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).      
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