Dresden Files: Ghost Story by Jim Butcher

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Dresden Files: Ghost Story by Jim Butcher

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Category: Fantasy
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Sharon O'Hara
Reviewed by Sharon O'Hara
Summary: Funny, entertaining and surprisingly thoughtful – just make sure you've read the other books in the series first.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 496 Date: July 2011
Publisher: Orbit
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1841497617

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It's been a while since I've read a Dresden Files novel, so I am fuzzy on the details before I begin 'Ghost Story', the latest instalment of the wildly successful urban fantasy series. 'Ghost Story' is an unconventional one, even by Jim Butcher's standards – it begins after the narrator, Harry Dresden, was shot by an unseen sniper in the previous novel Changes. There is no deus ex machina or cliffhanger resolution in the first chapter – Harry really is dead as a doornail. For any fan of the series, this is naturally a conundrum: how do you continue the Dresden Files if Dresden is no longer alive? Jim Butcher gets around this seemingly insurmountable problem by having his brash lead character remain equally as incorrigible and unforgettable as before – it's just that now he's having a bit of trouble with his reliable 'punch first, ask questions later' doctrine, as his fists tend not to make contact with human flesh any more. Yep, Harry's a ghost. Where do you go from here?

As Harry is sent back to find out the identity of his killer, he finds that Chicago is not the same town he knew and loved. Not only is this ghost territory, where Harry has to learn a new set of rules and an entirely new way of doing things that, to his utmost horror, does not involve being able to use his magic, but Chicago has also become a far more dangerous place – and that's really saying something. There are also the more mundane problems of being unable to talk to his old friends or be seen by them, making physical contact with anything, having to cope with sunrise and escaping the ravenous wraiths who seem to find Harry's newborn ghost form particularly appetising. Consider this novel a survival guide for the, er, corporeally challenged.

'Ghost Story' is possibly the most pensive tale of the series, as Harry reflects on his past and how those memories shape what he has become. He is faced with startling home truths and some powerful regrets, and he has to come to terms with the fact that while his actions in the past have saved lives, they have also ruined others'. It's quite heartbreaking at times, as we delve into Harry's childhood and other painful memories from his more recent past. However, that's not to say the action is slow – this is a Dresden Files novel, after all. The race to save Chicago from the unknown forces that have been tormenting it since Harry's death is often run at breakneck speed, and there are more twists around the corner than you will be able to anticipate. Several familiar faces make a reappearance – and not necessarily a welcome one. There are multiple interweaving plotlines, and it is a testament to Butcher's writing that he can keep them all in the air before dropping bombshell after bombshell, and believe me when I say: the ending will leave you desperate for more.

As the thirteenth book in the series, you can imagine that newcomers to 'Ghost Story' will be a little lost. There are some attempts to fill in new readers by explaining the settings and important past storylines, and I'm sure a determined reader could ignore the gaps – but the novel spends too much time exploring the impact of Harry Dresden's death on Chicago and on those closest to him for it to act as a standalone book. You have to really know who Harry is as a character before you can appreciate what his death does for the series. For existing fans, this is a great read, although my longstanding gripes still remain – Butcher is often too repetitive and longwinded, and he under-uses some really fantastic characters.

However, this is overall possibly one of the strongest of The Dresden Files series, no easy feat after thirteen books – the characters are well developed, Harry's trademark motor mouth is still intact, and the pop culture references keep flying. It's at times funny, thrilling, disturbing and sad - but you can never say it's dull.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

Further reading suggestions: Changes: The Dresden Files; Proven Guilty; White Night and Turn Coat.

Jim Butcher's Dresden Files in Chronological Order

Buy Dresden Files: Ghost Story by Jim Butcher at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Dresden Files: Ghost Story by Jim Butcher at Amazon.co.uk


Buy Dresden Files: Ghost Story by Jim Butcher at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Dresden Files: Ghost Story by Jim Butcher at Amazon.com.

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