In his work as a professional wizard and private investigator, Harry Dresden has seen some pretty bizarre things, but nothing quite like the case he's tackling now. The spirit world is rising up in force, wreaking havoc all over Chicago. With his friend and Knight of the Cross, Michael, by his side, Harry takes on the ghostly apparitions, but he senses that there's more to this odd occurrence than meets the eye. He's pretty sure that someone is deliberately stirring them up, and he's determined to find out who. Add in a strange girl who wants Harry's protection, Harry's girlfriend, Susan, who will stop at nothing to get a story for her tabloid newspaper, Harry's fairy godmother, who wants to collect on a debt Harry owes, and an invitation to the vampire ball, and Harry could have a recipe for disaster. Will Harry discover who's behind all the mayhem and be able to put a stop to it before they've gone too far, and will he be able to do it without getting himself and everyone else killed in the process?
Grave Peril is the third full-length novel in the Dresden Files series. Up to this point, I've been pretty engaged in this series, but for some reason I can't quite put my finger on, this book didn't quite do it for me. It was still a pretty good story, but I just didn't feel as drawn into it as I have with the other thus far. I freely admit that part of the problem may have been me. I read the majority of the book while completely exhausted, as well as having a lot going on in my life that presented some distractions. That being said though, even when I'm tired and lacking focus, if a story is really good, it will still draw me in, but that wasn't entirely the case here. There was just something about the way it was written that didn't fully engage my brain.
Maybe it was because I didn't feel like I got enough insights into Harry's life this time around as I did with the previous books. Harry has always been an intriguing character to me and one of my biggest literary crushes. However, I didn't feel that this story was as good of a vehicle for his underlying charm and geekiness. He does exhibit his trademark chivalry and can never resist a lady in distress, which I find endearing. He's also very determined to win the day or die trying, which is an admirable trait as well, but I just didn't feel as connected to him this time. Perhaps it was because Harry wasn't interacting with the supporting characters in a deep and meaningful way. In some ways, they seemed like more of a means to an end, like they were just there to give Harry something to do or someone to play off of, rather than being an integral part of the story. I'm also becoming very impatient to learn more about Harry's background. Thus far, we've barely scratched the surface with regards to his first love and his mentor, and I'd love to know more about this part of his life and how it has shaped him into the person he is. But I'll admit that even with the foibles in his character development this time, Harry is still pretty cool.
In this book, Harry's love life takes on a new dimension. He first became involved with tabloid reporter Susan Rodriguez in Storm Front and their relationship progressed in Fool Moon. Now he's slowly coming around to admitting that he's in love with her. Unfortunately, though, we see so little of their interactions as a couple throughout these books that it felt like their romance went from 0 to 60 in mere seconds. It didn't help that they had to travel a pretty rocky road in this book, with some big changes occurring for Susan. Even though she usually ends up involved in whatever mayhem is going on, it seems more like Susan orbits the periphery of Harry's life rather than being a partner in it, which makes it difficult for me to become invested in their romance. Without that deep connection it was difficult to fathom the decisions he made regarding her and the risks he was willing to take for her sake.
The other thing that bothered me was that I was having a hard time following the story this time (which admittedly could have been due to my exhaustion), but it just didn't seem like the mystery flowed as smoothly as it could have. At times, I found myself rather confused and I don't think I could have speculated on what was causing the ghosts to rise in force if I tried. I also struggled a bit with the introduction of some new characters. First was Michael, a Knight of the Cross, who wields holy power. I really liked him as a character and hope we see more of him in the books to come. Also present was Harry's fairy godmother, Lea, with whom it seems he made some kind of pact a long while ago. She seems to enjoy tormenting him, and I think digging deeper into her character could definitely add to Harry's characterization. However, where I struggled was with how these two characters were introduced. They just pop into the story with very little background insights into Harry's relationship with either one. Lea has obviously been a part of his life for a long time, and he's been trying to avoid her. Michael, on the other hand, it seems Harry met while working on another case months before, which tied into one of the villains of Grave Peril. I kept feeling like I was supposed to already know about the villain and this previous case, like it was part of another story, but try as I might, I couldn't recall reading anything like that up to this point in the series. I just couldn't help feeling like there were pieces to the story I was missing.
In addition to Michael and Lea, there are some other secondary characters who either are introduced and appear to play roles in future stories of the series or who had been previously introduced in prior books of the series. Karrin Murphy doesn't play as big of a part in this book, but she does show up. Harry has an intriguing admiration for her that IMHO, in some ways overshadows his relationship with Susan. I've speculated before about whether there might someday be something more between Harry and Murphy, but considering the path his romance with Susan took, I'm not so sure anymore. The red vampire Bianca, first seen in Storm Front, is back in all her bad-ass glory. A new white vampire, Thomas, becomes an ally for Harry. And last but not least, Harry's sidekicks, Bob and Mister, were in fine form as always.
Overall, Grave Peril may not have been the best book in the series for me so far, but it does set up some pivotal events that I'm sure will play out in the next book or books of the series. I'll be interested to see where things go from here, considering all that happened in Grave Peril, so I'll definitely be picking up the next book Summer Knight soon and hoping that I'm not as confused by the storyline or as tired the next time around.:-)
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