I’m going to review these two together quickly: everything you’d expect from Jim Butcher and Harry Dresden is here and in abundance. Sixth and seventh entries into the Dresden Files, following the exploits of Chicago’s only professional wizard, if you’ve been reading up to this point, you know what you’re getting into!
Blood Rites for me is the strongest book in the series so far and balances successfully its two central plots. Dresden is employed by Thomas Raith of the White Court of vampires – think incubi, feeding on emotional and sexual energy rather than blood – to investigate a murder, and prevent any further murders taking place on a pornographic film set – *** insert eye roll here! *** During this, a scourge of Black Court vampires is discovered – more of your traditional blood sucker variety like Dracula – and Dresden assembles a ragtag team of allies to try to eradicate them.
Dead Beat is more of the same but, rather than opposing vampires, Dresden is faced with opposing teams of necromancers competing to obtain The Word of Kemmler, a book which would allow them to ascend to Godhood. Zombies and ghosts abound. Butcher throws in a number of callbacks to earlier novels: most directly, Dresden’s burned hand, an injury sustained in Blood Rites, is a barrier to his fire magics; and his momentary touching of one of the Denarian silver coin in Death Masks, that of Lasciel surfaces as he encounters the fallen angel Lasciel – possible temptress, possibly corruptor, possible source of power and knowledge – directly. Or at least a shadow of her embedded in his mind. I am assuming that the Denarians will be returned to at some point in the series. Again, a ragtag team of allies takes on the necromancers in the finale.
My usual grumbles about the series remain: having a female police officer in Karrin Murphy does not seem terribly enlightened when you force her into a space so tight that even the fabric of her trousers would have stopped her entering and her pantie-clad backside is ogled by the male gaze! And the lingering lascivious male gaze with which Dresden meets every female – often with hints of curves moving in interesting ways – is still there. It’s still both slightly tedious and significantly out-of-date and creepy. It’s quite a shock to see that these aren’t older than 8 years!
I also get tired when Butcher repeats exposition that occurred in perhaps every one on the previous novels: we know what Harry’s apartment is like; we know about the magic-technology problems; we know, we know, we know. By book seven, surely we can assume that our audience is familiar with the world of Harry Dresden, can’t we?
But, against that, you have Sue the zombie Tyrannosaurus Rex on which Harry Dresden rides into battle. And Butters. Butters was sweet.
Polka will never die.
The very obvious need for Butters was a little clumsily signposted: here’s a one-man polka band; a chapter later the necromancers’ need for a beat is mentioned. Yes. Sure. Subtle!
This series is undoubtedly and almost embarrassingly – almost toxically – masculine. But if you take that with a pinch of salt, they do have an energy. I have heard so many people rave over the series, though, that I still feel I’m waiting for the good stuff to happen! Mind you, most reviews seem to rave about James Marsters’ narration on the audiobooks… maybe he is the magic.
Plot / Pace:⭐⭐⭐⭐
Date: 6th July 2010, 5th May 2011