Saturday, December 29, 2012

Bookworming: Changes and Ghost Story

Changes, Jim Butcher, ***
Ghost Story, Jim Butcher, ****
I am still working my way through a much longer book I selected for my October reading, but an end of the year vacation caused me to seek some lighter reading, and thus, more Dresden Files.

Changes reportedly marks the halfway point of the Dresden saga, and while Butcher's kinetic writing propels a story that has huge implications for the world of the stories, it also abandons some of the things that make the stories so strong. This book begins with an out-of-nowhere MacGuffin that propels the rest of the story. The tone immediately becomes so deadly serious that the usual humor has little or no place to insert itself. Harry is forced by the time frame into being manipulated by forces beyond his pay grade and making irrational decisions at every step. It is a testament to Butcher's writing skill that this even remotely holds together and that the ties into the world he has created manage to make the story almost seem a logical outcome. The story does provide non-stop action, and it's a real page-burner, but it somehow does not feel quite as good as the standard the series has set.

Ghost Story brings the relative calm after the storm. In the aftermath of the events in Changes, this tale brings a far more introspective tone to the series, admittedly punctuated by many of the series's trademark action scenes. It's strengths are in the personal moments, especially those of the two women Harry is closest to, and in Harry's self-examination that shows Butcher knew what he was doing in the previous novel. It does retain the bleak and desperate tone started by Changes and in many ways feels almost like it's setting up a new world. In spite of this virtually none of the long-running threads are even addressed more than in passing, let alone resolved. Still, this feels much more on-form and I eagerly look forward to the next book in the series.

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