There's no love lost between Harry Dresden, the only professional wizard in Chicago, and the White Council, which governs the actions of all wizards and who have always viewed him as too much of a rebel. However, with many of their most talented wizards having been lost in the war with the Red Court vampires, they had little choice but to accept him into their ranks. As a warden, Harry now has additional responsibilities that include reporting incidences of black magic to the Council. When malevolent beings that look like monsters straight out of popular horror films begin terrorizing a local horror convention, Harry is tasked with investigating. At the same time, the pierced and tattooed teenage daughter of an old friend shows up, and the trail of the movie monsters seems to be leading straight to her boyfriend. Soon it becomes apparent that there's something even more sinister afoot and Harry must make a dangerous trip into the Nevernever to deal with it. But when he finds proof that a young wizard was indeed engaging in black magic, can he save the person's life when the Council demands a death sentence?
Some long-running book series tend to lose momentum after a while or start to feel repetitive. Eight books into the Dresden Files series, I can confidently say that the series hasn't slowed down one bit and each story is packed with new and exciting plots and relatable characters. Although I've given a couple of the previous books in the series five stars as well, I think Proven Guilty now has an edge as the best book in the series thus far, and I have every expectation that they'll keep getting better and better as they go along. The story was maybe just a teensy bit slow to get moving, which I've noticed throughout my reading of the series as being Jim Butcher's style. But once things start to heat up, they don't really let up until the final pages. I think I've mentioned it before, but if I have, I'll say it again. The author is amazing at creating mini-cliffhangers at the end of each chapter that make the reader beg for more. I don't know how he does it, but it's pure genius. I've also noticed growth in Mr. Butcher as an author. Even though the series has been good from book one, he didn't settle for just good and has been stepping up his game ever since. That, IMHO, is the mark of a true artist and a talented writer, and something that will definitely keep me coming back for more great reading.
Much in the same way Jim Butcher has been growing as a writer, Harry Dresden has been growing as a character and as a wizard. In the beginning, Harry was something of a lone wolf, but over the course of the series thus far, he's picked up a few sidekicks here and there, usually one or two people who help him out during each story. In this one, I felt like he'd picked up a genuine Scooby Gang, who followed him into the heart of the Nevernever to complete his mission. That he has people now who care about him and would risk so much for him is telling. No one would do that for someone who isn't a good man. That said, though, Harry is a complex character, one who can, on occasion, be tempted by the dark side. He's been living with the specter of the Denarian, Lasciel, for a while now. She gives some added oomph to his powers and is always trying to seduce him into going full-on baddie, but so far, he's holding strong against her trickery, while using the powers that he safely can without losing his soul. Harry has also gone from being a wizard on probation with the White Council to a full-fledged member himself. As a Warden now, he's experiencing things he didn't before, but as they say, "with great power, comes great responsibility." I've always loved his chivalry and that is still in evidence here, a part of his personality that I don't think will ever change. As he's picked up friends along the way, it's allowed Harry to show the caring side of himself, in that he would do anything (including die) for those he cares about. Just because he's kind and gentle, though, doesn't mean he's a pushover. Harry can be pretty ballsy when the situation calls for it. Sometimes, he kind of reminds me a little of Han Solo, because he often finds himself running headlong into danger while figuring out how to get out of it along the way. Harry's just an all-around awesome character that I love to pieces.
There are lots of great secondary characters in this one. Harry's half-brother, Thomas, always has his back. Thomas reveals a couple of things about himself in this story, but for the most part, he's being pretty tight-lipped about his life. I look forward to seeing more of him and learning more about what he's doing. There are some changes afoot for Karrin Murphy, head of the CPD-SI unit. She's back as Harry's number one ally. They actually do a little flirting and finally address the big elephant in the room, namely their attraction to one another and whether anything can come of it. Mouse proves himself to be the most loyal companion a wizard could have. We haven't seen Harry's Knight of the Cross friend, Michael, his wife, Charity, and their large brood of kids in a while, but they played a huge part in this story, especially Charity and their oldest daughter, Molly. In fact, some surprising twists were revealed with these characters. Lily, the Summer Lady, and Fix, the Summer Knight, who I don't think have appeared since Summer Knight, became instrumental to Harry's success in several different ways, while some of the other fae put in appearances as well. Several of the members of the White Council show up, as Harry must deal with a tough and unexpected problem. In doing so, some things are revealed with regards to the overall story arc.
Overall, Proven Guilty was another excellent installment in the series. I had a great deal of fun reading it, and trying to figure out everything that's going on. The characters were amazing. I loved all of them, particularly those who help Harry in some way. I developed a new appreciation for Charity in this one. She makes a lot more sense to me now that I know more about her history. I was also glad to see Harry and Murphy address a possible future even though things didn't go quite the way I'd hoped on that front, but I'm not giving up on them yet. I'm especially eager to follow the breadcrumb trail that was left open at the end of this book in regards to the greater story arc to see where things go next, not only for Harry, but also for the entire magical world as a whole.
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