Friday 27 September 2013

#CBR5 Book 119. "Death Masks" by Jim Butcher

Page count: 374 pages
Audio book length: 11 hrs 21 mins
Rating: 3.5 stars

This is the fifth book in The Dresden Files, the books about professional wizard Harry Dresden. This review may therefore contain some spoilers for books that came earlier in the series and also for this one, and you may want to skip it until you've read the books up to this point.

Harry has a number of difficulties facing him - his ex-girlfriend Susan (who Harry's been moping over since she left him a few books ago) is back in town, getting ready to pack up her stuff to move to South America, and Harry is worried she may have found a new guy. A powerful Red Court vampire is also in town, challenging Harry to a duel, to settle once and for all the bad blood (pun intended) and warfare between the wizards and the Red Court once and for all. If Harry refuses to duel, the vampire will hunt down and kill anyone Harry cares for or has worked with, so he's not really got much choice in the matter. Thirdly, a priest wants to hire Harry to look for the stolen Shroud of Turin, and it seems like there are demonic entities who'd like nothing better than to find the artifact first, so they can unleash a devastating plague on humanity.

I keep trying to get into the Harry Dresden books, because so many people out there on the internet rave about them, and I feel that I should read something with a male protagonist, just to balance things out a bit. My fellow Goodreader and Cannonballer Ashley/Narfna has made it a lot further through the series than I have, and mentioned in one of her reviews that she listens to and really enjoys the audio books, which happen to be read by James Marsters, an actor I know and love from Buffy the Vampire SlayerAngel and his recurring guest spot on Torchwood. Since I have a whole ton of extra Audible credits, I figured I'd see if I liked the books better in audio, and downloaded this one. Marsters really does an excellent job with the narration, and maybe it's just that Susan is actually back, so Harry isn't constantly moping about her, and she's less annoying than I remember her from the earlier book she was in (don't ask me which one, I honestly don't remember), but I liked Death Masks more than previous Dresden File books.

Marsden manages to make Dresden seem more charming than annoying, and as I said, while I was initially worried about Susan's reappearance, she kicks quite a lot of ass in this book, and promptly goes off to do her own thing at the end of the book, so she gets a pass for now. I have certain misgivings about a particular scene between her and Harry in this book, which is one of the reasons this book gets 3.5 stars instead of a full 4, but if that's because I'm used to reading relationships written by female urban fantasy writers, or whether this is a a bit of a misogynist, I'm honestly not sure. Don't want to go into spoilery details, but you'll know the scene when you get to it, it involves enchanted rope.

I'm also not sure if Harry's constant underestimating women, who pretty much immediately turn on him and double cross him, is supposed to be endearing or annoying. Suffice to say, it happens more than once in this book. There's also a lot of cool stuff, like a pretty creepy demon cult who I'm sure we've not seen the last of, some really bad vampires, Harry's friend Michael Carpenter and his fellow Knights of the Cross, Susan kicking ass, the return of Thomas Raith (one of the White Court vampires who feed off psychic energy, and who's always fun) and the introduction of the Archive, an adorable little girl who's had the sum of all human knowledge passed down to her through her maternal line (Harry nicknames her "Ivy").

I'm warming to Harry as a character, and as I don't have enough Audible credits to get the rest of the books in the series as audio books, I may alternate between reading and listening to the rest of them. I'm slowly getting hooked, and since I'm now no longer actively hating the series, I suspect I'll get through the rest slowly but surely.

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