Top critical review
Guilty of Action to the Nth Degree
on 27 April 2017
It is hard to imagine it, but to make good fantasy you need a touch of realism. It is far too easy to lose your reader in a world were anything is possible – why should we believe the story, when the writer can change the rules at any point? The best fantasy sets some ground rules and sticks to them. For a while this is what the Harry Dresden novels did, but by the eighth outing in ‘Proven Guilty’ things have begun to unravel.
Harry returns and this time the case is personal when the grown up daughter of his friend Michael (the warrior of God) is under attack by a series of famous movie monsters. Meanwhile, now that Harry is part of the Wizard White Council he is tasked with investigating exactly what is happening in the world of the faye and why they have not intervened to stop the rise of the vampiric Red Council.
As the synopsis hints, by now the Dresden series has become a little convoluted. The overarching world of the books is increasingly complex and takes away from what made the early books so fun; Dresden getting on with solving supernatural crimes. A fleshed out universe is not always bad, but in this case it is like the wider world dictates what happens in the story, rather than anything that Dresden can do.
This is a shame as ‘Proven’ opens up strongly. When Jim Butcher is concentrating on the slightly simpler story about fighting creatures that take the form of movie monsters it captures some of the old magic. However, Butcher seems incapable of having only one storyline in a book and likes to have at least two running in parallel. In this case the story of the fairies. The book takes a turn for the worse when this story begins to dominate, once more we are into the realm that anything can happen, so little actually matters. Dresden becomes so beaten in these books that he should be liquid in a skin bag. He has become some sort of demigod, rather than the grouchy wizard that he is meant to be.
The one element that manages to hold the book together is the theme of family; Dresden and his brother or the plight of Michael’s family. The motivations that lead Harry on his quest are perfectly valid and the relationships developed in this book suggest that some there are interesting times ahead. It is just that like with some many of the books, the narrative seems to fall behind Butcher’s need for incessant action. Explosions and gore may sate a reader for a few years, but by book eight the audience, like the characters, should have matured and they require more from their fiction than just blood and glory. It is time for Butcher to reduce the pace a little and actually fully explore the world he has designed, rather than just throwing in yet more elements into a confused mix.