Blood Rites by Jim Butcher (Flash Impression)

Happy Monday!

blood rites book cover

Summary

So in an effort to try and get the “flash” back into these “flash impressions” I’m going to try and stick with this format of listing the “A, B, C Story” for the summary.  The way I figure, you’ve probably read this book and really this helps section out the pieces of the story. If you haven’t read this book, then I’m not entirely sure why you’re here? I mean, if you were looking for something to figure out if you wanted to read this series, let me say: yes. Go now. Read. (but first stay around here and read a bit because traffic numbers).

A Story: A wild Black Court Vampire appears!

B Story: Protect the Porn Stars!

C Story: Who the Fuck is Thomas?! (I felt there was a theme going here, ie the “?” and “!”)

Thoughts

(***spoilers ahead, duh***)

This book, more so than most of the previous seems to be split into two parts. Part one: puppies and porn stars; part two: white and black (court) vampires.  This isn’t to say that the white and black court vampires aren’t present in the beginning of the book (they are there from the beginning) and that the puppy or porn stars go away half way through the book (they just play a smaller role).  However it’s somewhere around the time when Dresden, Thomas, and Lara square off against the three black court vampires when the porn star part of the book ends.

Speaking of the fight with the black court vampires, I think I’ve read the best fucking death scene in the series.  Like easily so far in the series and I will go on record to say it might be the best death scene in the series up to Skin Game.  I’m not going to spoil it (it was a pretty fowl way to go though) but I will say it made me laugh so fucking hard that not only was I crying (all whilst at work) but I literally had to both pause the audiobook and rewind because I was missing parts of it over the volume of my laughter.  Overall the entropy curse makes for some pretty great deaths even if the rest of the funny ones were off screen, regardless the award for “Best Deaths” goes to Blood Rites. (insert best deaths award meme)

Now back to the puppies.  The book opens with maybe the best opening line of the series so far, “The building was on fire, and it wasn’t my fault.”

I personally feel like this line is Dresden in a nutshell: “I like playing with fire and I know it totally looks like it’s my fault since I’m running away from the scene of the crime, however it’s not what it looks like. I promise.”  Now the reason the building is on fire is because Dresden is saving a box of puppies from a horde of demonic flying monkeys flinging their poo, which is on fire, after Dresden. You’d think “Huh, what big bad are we going to encounter that commands a fleet of flying monkeys who likes stealing puppies? Are we going to finally see Dresden fight a pop-culture-villain-who-is-just-different-enough-to-dodge-copyright-laws?” The answer: no(t yet).  I thought this was a rather bold move because not only do we never see these monkeys (or their master) again in the book but also the person who hired Dresden to save the puppies is never seen again either even though not all of the puppies were recovered. The missing puppy grows up to be mouse and holy. Fuck. He is the cutest puppy in literature. He has three scenes that just stick out in my mind like a scene from a movie. The first was when Karen agrees to dog sit Mouse and he’s playing with a little Snoopy doll, which is a nice call back to book two, and with Snoopy in his growling shaking jaws he stops and sees Dresden and tail starts wagging.  The Second was when Dresden placed Mouse in the back seat and was fighting a sock and was loosing. And the the third was towards the end just before Murphy’s family picnic when Mouse is in Harry’s coat pocket and hears Karen’s voice and starts wrestling around making funny shapes of the pocket until his little head pops out of the top. I kept finding myself unable not to smile in about every scene Mouse was in.

Speaking of heartfelt scenes involving the puppy, the scene where Dresden insists on soul gazing Thomas as proof that they’re half-brothers was heartbreaking.  Since the beginning of the book, chapter two maybe, Dresden has been contrasted with Murphy and her ambivalent feelings towards her family gathering, specifically seeing her mother, the contrast being that Dresden doesn’t have any known living family and therefore cannot relate going as far as to call Murphy’s complicated and irrational feelings “familial dementia”.  Fast forward several chapters back to the soul gaze and for the first time we get to see Harry talking to his Mother, even if it’s a construct from Thomas’s memory, which was a tear-jerker but then after the soul gaze Dresden’s reaction that he finally has what he kind of always wanted, someone to call family, he and Thomas have a happy-sappy reaction which causes puppy Mouse to come bounding over and jump up and down wagging his tail wanting to join in the joy even if he didn’t at all understand why.  Puppies + feels = all the warm fuzzies. 

I believe my last thought is mentioned right around the time of the soul gaze/half-bro reveal, which is something Thomas says that house Raith children are taught to memorise: “When every star in the heavens grows cold, and when silence lies once more on the face of the deep, three things will endure: faith, hope, and love.” This coupled with a quote from Butcher saying that the final trilogy of his books will be called “Stars and Stones, Empty Night, and Hells Bells” makes for an interesting juxtaposition being we may be given the theme for each of the final books: Faith, Hope, and Love.    

One last note, as of the events of the end of this book, the being known as “He Who Walks Behind” is now back in the mortal realm.  This is the same creature that Dresden’s adoptive and generally piece of shit parent, Justin, summoned to kill Dresden. Dresden was the last one to banish “He Who Walks Behind” however “He Who Walks Behind” has made a vow to come back for Dresden.  Just something to keep in the back of our, collective, minds.

Conclusion

Blood Rites is an extremely solid book and lays the groundwork for future plot points which both advance the overall story and build the world in equally amusing and complicated ways.  The ending of the book was a particular a stroke of mastery by having Thomas move in, Dresden decides to keep the puppy and muses about how his apartment might be small and growing smaller but at least now he has people to fill it with and capping the book off with the line “Why did you get large breed Puppy Chow?”

Stay tuned for next week when I finally cover the second book, Fool Moon or as I have taken to calling it: the bastard child of the series.

-fin

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Flash Impressions: Death Masks (book 5 of the Dresden Files)

Happy Saturday!

death mask cover

Summary

It’s impressive how Butcher seems to create an increasingly big story whilst maintaining a very episodic format which is making these summary sections equally increasingly intimidating however here’s the simplest version:

A Story: The war with the Red Court vampires continues

B Story: Dresden is hired by a vatican priest to find the death shroud of jesus (meme of jesus face on toast “It’s kinda like this but not edible.”)
C Story: Murphy consults Dresden about a man who died from all the diseases. At the same time.

Thoughts

(***spoilers ahead, duh***)

So this entire time I’ve been using my go to reference site, wikipedia, whilst completely ignoring the fandom site Dresden Files Wikia.

dresden wikidresden wikia

The plot on wikia is much more comprehensive, good for me since I have short memory, and the “new plot points” feature is really brilliant for keeping track of important events and when they happened.   

This might be me not being as observant from the beginning however it seems like Butcher is getting really pro at pacing by using the A, B, C story formats and introducing each story line in as many chapters.  However I can’t decide whether having the A story run parallel but relatively separate to the intertwined B and C stories is a strength or not but it does work to make the story feel so much bigger whilst at the same time helping keep the episodic storytelling format.(1)

We finally meet the other two knights of the cross, I believe it is mentioned before this book that there is a knight for each nail from the cross (2 for the hands + 1 for the feet = 3 holy swords) which makes for an interesting piece of lore building and by the end sets up the possibility for Butters to become the next knight (as per skin game).  I personally think that Sonya’s sword, Esperacchius or the sword of hope,(2) and back story of being an atheist and former Denarian (a possessor of one of the 30 silver coins, each represents a fallen angel en service to Nicodemus)(3) may prove an interesting potential parallel for Dresden, now that by then of the book he posses one of the coins and is taking a noticeable darker turn in his character (it’s light in this book but I will point out the more details in later books where it has become so stark that it’s striking).

Speaking of parallels, there has been some interesting parallels drawn between Dresden and Marcone from the beginning.  Part of me sees them as balance characters in the way Batman and The Joker are, as in even the “good one” is still a vigilante psychopath enacting justice at his personal discretion with little-to-no oversight(4), where they

batman joker

I think I’m still somewhere in between Puberty and Adulthood.

contrast each other in their methods however hold the same core values. Batman and The Joker: One bad day can change everything for a person; Dresden and Marcone: Do no harm to children. However part of me sees the seeds of darkness growing in Dresden and as the series progresses there are an increasing number of times where Dresden saves Marcone and vice versa or (my personal favourite) Dresden and Marcone work together against a big bad because it suits both of their interests (even if their interests are not mutually shared) which both happens at the climax of this book leading to my favourite Dresden/Marcone scene (roughly paraphrased):

“Michael attacks Nicodemus. Dresden to Marcone: So what’s the plan? Wait for Michael to distract Nicodemus and shoot Nicodemus in the back? Marcone to Dresden: Yup.”

Whilst I’m on the subject of Marcone, it is interesting to FINALLY see why he was after the Death Mask (he lays it on a young child in a hospital across town whom we later learn was a kid caught in the crossfire of him and a rival gang leading to his “no children” policy) which begins to humanise Marcone.  I personally really like Marcone and want to see more of his character in the series because I believe there’s so much more to his character that’s still a mystery.

The rest of my thoughts are kinda miscellaneous:

-we first meet Nicodemus and he will appear every fifth book (apparently)

-I guess Susan is knocked up during the rather erotic bondage-ish scene in Dresden’s apartment after the brush with the Denarians at the Art Show because by Changes we learn that Dresden has a daughter with Susan.

-the battle at Wriggly field was confusing because I thought Ortega pulled his gun first and that Kincaid saw that he was cheating and shot him but it was actually Martin which may be a homage to the whole “Did Hon Solo shoot first?” debate seeing how often Dresden references Star Wars or it could be because I’m listening to them as audiobooks and mostly listening to them at work and misinterpreted the entire thing. Either way it was a really cool fucking scene.

-Dresden has a denarian coin buried under the concrete of his sub-basement which I thought was going to play a much more minor part in the story however in the future books Butcher has made it clear that that isn’t a “remember this for later” detail but plays a regular and active role in the next few books(5)

Conclusion

This series keeps getting better.  It’s kind of weird. I keep expecting Butcher to “cap out” at some point but every time I finish a book I’m like “fuck that was great, how does it get better?” and then it does.  I’m trying to wrap my brain around it without building up unrealistic expectations (I mean I really had serious concerns about this after the events of the next book: Blood Rites).  

That being said: tune in for my flash impression of Blood Rites or my alternative title: “Puppies, Porn Stars, and Vampires”

-fin

Footnotes:

  1. This is in contrast to many of the fantasy series I’ve read, which I make no claims to be an extremely well read fantasy lit fan (Sword of Truth, Wheel of Time, The Engineer’s Trilogy, is all I can name off the top of my head), where each book feels less like an episode in the series and more a direct continuation of the story as if the entire series could be a single book if that was a publishing possibility.  
  2. Michael wields Amoracchius or the sword of love and Shiro wields Fidelacchius or the sword of faith.  
  3. There are 30 coins to represent the 30 pieces of silver Judas was paid to betray Jesus which at the time was about 5 weeks worth of pay or adjusted for inflation about 30-cent-judas-sells4200 USD. (source: Mark Harrison, IT Consultant, once and future CTO answering, “How much were the 30 pieces of silver Judas received to betray Jesus worth in today’s money?” at www.quora.com) Like seriously, I’m not a Christian but Judas is a dumb bastard because he could have asked for way more fucking money.  It was like he accepted a particularly small sum just to be a jackass.  However I guess if there were like 1200 Denarian coins, that would put Dresden in a really hot spot. 
  4. I guess the Police or the Justice League are that universe’s form of “oversight” for Batman and other more questionable DC super heroes however how much power does the Justice League have over Batman when he has a secret dossier on each member which includes a detailed plan on how to kill them and similar problems with the police as in they don’t know his secret identity and even if they did Bruce Wayne is so fucking rich he probably already has a small army of lawyers on retainer to prevent any sort of “police crackdown” on the Batman anyway.  
  5. I’ve been having trouble with laptops lately (I’m on number 5 in 3 weeks), which makes me worry that maybe reading the Dresden Files is aggravating my natural technological Murphian Field (I am not intentionally rough on phones and laptops and computers however they have historically had less than a friendly relationship to me, as in I cannot keep a phone or laptop alive for longer than a year. However phones have been getting better, I recently had a phone for 2 whole years but laptops still tend to crap out on right around month 12-15). You know what they say though, “Fifth is a fucking charm.” Anyway my intention was to write one of these after I finish each book however I’m almost finished with book 8 “Proven Guilty” as of today (8 september 2018).