Proven Guilty (Dresden Case Files) by Jim Butcher

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Proven Guilty (Dresden Case Files) by Jim Butcher

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Category: Fantasy
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Natalie Baker
Reviewed by Natalie Baker
Summary: Part crime-noir, part urban fantasy, this fast-paced thriller, laced with many kinds of magic, is a good fun read. You'll miss out, however, if you're not versed in the rest of the series.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 528 Date: April 2007
Publisher: Orbit
ISBN: 978-1841495309

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Harry Dresden fights crime. He's got a list of personal problems as long as your arm, including a contorted wreck of a love life, a smart-arse attitude, and the fact that everyone in all kinds of authority is against him. Oh, and he happens to be a wizard. He's even listed as such in the Chicago phone book.

As such, the type of crime he's fighting is far beyond the average. There's the backdrop of a magical war, the Wizarding Council is worried about something - but isn't being very forthcoming, and at a horror convention in downtown Chicago, it appears that characters from movies are getting out of the film reels and wreaking havoc. If only it were that simple.

This is the eighth book in the Harry Dresden series, and probably not the best place to start if (like me) you haven't read any of the previous books. By now there's an intricate backstory and a lot of explaining has to be done for just about every character who crops up. To his credit, the author summarises succinctly, and manages not to let the comprehensive character histories get in the way of a good story.

For this is a good story, it moves along at a cracking rate, there's plenty happening and while it all takes some time to fall into place, everything is linked neatly together. It's difficult to know quite what genre this is: it reads like a cross between detective and horror in an urban fantasy setting. The supernatural elements are both highly imaginative and yet described exactly the same as the real world, so much so that it's too easy to forget they're fantastical at all. And as the story is written in the first person through the eyes of Harry Dresden himself, this makes sense; to him, all the magic is familiar, in fact, he's almost bored of some of it. He's also getting used to the killing that seems to go with it all.

There's plenty of dry humour in the character as well, perhaps cultivated as an antidote to some of the more ghastly events in the book. The style is fairly minimalist, but as in some instances less is certainly more, for anyone with half an imagination the author conveys the scene fully. However his style, while helping to move the story along fast, at times reads a little like fanfiction; that is to say it's a bit roughly written in parts, and the main character is a complete cipher - other characters had their positions explained, but I'm still in the dark about much of what makes Harry tick. That said, I recognised and enjoyed a lot of the comments that were made about fan conventions; I suspect just as many of the horror references went completely over my head (but I did get the Star Wars references. I suppose that makes me a geek!)

This is also not the type of book you can play along with in order to work out who's responsible for what, unlike other crime novels, as it's written in the first person and we therefore don't really get any information that the lead character is unaware of.

However there's a rich tapestry of magical elements from all kinds of worldwide traditions, and I enjoyed spotting the references, from the Wild Hunt to the Erlking. There are also strong parallels drawn between magic and energy; using magic is constantly draining and exhausting, and it is this that helps lend it the gritty realism that helps it to fit so realistically into the rest of the scenario of the book.

This is a fun series; the tone can be quite dark, and the prose isn't going to win any prizes, but it's a very complicated world, drawn very matter-of-factly, and this is what makes it an enjoyable read. But don't start with the eighth book.

Jim Butcher's Dresden Files in Chronological Order

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