White Night by Jim Butcher (Flash Impression)

Happy Saturday!

white night

Summary

Welcome back, everyone! One thing I’ve learned from reading this dynamic urban fantasy series is that it has much in common with Fussili noodles seeing as it is constantly twisting and can fit into a multitude of categories (fussili can be used with

fussili

See? Fussili is fundamental to everything.

thick or thin sauces, it can be used in soups, salads, and casseroles similar to how the Dresden files spans genres from romance, comedy, epic high fantasy, low gritty urban fantasy, detective who-dun-it, and action/thriller, and at least in Skin Game (book 15) an Ocean’s 11-style heist).  This being said, I shouldn’t have been surprised when Butcher flipped a bitch in this book’s story format from the established A, B, C story where A story is something that forwards a meta-plot spanning many books and was somewhat self contained whilst the B and C stories were seemingly separate would weave together somewhere mid-narrative and help build up to the books second and ultimate climax(1).

In White Night we discover that someone is targeting magical practitioners (who turns out to be Grey Cloak [sort of] linking the A and C stories) and then we find out that Thomas is suspected to be working with Grey Cloak and/or is the one targeting practitioners, in Chicago at least, (linking A, B, and C) and then we find out that Grey Cloak is Vittorio Malvora [a member from one of the other White Court families] at the climax.  

Now that I’m looking back at meta trends in the series, I can see that the ABC structure has been shifting since book five but I didn’t notice it until just now:

-The A Story of Death Masks gives the White Council/Red Court war a mini-climax

-The A Story of Blood Rites (“A wild Black Court Vampire appears!”) made a call back to the events of Grave Peril where Dresden makes a personal enemy of Mavra, a Black Court vampire

-The A Story of Dead Beat forwards the Black Court story with Mavera sending Dresden in search of “The Word” but this plot is directly tied with the B story (regarding the Necromancers)

-Then the A and B Stories of Proven Guilty lay the groundwork for new meta-stories from unknown players (The Black Council, the first appearance of outsiders since the end of Blood Rites, and whomever the phobophages are/are working with/working for)

So what’s unique in this book is three stories affect the the final outcome of this book and that outcome reveals that Cowl has a direct connection with House Malvora (Vittorio Malvora aka “grey cloak”) of the White Court which is a link back to Dead Beat AND Proven Guilty effectively making this the first book in the series to serve exclusively the meta-story.  

A story: Who is killing magic practitioners around Chicago and why?

B story: Why is Thomas being scene with many of the targets of the serial killer?

C story: Who is “Grey cloak”?

Thoughts

  • I have a very minor pet-theory: is Ramirez in the black council? Dresden uses the word “cronies” to refer to Ramirez’s subordinates, deaths happen in 5 cities, 4 of which were in Ramirez’s region and Ramirez is least bothered member of the Council about Dresden’s use of Necromancy, which didn’t violate The Laws of Magic but only on a technicality.  I’m sure I could scrape up some more evidence if I wanted (such as Ramirez was present at Camp Kaboom when it’s attacked by the Ghouls, and Ramirez is the only other White Council wizard that has talked to Dresden outright about his “theory” about a Black Court, etc) but it’s a half baked idea. I’d have to do more re-reading/research which probably won’t happen before Butcher finishes the series.
  • Speaking of Camp Kaboom, Dresden has been getting more violent as the series progresses and he wen’t to like “Holy Shit” level on those Ghouls which is an interesting detail because we’re seeing where Dresden’s humanity lines lie and what he’s capable of doing
  • Finding out that the girl Marcone visits in the hospital at the end of Death Masks is the daughter of his Secretary/Lover(?) makes for a deeply intriguing sub-plot between Marcone and Hellen: Marcone doesn’t know that Hellen knows that Marcone is inadvertently responsible for killing her daughter nor does Hellen know why Marcone hasn’t told her about why he keeps it a secret.  
  • Lasciel’s Shadow deconstructs herself to save Dresden from Grey Cloak’s psychic attack (an act of altruism something she professed not to be capable of since she is not a person and only people change) and then promptly is not seen/heard from again in the series (up to Changes at least, which is the book I’m on as of writing this 22 Sept 2018)
  • Speaking of Lasciel (or “Las”), she’s apart of a group of entities that Dresden has named including Bob the Skull, Ivy, and Demonreach (next book, Small Favour) which is interesting but I don’t have enough material at this point in the series (White Night) to talk about further

Miscellaneous Thoughts

  • Lasciel tells Dresden that the cosmic alignment at the time of his birth gives him the potential to have control over outsiders?!?!
  • Thomas opens a boutique posing as a gay Frenchman to feed ethically which is really funny and interesting
  • Dresden has mentioned having a headache for a couple of books now and that’s odd since his injuries, sans the hand, always heal in between the events of each book and I’m interested to see what that pans out to be
  • Bob mentions that there was a flaw in Dresden’s model of Chicago, which causes it to fail early in the book, but is “mysteriously fixed” by the end of the book however neither Bob nor Dresden know who did it or when

Conclusion

White Night was a real change of pace for this series on multiple levels from story structure to content of the story itself.  It felt rather intimate in that it primarily explores relationships: Dresden and Thomas,the relationships between the Houses in the White Court, the still somewhat ambiguous relationship between the Vampire Courts, and the Fairy Courts’ role in the bigger picture with regard to the shifting scale of cosmic balance.  This book being so heavy on plot building, I have trouble picking it out in my mind from others because it doesn’t have a semi-self contained story like all the books before it did which also made it a bit difficult to write about. However overall it was a great pallet refresher between the high intensity of the last few books and the events of the next book.  

 

Stay tuned next week when I cover Small Favor ie “Dresden v Nicodemus: Round II”

-fin

Footnotes:

  1. An example that comes to mind specifically is Death Masks where the A story was kicked off with Ortega confronting Dresden in chapter 1 and their A story climaxes with the duel at Wriggly field which precedes the final battle with Nicodemus on the train which wrapped up the B story (being Dresden being hired by the “Vatican” to find the death mask) and the C story (how were these people showing up at the morgue whom had seemingly died of every human illness at the same time) which being the chronologically final climax of the book was appropriately more epic in both scale and scope relative to the individual book.  

 

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Proven Guilty by Jim Butcher (Flash Impression)

Happy Saturday!

Proven_Guilty

Summary

Wow so Dead Beat was a fucking trip, right? Zombies, dinosaurs, and polka.  How can Butcher follow up something as big and bad and epic as that? Altered-enough-to-be-copyright-safe movie monsters, that’s how! Also, I’m officially abandoning the “Flash” part of these “Flash Impressions”, as in “flash” implying 1,000 words or less, mostly because I have too much to say about these books and I’m having a really good time writing about them so extensively.  However the main reason I wanted to do them so short was to be able to keep a deadline and I thought I wouldn’t have much to say about the books that hasn’t already been said (however since I haven’t really read extensively into Dresden Files forums or fan theories I have no idea how original my ideas are).

A Story: What is going on with the Summer and Winter Court w/r/t the White Council’s war with the Red Court?(1)

B Story: What is this “black magic threat” The Gatekeeper is asking Dresden to investigate?

C Story: What sort of trouble is Molly in?

Thoughts

(***Spoilers ahead, duh***)

Okay so I have mentioned many times before I take inspiration from my favourite YouTuber, Ross of Ross’s Game Dungeon, and once again I am taking a frame out of his…video? The page and book metaphor doesn’t translate well to media mediums I guess. Anyway I like his idea of assigning the weird games he covers in Ross’s Game Dungeon Awards and the last few Dresden Files books have been worthy of awards.  Blood Rites won “Best Deaths”, Dead Beat got “Best Law of Magic Loophole”, and now I’m giving Proven Guilty “First Tear” for the final scene between Dresden and McCoy acting as a mirroring scene in the beginning, where in the beginning McCoy asked Dresden out to a meal but Dresden still being mad at McCoy denied then in the end Dresden asked McCoy to a meal.  This series has tickled and poked my feels but this one really hit me hard for some reason. I guess I’m a softy for a redemption story between a mentor figure with legitimately good intentions who has to reveal a not well received hard truth to his mentee.

Now Dresden names the Black Council a bit earlier in the final scene for the first time (one thing my boyfriend mentioned to pay attention to is Dresden’s skills: to make banter even in the threat of mortal danger and to name things, which after reading The Kingkiller Chronicles and Dresden’s continual mention of the power of names, makes me really think) but it’s the first time we really understand their potential reach/threat and I believe Dresden when he says Morgan isn’t a traitor however Butcher is building up the current Merlin as one of the Black Council but I am so hesitant to take the easy bait because Butcher is such a self proclaimed and demonstrated troll…though maybe it could be someone so likable like Ramirez.

Speaking of shadowy White Council members, the way The Gatekeeper behaves both in the beginning of this book and the end of this book makes me think he’s either A) a fae or B) (more likely??!!!) breaking the 6th law of magic by being a creature who travels through and against the currents of time. The Gatekeeper, like Marcone and Kincaid, is one of those characters who I am DYING to see more of! He/she/them/it is just that perfect balance of mysterious, sparse, powerful, and morally ambiguous where I’m really fucking hooked on his character.  Please don’t let me down Butcher…please?

Whilst we’re mentioning time travel, Charity must be a fucking Time Lord or something. Not only does she forge his weapons and armour, she also spars with him, ON TOP of raising 9 children and maybe having a day job.  I have one kid, a day job, and a couple of spouses and I just barely find time to write and draw. Charity must be a Time Lord or something. Also I had no idea Charity was such a badass. Like Michael has mentioned how she has forged his battle armour(2) which metallurgy is pretty fucking insane.  

The Miscellaneous Thoughts:

-The Scale model of Chicago is one of my new favourite magical gizmos which is both interesting in concept but has some real potential for intriguing applications towards solving mysteries.  Also Dresden REALLY needs to get laid.

-I love the copyright-safe movie monsters, I really appreciated the “Great Pumpkin Monster” which I might be missing the reference but it made me think of the robot chicken sketch of Charlie Brown and The Great Pumpkin Monster. 

Conclusion

I was told that Proven Guilty was a more “intimate” novel and I wasn’t really sure what that was supposed to mean until I got deeper into the book and realised that what he meant was that this book was a deep exploration of Dresden’s darkening psyche and the effects it’s having on his friends and loved ones.  Not only is Dresden growing darker, we’re given the feeling of suddenly becoming enveloped in a dark conspiratorial cloud where we don’t know who our protagonist(s) can trust, what characters we (the readers) can get attached to or should suspect of great treachery, but most of all Butcher is building this creeping sense that something is lurking just at the edges of visibility with in this foggy confusion and it is big, bad, and very very mad.  I feel like the closer I get to the books I’ve already read in this series before beginning this binge, the less I am confident of knowing where the series is going. Not a lack of confidence that the series has a clear direction that only Butcher knows for sure but a lack of confidence that anything I theorise will have any truth to it because consistently Butcher has surprised me with each book being bigger than the last but not always in obvious ways.  As I have discovered a sort of format for his books, the ABC story lines, I am still struggling to recognise the overall cadence of the series however my excitement to see what comes next grows with each book completed.

 

Stay tuned for next week when I cover White Night, which so far is the spookiest book so far.  It feels the most, troubling because the deaths are so unsettling in how not-supernatural they appear.  I’m interested to see where this one is going to leave us.

 

-fin    

Footnotes:

  1. I just realised there are so many fucking courts in the supernatural aspect of the Dresden Files world.  White, Black, Red, Jade, Winter, Summer, maybe more.
  2. Seriously, what the hell does Michael get paid? I mean to support a family of roughly 9 members, to have access for materials to forge battle armour and weapons much less access to a forge, and all the travel/medical expenses that Michael must incur from being a Knight must be costly.  Maybe I should ask /r/theydidthemath however by my (very) rough calculations it would cost around 235,000USD a year just to raise a family with two parents and 9 children in Chicago, IL (metro area) (source: Economic Policy Institute, Family Budget Calculator, even though it only has a max option of 4 children, I just doubled it and added 14,000USD) and assuming Charity is, somehow, an extremely well paid Metallurgical Engineer (122,591USD source) and Michael is a very well paid Carpenter (66,736USD), they would be struggling at best if they’re very frugal. However I suppose having faith pays off.   

Dead Beat by Jim Butcher (Flash Impressions)

Happy Saturday!

deadbeat_large

Summary

THIS IS IT, FOLKS! THIS IS IT! IT’S THE MOTHER FUCKING ZOMBIE T-REX EPISODE! 

Sue_facing_Chicago

I’m disappointed that in every “Dresden rides Zombie Sue” picture, none of them feature Butters in his polka suit. 

I have been looking forward to this book pretty much since I started the Dresden Files.  I don’t think I was aware that the zombie t-rex meme was literally a scene from one of the books but when my friend Brad who Introduced me to the series told me so, I have been deeply excited for it.  I figured this would be a nice contrast to the last post about Fool Moon (book 2) which might be the weakest book in the series.

A Story: The Black Court blackmails Dresden (via Murphy) into finding The Word.

B Story: What the fuck do zombie herding Zombies want with Butters?

C Story: Is Shiela Harry’s new squeeze?

Thoughts

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

My primary thought here is summed up in the scene where Butters and Dresden are are in The Beetle and Dresden screams in pure elation to be alive and general horror of the given situation they just barely escaped.  This scene reminds me so strongly of the scene in Rick and Morty S03E06 “Rest and Ricklaxation” 

From here on out I will never be able to unmake the association between Rick/Dresden [the cynical type who understands the nature of everything] and Butters [who kinda knows about the nature of everything but has an unrelenting sense of innocence])

This leads into my next thought that up to this point in the series Dresden has been over his head every single book. However there has always been a MacGuffin or a piece of information that allows him to forge a piece of plot armour/weapon that enables him to survive. Though this is the first book where I was thinking to myself “for realz how is Dresden supposed to get out of this one? He literally threw a car on his nemesis and he didn’t die. And there’s like 3 more of them. Plus they can summon zombies AND ghosts AND corpse steal AND  mind control. Srly.” So for the first time in the series he is completely out muscled, out brained, and out magiced (is that even a word? Well it should be). I felt Dresden was so cornered I was getting sympathy claustrophobic until he agreed to let Lasciel help him, which is when things really change.

Speaking of change, apparently Marcone changed future history by saving Dresden’s life, as according to Guard Dresden was supposed to die by the ghoul in that back alley (which would have made for an anti-climatic climax to the series(1)) however now this makes for some interesting implications in the future. As in, will Marcone have to pay a price for altering someone/something’s “grand plan” and almost more importantly regardless of why Marcone says he saved Dresden and subsequently changed the future, a question is raised: why does Marcone keep saving Dresden’s life so regularly? Is it because he senses Dresden is a man who is running out of not completely evil options and will eventually view working for Marcone as the “least of his evil but necessary options” which would benefit Marcone greatly? Or is it because Marcone has someone in his network who is invested in keeping Dresden alive and by proxy Marcone is keeping Dresden alive, again to protect his (Marcone’s own interests)? Or does Marcone have another secret that wasn’t revealed to either us, the reader, or Dresden via the soul gaze? Or, speaking of soul gazes, did Marcone see something in Dresden when they soul gazed that fundamentally changed him/confirmed something he suspected about Dresden (since we have never seen the soul gaze from the perspective of someone looking in on Dresden but from the reactions throughout the series it’s something pretty goddamn profound).  As you can tell, the Marcone Mystery is really wearing at the back of my mind throughout this series.

At this point in the series Dresden has begun a noticeable descent into darkness: he has voluntarily used hellfire more than a couple of times, has accepted a decent amount of help from Lasciel, and has not only memorized The Word (a tome of dark, mostly necromantic, magic), used necromancy (even though it wasn’t on a human and therefore

the-bird-is-the-word

This is some deep shit.

wasn’t a violation of The Seven Laws of Magic and maybe the most notable/significant is Dresden’s promise to Mavera of the Black Court who incited this whole search for “The Word” that if she EVER threatens him or one of his friends again, he will not stop in the face of anything to become an Evil Overlord Demi-god and his first victim will be Mavera. This to me shows a crack in his morale armour making a specific exception to break everything he believes in to exact justice on an evil creature.

Speaking of dark magic, Cassius uses (or should I say wasted) his death curse on Dresden saying “Die alone”. However as Dresden’s father tells him in a dream, if i recall right, what we all kind of know after a certain point in life: we all die alone. Just like being born, or even life from your own perspective honestly, is a journey you have to walk in some sense alone.  Friends, lovers, family aside, we all have to live in our own personal cage alone the entire time. Sometimes we have company but they’re always intrinsically separated from us in our personal journey as we are them by the same bars that bind all of us individually. In that ironically sad way, we are all united in the fact that we face both life and death alone. So as pessimistically as it sounds, I am viewing it as an optimist that Cassius wasted his death curse on Dresden by “cursing” him with the infallible fact that the fact is: we all die alone and therefore Cassius changed nothing.    

Moving on to a brighter subject, the nature of white and black magic, is thrown in to an interesting new light when Kumori (Cowl’s, one of the Necromancers, apprentice) tries to justify Necromancy with her personal “perversion” of the black art using it to bring one of Marcone’s people who was at the brink of or beyond death back to life allowing him a “second chance”.  I don’t know if Dresden is convinced but I feel like his fundamental ideas about Necromancy has been challenged similarly as when he learned that his mentor and sort-of father figure, Ebenezar McCoy, holds the office of “Black Staff” for the White Council (ie he is the go to guy to “pervert” the use of white magic to kill people for the White Council, or maybe he uses Black Magic to kill, at this point in the series (I’ve read through “Proven Guilty” book 8 and some future books) we don’t know how he kills as the “Black Staff”. All we know is that it makes Kincaid so mad that he has an almost show-down duel with him on sight.

Whilst on the subject of Kincaid, holy shit: I mean the groundwork for it is laid (pun not intended) for Kincaid and Karen, in Blood Rites to hook up however it still surprised the hell out of me.  Mostly because when Dresden has used The Sight on Karen and Kincaid, he always sees Karen as an avenging angel figure and then at the end of Blood Rites he sees Kincaid as a 20 foot (6.098 meteres) fucking demon.  Talk about a match made…somewhere other than heaven. However maybe Karen is getting dark enough to be attracted to someone that dark, because if I remember correctly the first time we see Dresden use The Sight on Karen (by accident) she was a blazingly white and clean avenging angel but as the series progresses and he sees Karen again with The Sight, multiple times, he sees her as progressively more blood stained and worn by the horrors she’s seen and had to commit (because of Dresden).  This even more makes me wonder not only “What do other wizards see when they use The Sight on Dresden but what does everyone see that’s so profound when Dresden Soul Gazes them? Wheels within wheels…

The rest of my thoughts are kind of miscellaneous:

-I have to say I am really disappointed that Shiela turned out to be Lasciel in disguise. I’ve been rooting for Harry’s…Hairy…

bad joke

-Pro-foreshadowing: When Dresden is being attacked by the former Denarian Cassius “Snake boy” attacks Dresden and Dresden thinks “Gee right now would be a great time for a knight of the cross to show up and save the day” and then A WILD BUTTERS APPEARS! Which, since I’ve read Skin Game, I know Butters will become the next wielder of Fidelacchius or the Sword of Faith.  I heard in an interview that Butcher was planning, originally, to kill the poor little bastard in Ghost Story.

wild butters

Speaking of Butters, The Zombie T-Rex was made possible BECAUSE of his polka suit and because of Butter’s and his polka suit the “Best Dresden Contraption Award” goes to: Blood Rites and Dinosaur Sue (the Zombie T-Rex).

I really liked the Erl King and how he respects Dresden as a “fellow predator/hunter” and invites Dresden to join The Wild Hunt and I really like how Dresden turned him down creating, inadvertently, another figure who wants to kill Dresden but is so much of a background character that I can see us, the collective reader, forgetting about the Erl King until he pops up again.  

Conclusion

In conclusion Dead Beat was one hell of a fucking ride.  It was like a good punk rock show: hard hitting, fast as fucking hell, and deeply satisfying that you got out the other side (mostly) unharmed(2).  I had trouble understanding how Butcher was going to top himself after such a fucking amazing book but he pays the bill with Proven Guilty with a less “overly epic” novel but a book that my boyfriend described as a “more intimate book”.  

Stay tuned for next week when I cover the heartfelt, intimate, and at times troubling (not in quality but in the way Butcher makes you feel for the characters) eighth book of the Dresden Files: Proven Guilty or as I refer to it as “How Dresden overcomes temptation and gains an apprentice”

-fin

Footnotes:

  1. It would be annoying to see the series, with so much potential, end here with such banality. Maybe if it was me, sure a ghoul throwing a shuriken into my leg would end my story given my bitch status but this is mother FUCKING Harry Dresden.  Don’t try to a fly a pair of Hoover flags (“‘Hoover flag’ was an empty pocket turned inside out” source: Hooverville wiki) and try to sell me an early death for Dresden. He clearly has way more entertaining strife to come.
  2. For the record, I am frequently spinning one or many NOFX cds when I’m writing these/writing in general. If you haven’t listened to them yet, I’d recommend either their their concept album “The Decline” or the politically hard hitting and hilarious “The War on Errorism”