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Book Review: Ghost Story by Jim Butcher

Updated on November 22, 2014

Jim Butcher: Ghost Story

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A Review (and spoilers!)

Ghost Story- August 2011

As the 13th book in the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher, this is the story of wizard Harry Dresden who has recently died. He is the main character, and at the end of Changes, he gets shot and falls into a lake. "Dying's easy," he says on the first page; subsequent life after death seems quite difficult though. Plus, he has been assigned the seemingly impossible task of solving his own damn murder.

One of the first important things Harry finds out about his new environment is that he has no magic. He can also walk through walls, but finds the experience quite disturbing and painful, sort of like pins and needles all over his body. No one can see him, hear him, or talk to him, except of course other spirits and stuff. So, being the detective that he is, Harry goes straight to Mortimer Lindquist, ectomancer.

"'This is not happening,' Mort said, promptly getting up from the table and walking quickly toward another room. 'This just can't be happening. No one is this unlucky.'

I hurried forward, trying to keep up, and followed him into a hallway. 'I need to talk to--'

'I don't care,' Mort said, his arms crossing each other in a slashing, pushing-away gesture, never stopping. 'I do not see you. I am not listening to you, Dresden. It's not enough that you have to keep dragging me into things in life. So now your stupid ghost shows up to do it, too? No. Whatever it is, no.'"

The little guy has no interest in helping him which comes as hardly any surprise. Dresden has seen it before; "Morty" only truly cares about himself and the dead. He has, in the past, had no interest in the affairs of wizards, but is grudgingly persuaded to help Dresden make contact with the living after his home is attacked by wraiths, lemurs, Grey Ghost (new enemy), and what looks to be "Bob," Dresden's former spirit assistant who resides in an enchanted skull.

Some history on this "Bob" character.   (You can also take this time to read up on other important characters as well)

After convincing Morty that he should help out, the crew heads over to Murphy's house for some much-needed conversation. Apparently it has been six months since Dresden was shot on the docks, and even though they never found his body, his friends are still in a state of shock trying to deal with all of the magical world's minions and darkness. At the end of Changes, the entire Red Court of Vampires is wiped out by a very strong spell invoked by Harry murdering his daughter's mother on the altar soon after she loses total control to the Red within. He is still quite guilty about doing it too. The subsequent hole left has since been flooded with nasties seeking to control the territories now up for grabs. One such group, calling themselves the Fomor have been particularly troublesome in good ol' Chicago.

The other issue is that no one other than Morty can see or talk to Harry, so given the circumstances, they are a bit unbelieving of the story. It's the cat that makes it all too clear:

"There were a familiar soft pattering of paws on the floor, and Mister sprinted into the room. He went right across Murphy's hardwood floors and cannonballed into my shins.

Mister is a lot of cat, checking in right around thirty pounds. The impact staggered me, and I rocked back, and then quickly leaned down to run my hand over the cat's fur. He felt like he always did, and his rumbling purr was loud and happy.

It took me a second to realize that I could touch Mister. I could feel the softness of his fur and the warmth of his body.

More to the point, a large cat moving at a full run over a smooth hardwood floor had shoulder-blocked empty air and had come to a complete halt doing it.

Everyone was staring at Mister with their mouths open."

Soon after, Murphy and co. call for Molly, Harry's apprentice before he was murdered. She is the ultimate deciding factor on the "is Harry real" question. She arrives in a flurry of mystery, veils, and smell. It's apparent she hasn't really been doing well since Harry's disappearance.

She opens her Sight (magical ability to see things as they TRULY are) and is literally knocked off her feet by his presence. It's obvious that Harry's ghost is in the house after that! Soon after, Murphy's place gets shot up by some thugs in a drive by. Harry and Sir Stuart mess with the vehicle and make it crash. Subsequently, the gunmen have to walk back to where ever they came from and Harry follows totally stealth-detective style.

Good song for a sneaking detective...

"A wandering spirit, caught out beneath the sunrise, would be dissolved. It isn't a question of standing in a shady spot, any more than standing in your kitchen would protect you from an oncoming tsunami. You have to get to somewhere that is actually safe, that is somehow shielded, sheltered, and that I could reach the quickest.

I ran for my grave."

So, Harry conducts a little recon, learning that one of the gang members, Fitz, can actually hear him. Fitz can't see him, but he can hear him perfectly fine. He agrees to meet with Harry the next day to talk.  After all the recon excitement, Harry realizes that time moves differently now that he is a spirit.  In fact, he has a pretty major problem on his hands now: Sunrise.

Sunrise :)
Sunrise :) | Source

"I thought of going back into the state system--to the homes, the shelters, the orphanages. And suddenly, I truly wanted to succeed. I wanted it more than I wanted dinner, more even than I wanted to watch Knight Rider. I wanted Justin to be proud of me.

I left the lighter where it was and focused on my breathing.

I built up the spell again, slowly, slowly, focusing on it more intently than on anything I'd ever done in my life. And I was nearly thirteen, so that was really saying something.

The energy swelled until I felt like someone had started a trash fire in my belly, and then I willed it out, through my empty, outstretched right hand, and as I did, instead of using the Egyptian phrase, I said, 'Flickum bicus!'"

At this point in the story, you realize that Harry has become your stereotypical vampire, sleeps-during-the-day-does-crazy-stuff-at-night kind of vampire. Except that he is a ghost...and well, not a vampire. But, you get the point. Sunlight kills Harry. So, he chills in his grave for the day, only to have creepy interactions with fellow spirits (?) and of course, the freaking Faeries. Go back and read up on Leanansidhe (Harry's "freaking terrifying" faerie godmother) in the character list sheet. Yeah...she's crazy. But, at the same time, very intelligent. Highly dangerous combination if you ask me.

We learn that the Fomor have a lot of faerie blood and that Bob literally "lopped" off his evil side, which is apparently the same spirit that is behind the wraith/lemur/Grey Ghost attack on Morty's house at the beginning. The plot thickens even more when we find out that Grey Ghost is actually Corpsetaker's shade (the one that took Anastasia's body in Deadbeat) using "Evil Bob" and some human minions to try to find a new body to take over. Even after her death, she is STILL reeking havoc! She is one of the Kemmler followers and quite powerful. It also explains why "Evil Bob" in in league with her (Kemmler being the powerful necromancer that used Bob for MANY evil things and passed him to Justin DuMorne, Harry's teacher).

There are some interesting memories Harry shares with us while he is laying in his grave pondering his life. We get to see into the past with more clarity than we have ever gotten the chance to do previously. Harry just doesn't like thinking about the skeletons in his closet. It's pretty neat getting to learn a bit about young wizard Harry and his first encounters with supernatural enemies, including the pretty nasty character He Who Walks Behind (also on the character list).

After despairing and contemplating jumping to the river to end this cruel afterlife for good, Harry decides that he can't just give up now, not after all he has been through. So, he ends up concocting a plan to deal with Grey Ghost and her minions, saving Morty from his kidnappers, and hopefully finding out who the murderer is all in one crazy, daring plan (completely predictable Harry once again), but of course, we don't know what it is until the whole thing unfolds. It can be summed up like this: gather crazy, psychotic ghosts from Morty's house, have Molly open a Way into the Nevernever, attack from that side while Murphy and gang hit the front door (after Harry has disrupted the wards) and come in guns a-blazing. Right, Harry at it again.

Of course there are some giant obstacles, like "Evil Bob" and Grey Ghost, but good 'ol Harry makes it through with his spirit still mostly intact. Pretty interesting scenes INSIDE Molly's head while she does battle with Grey Ghost. Butcher has a good imagination.

The ending is pretty crazy, and well worth the wait. Can't tell you everything so we will leave it at this: The Queen of Air and Darkness knows what she is doing.

Overall, great read as usual. Funny, quirky, serious, emotional, and pretty crazy. Love it. Four and a half out of five stars.


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      khadeejah 5 years ago from Nigeria

      i love Jim Butcher's Dresden files but I stopped in summer Knight.This review is making me to look forward to the books ahead.