim Butcher

After being murdered and then brought back to life, Harry Dresden soon realizes that maybe death wasn’t all that bad. Because he is no longer Chicago’s only professional wizard.

He is now Winter Knight to Mab, the Queen of Air and Darkness. Her word is his command. And her first command is the seemingly impossible: kill an immortal. Worse still, there is a growing threat to an unfathomable source of magic that could mean the deaths of millions.

Beset by enemies new and old, Harry must gather his friends and allies, prevent an apocalypse, and find a way out of his eternal subservience before his newfound infinite powers claim the only thing he has left to call his own. . .…

His soul.


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