Mon
Dec 3 2012 3:00pm

The Dresden Files Reread: Book 5, Death Masks

The Dresden Files Reread on Tor.com: Book 5, Death Masks

Death Masks, the fifth book in the Dresden Files, opens up a new chapter in Harry’s life while revisiting some old chapters just to dig the knife in. The events of the first four books are starting to come to a boil and on top of this, Harry must investigate the theft of a religious relic while surviving a new group of powerful enemies. 

The novel opens with Harry appearing on the Larry Fowler talk show, a thinly veiled Jerry Springer. Harry is once again broke and needs the money from appearing on the show as an expert on the supernatural. Also appearing with him is Mortimer Lindquist, an ectomancer who can speak to the dead, Father Vincent, a Vatican priest, and Professor Paolo Ortega, who also happens to be a Duke of the Red Court of vampires. All of whom have something to say to Harry. 

Mort tells Harry that he’s tracked Susan Rodriguez, Harry’s ex, now infected with vampirism, to Peru, which Harry notes is Red Court territory. Duke Ortega says he’s going to kill Harry, but offers to end the way if Harry will fight him in single combat. Harry agrees to do so on the condition that everything be spelled out very clearly in a binding document. Lastly, Father Vincent asks for Harry’s help, but not before they’re both attacked by gunmen, the hired goons of Johnny Marcone, Chicago’s top gangster (last seen in Fool Moon). Harry manages to get Father Vincent away, and he then enlists Harry’s aid in recovering the Shroud of Turin. Harry isn’t much of a believer, but he knows that the Shroud is a significant magical object. 

When returning home, Harry finds Susan waiting for him. Harry’s a bit cautious, understandable since Susan is at least partly a vampire, but she is able to enter his home which tips him off that she’s not gone full fang yet. Harry is overcome with his need for her and kisses her passionately, but he gets a dose of the Red Court venom and they break apart. Susan warns Harry that Ortega is just part of one faction in the Red Court, one that wants to end the war. Others want Harry to stay alive, as an excuse to continue the war and wipe out the wizards once and for all. She’s interrupted by the arrival of Martin, perhaps the blandest man on Earth, who hints at a certain connection with Susan. They leave Harry wondering what exactly is going on. Then he gets a call from Murphy. 

Harry takes a visit to the morgue where Murphy introduces him to medical examiner, Waldo Butters, a fan of bunny slippers and polka. Butters shows him a corpse who seemingly died of diseases. Like, all of the them. It’s also missing its head and hands, apparently to prevent identification. Harry seems to feel it might be connected to the theft of the Shroud since one of the thieves turned up cut to ribbons. As he’s leaving the morgue, he’s suddenly chased, by a grizzly bear with six legs, ram’s horns and two sets of eyes. Not being stupid, Harry runs. 

The creature, Ursiel, gains on him, though, also threatening a nearby old man and another younger man. Harry accidentally soulgazes with the creature, realizing that it is somehow human. He gets a glimpse of a man trapped, crucified, in a mountain. Harry also seems to be outclassed, but he is saved by the old man, Shiro, and the young man, Sanya, who are soon joined by our old friend Michael Carpenter who delivers the killing blow to Ursiel. When Ursiel dies, he leaves behind a silver coin that Michael is very careful about picking up. Michael introduces the other two, also Knights of the Cross, each of them carrying one of the Swords of the Cross. They warn Harry that there are 29 more of the Fallen and they think they’re coming after Harry. 

Back at Father Forthill’s, Michael asks Harry to give up the case for Father Vincent. He warns him that Ursiel was one of thirty Fallen who are part of the Order of the Blackened Denarius. (Get it? 30 pieces of silver?) Normally fallen angels can’t wield that kind of power against people, but the Denarians tempt humans and offer power in return until they basically run the show. Michael warns Harry that the same could happen to him, but Harry isn’t in the mood to listen.

Harry consults with Bob next, first about the duel with Ortega which he warns Harry to be careful about. Harry next brings up the dead Denarian and Bob truly gets scared. He tells Harry that as a spirit of intellect he can’t really touch things that hinge on faith but he puts Harry in touch with a loa who might be able to help before heading out to check on Ortega and on Marcone. The loa inhabits the body of a Cabbage Patch doll and tells Harry where the Shroud is. But she also tells him that the Knights of the Cross warned Harry off the case because they saw the first part of a prophecy that said Harry would die if he investigated the case. She also adds that Harry must learn the second part of the prophecy to restore balance. She assures Harry that if he seeks the Shroud that he will die. But if he doesn’t everyone else will die, and the city with them. 

Harry doesn’t put much stock in prophecy so he barrels ahead as usual. First he makes a potion to take the punch out of Red Court vampire venom. Then he gets a call from Ebenezar who gives him an update on the vampire war. Apparently the Merlin is relying on his wards to help protect from the vampires. Ebenezar tells Harry he doesn’t have to go through with the duel, but Harry confirms his commitment to it. Ebenezar innocuously asks Harry about the whereabouts of a telescope they once used together. Bob returns saying that Marcone had wards, oddly, given that he has no traffic in magic. Then a magical alarm warns Harry that someone is approaching his place. 

It turns out that the visitor is the Archive, a seven year old girl and also repository for all of human knowledge. With her is her driver/bodyguard, Kincaid, a mercenary. Not liking calling her “The Archive,” Harry names her Ivy. Ivy has been appointed the impartial emissary in charge of the terms of the duel. She seeks the name of Dresden’s second and gives him the day to choose one. 

Harry next goes to get the Shroud which is currently on a ship called the Etranger. Harry actually gets his hands on the Shroud, but is then caught by the two female thieves who stole it. They handcuff Harry to a pipe when another Denarian attacks. This one has metal razor hair and she kills one of the thieves. Harry manages to fend her off with pepper spray and then tricks her into taking a lockbox that does not contain the Shroud. Anna Valmont, the remaining thief, returns for the Shroud and unlocks Harry, making off with his leather duster as well. 

Harry returns home, Shroudless, and fills in Father Vincent. Then Butters calls to mention that all of the germs for the corpse have disappeared. Harry surmises that they were the result of magic and that sunrise reset them to zero. Then Susan appears. She assures Harry that she’s not with Martin, then says she’s going to South America to help all the victims of the Red Court. This is the end, then. They each say “I love you,” and then part, seemingly forever. 

The next day Harry decides to choose his second for the duel. He heads to the Carpenter household which appears to be empty, and runs into Molly Carpenter, the eldest of the Carpenter kids (14), returning home, dressed very differently from how Harry would expect. They have a little discussion about Harry’s love life and Molly helps Harry out of his cuffs. Then Charity Carpenter, Michael’s wife, returns with her kids and Shiro. Michael is away dealing with Knight business. Harry mentions about the duel and Shiro agrees to be Harry’s second in Michael’s stead. Also Harry talks to Charity who doesn’t like Harry, though to be fair, Michael has been injured three times, each time when he was with Harry. She worries that one day Michael won’t come home. 

Harry returns home to find Murphy waiting for him with questions about the murdered body on the ship. Only Murphy has been pulled from the case. She warns Harry to be careful. Then Susan calls with word of an art gala run by Johnny Marcone which could be where they wlll be selling the Shroud. But first Harry has to work out the terms of his duel with Ortega. They meet at McAnnally’s the local supernatural tavern and chat over bottles of Mac’s brown ale (how I would love to taste Mac's homebrew). Ortega’s second is Thomas Raith, the White Court vampire, last seen in Grave Peril. Ortega offers Harry a way out, as his blood-slave. Harry remembers what Susan told him about Ortega feeding off of his community, including the children. Harry refuses. Shiro helps negotiate the terms—they fight with their wills at Wrigley Field. Shiro afterward tries to give Harry advice, but also tells him that he’s not responsible for starting the war with the Red Court, that it was coming anyway, but that they used Bianca’s death as the excuse to start it. 

Susan picks up Harry at McAnnally’s with a tux and they head off to the art gala where Harry runs into Marcone and meets Marcone’s new security specialist, a woman named Gard, the person probably responsible for Marcone's new wards. Harry’s casual mention of the attack on him seems to break Marcone’s composure for a while. When Harry feels the heat of Marcone’s goons, he has Susan request a diversion from Martin who complies by crashing a car into the building. In the confusion, Harry casts a tracking spell on a thread of the Shroud and follows it to Anna Valmont who has just sold it to Marcone. Harry confronts Valmont, who subdues him with her pistol, but they are interrupted by three Denarians. 

One of said Denarians is the female killer-hair demon from before, Deirdre. Accompanying her is a snake-tailed Denarian and Nicodemus, their leader, who appears to be a normal man who wears a noose for a necktie. Anna Valmont shoots him several times in the chest, but it doesn’t seem to slow him down. Harry tries to bluff him with the explosive Valmont put in the Shroud’s holding tube, but Nicodemus seems to know Harry and calls his bluff. Harry instead uses magic on them and escapes with Valmont into the ducts. He emerges with the Denarians on his tail in time to watch Susan go all Matrixy on the Denarians, holding her own until the snakeman uses magic on her. This reveals a series of tattoos that Susan has all over her, which causes one of the Denarians to use the term “Fellowship.” Harry gets Susan out to Martin who takes off with her but Harry is captured by the Denarians with the Shroud in his possession. 

Nicodemus makes Harry an offer—one of the Denarius coins. The alternative is for Nicodemus to cut Harry’s throat. Harry considers it, but ultimately refuses. Before Nicodemus can kill Harry, though, Shiro appears and presses his blade against Deirdre’s neck while Nicodemus has one at Harry’s. Shiro makes a deal, he will take Harry’s place. Harry is let go and, weak and wounded, runs, holding Fidelacchius, Shiro’s holy sword. 

Harry escapes with Susan’s help (and Martin driving the car) and Susan and Harry retreat to his place. Susan helps Harry inside, but his wards against the Denarians keep her trapped in there with him and her control is waning. She tells him about the Fellowship of St. Giles, an organization that works against the Red Court and helps her to deal with her vampirism. The tattoos help to warn her when her control is low, like it is at that moment. She fears hurting Harry. Harry binds her with magic rope and then they both give in to their passion, having some hot bondage sex before they both pass out. 

The next day Harry and Susan go to the Carpenter house and meet with Father Forthill who fills in some information on the Denarians, mostly that Nicodemus is their leader and is truly evil, having killed many Knights over the years. Harry talks to Anna Valmont who confirms she was selling the Shroud to Marcone. Harry phones Father Vincent and gives him a quick update and Vincent responds that they should meet in person. Valmont steals Harry’s keys and then the Blue Beetle and drives off. Harry then notices a tattoo on Father Forthill’s arm, the same as the corpse that Murphy and Butters had shown Harry. He tells Harry it’s from a group he once belonged to, one that Father Vincent was a part of as well. Michael and Sanya finally roll up to the house and Harry grabs them and they head off to save Shiro. 

But first they stop in on Father Vincent for that face to face meeting and Harry hits him with a baseball bat and pulls a gun on him. Turns out Harry’s figured out that Father Vincent isn’t who he claims to be, and under Harry’s assault, the Father reveals himself as the snakeman Denarian. It was the tattoo that was the giveaway. The corpse from the morgue was the real Father Vincent. Harry brings in Michael and Sanya and they interrogate old Snakeboy. He confirms taking Vincent’s place and using the sample of the Shroud to cast the plague spell. And also that Nicodemus is going to use Shiro for a ritual using the whole Shroud. But he refuses to tell them where Nicodemus is. When Michael and Sanya threaten him, he releases the Denarius coin and reverts to his human state as Quintus Cassius. Michael recovers his coin and tells Harry they can’t do anything to him now that he’s given it up of his free will. We also learn that Sanya was once a Denarian and that Shiro helped convince him to choose another path. Harry, however, isn’t constrained in the same way so he uses the baseball bat on Cassius until he speaks, telling Harry that Nicodemus went to the airport for the ritual, that he needs to be moving to spread the plague over as large an area as possible. 

Harry heads home only to be warned by Murphy that cops are coming to arrest him. He meets up with Susan who agrees to be his second in the duel with Ortega and they head to Wrigley Field where they meet Ortega, Thomas, Ivy, and Kincaid. The duel is accomplished by the use of mordite or Deathstone. Harry and Ortega must use their will on it to move it closer to their opponent. If it touches one of them, they will die. 

Ortega takes an early lead until Ortega threatens the people that Harry loves. Then Harry pushes it back toward Ortega. Ortega, though, is only interested in Harry’s death and he draws a gun on Harry. Before he can fire, however, a shot knocks him back. It becomes a firefight as more Red Court vampires appears. Susan and Thomas both come to Harry’s aid, and the vampires are mopped up by Kincaid and Ivy (using the mordite). They rule that Harry was in the clear and didn’t violate the duel. Martin is revealed as the sniper, his mission to take out Ortega from the beginning. But Ortega unfortunately escaped. Leaving Susan in Martin’s hands, Harry runs off to the airport. 

He meets up with Michael and Sanya and then has Murphy report a bomb threat to clear the civilians out of the airport. After fighting through some of Nicodemus’s thugs, they arrive at the chapel where Shiro has been tortured. Only he’s still alive, if barely. He tells Harry of Nicodemus’s powers—he can not be killed as long as he wears the noose (Judas’s noose) and every year he can pick one person to die, a death that can not be stopped. He picked Harry, but Shiro, as a Knight, can take Harry’s place, which he does. He gives his sword into Harry’s possession as well, telling him to pass it on to its next bearer and that Harry will know who it will be. Finally, Shiro tells them that Nicodemus is on a train to St. Louis, his backup plan. But he can be stopped if the Shroud is taken from him before he finishes. Then Shiro dies. 

Harry, Michael and Sanya head for the train, transported courtesy of Johnny Marcone and a rather handy helicopter of his. He takes them all over the train and they are lowered, by winch, onto it. There they face Nicodemus and Deirdre. Sanya is quickly taken down, but Michael almost takes down Nicodemus before he is shot point blank in the chest. Harry and Marcone team up and Marcone manages to wrest the Shroud away from Nicodemus and jump into the river. Harry then takes on Nicodemus. He knows the noose will protect him from anything, but surmises that it won’t protect against itself. Harry chokes Nicodemus with it, throwing him off the train, though Deirdre manages to save him. Harry gathers up Michael and jumps into the river. They both sink, but Marcone, using the Shroud, pulls them both out. 

Harry recovers back at Michael’s place, having been treated by Butters while he was out. He finds out that Michael is okay, Charity having insisted on fortifying his medieval armor with Kevlar. Sanya is recovering as well and they managed to retrieve all of the swords. They also give Harry a letter from Shiro, written two weeks earlier. In it, Shiro explains that he’d been diagnosed with terminal cancer and that helped inform his sacrifice. It gives Harry some comfort. 

Harry also receives a call from Ebenezar telling him to switch on the news. Harry sees that an old Soviet satellite crashed into Casaverde, Duke Ortega’s home base, killing everyone within. Harry knows it was Ebenezar’s doing, and the need for his old telescope now becomes clear. 

Marcone still has the Shroud, though, and Harry trails Marcone to a hospital where a young Jane Doe is in a persistent vegetative state. Marcone wants to try to use the Shroud to heal her. Harry gives him three days to see what happens. After that he expects Marcone to return it to Father Forthill or he’ll come for Marcone. Marcone agrees to this. 

After Marcone fulfills his part of the bargain, Harry returns to the Carpenter house to say goodbye to Sanya. As he’s watching his namesake, little Harry Carpenter play, a Denarius lands in front of him, thrown from Nicodemus in a passing car. Before the kid can grab it, Harry snatches it up, touching it. He takes it home and buries it in concrete in his lab. At the end of the novel, after reflecting on Shiro’s sword, he begins taking down pictures of Susan.

 

Threads

As we’re now five books into the Dresden Files, Butcher has had time to develop certain plot threads while giving us still more. The Knights of the Cross, for example, are explained in much more detail here, and all three swords depicted. Fidelacchius ends up in Harry’s possession and he’s left with the responsibility of finding a new owner for it. 

We’re also introduced to the Denarians who end the novel still at large. The Knights have recovered 2 of the coins, but there are 28 still out there. And Harry’s now touched one of the coins. How likely do you think that it will not appear again in the future?

Harry’s relationship with Murphy deepens even more here. She’s willing to go to bat for him, warning him when the cops are after him, even supporting his efforts to clear the airport with a phony bomb threat. The Murph of a few books ago would never be willing to do that, but she’s coming to trust Harry more and becoming more familiar with the world of the supernatural. 

And we get closure, of sorts, with the Harry-Susan relationship. As you’ll recall, he started off the last book (Summer Knight) still mooning over her and overcome with guilt about not being able to save her. In this book we see that Susan is coping with her condition and has found meaning in her new life. The Fellowship of St. Giles has given her control. And while I didn’t feel like I needed a kick-ass Susan in the books, she is more than capable of taking care of herself. 

Speaking of guilt, I feel like we get some attempt here to relieve Harry of some of his, mostly in the form of Shiro. Shiro helps shift the blame of the vampire-wizard war from Harry and even helps spare Harry from guilt over his sacrifice. We have seen that guilt leads Harry down a dark path and that continues to be a problem for him. 

Finally, despite a seeming chance for peace, the war between the Red Court and the White Council continues in earnest with the failure of Ortega to kill Harry. However, it seems that this was always in the works. At least in the ending we see the wizards striking back in an uncharacteristic offensive blow. Future books will have to show us how this plays out. 

I really liked Death Masks. I think it’s one of the best of the Dresden Files. What did you think of it? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.


Rajan Khanna is a writer, narrator, and blogger who is glad that Chicago isn’t crawling with vampires because he has to go there later this year. I mean, that’s all fiction, right? Right? His website is www.rajankhanna.com.

27 comments
Emmet O'Brien
1. EmmetAOBrien
The Knights have recovered 2 of the coins, but there are 28 still out there.

I'm pretty sure that it's noted somewhere in the text that the Church already have nine (or maybe ten) of the coins locked down at this point in time, so there are fewer Denarians active than that.

Death Masks is one of the ones I enjoy less, partly because the Fallen plot and the Red Court plot seem to have no real reason to co-exist at that point in time, and the jumps back and forth between them are wrenching; and partly because Michael's reaction to Harry beating up Cassius totally doesn't fit with anything we see of his character before or since.

As for the vampire/wizard war stuff, this is the second book running where Harry's managed to screw up an attempt to stop the war and still thinks he's being heroic, which also grates for me. It's also significant, though in ways Harry does not seem to think through, that this book makes clear that the Red Court is no more politically monolithic than the White Council is.

I think on the whole Sanya's the most interesting new character from Death Masks, though we get rather little of him in this book. And I like the way that Butcher balances his cosmology such that the introduction of other Knights and Fallen does not skew it entirely Christian, as there are also the loa and one other character whose affiliation Harry being Harry takes five more books to figure out.

I've always thought that the chain of events, seen from the outside, of "duel in Chicago -> Ortega goes home fulminating about Harry cheating -> Ortega gets hit by a bolt from the blue" was meant to look to the rest of the supernatural world like the Archive taking him down; the whole Asteroid Dresden thing strikes me as chosen specifically so that nobody but Harry will recognise it as Eb.
Emmet O'Brien
2. EmmetAOBrien
Also, I kind of wish the opening had gone in such a way that Father Vincent had got to speak on TV, because I'd have been interested to see what the Church's official position on the supernatural looks like in this universe.
Steven Halter
3. stevenhalter
I enjoyed the two main plotlines here. Harry's world is not a simple one--he doesn't have the luxury of dealing with one threat at a time.
The Denarians are a very interesting set of bad guys. Each one has different skills and how exactly they and the angels fit within the universe is pretty fascinating. Good mythos building.
The Archive is also a very very interesting figure--she knows everything that has ever been written down. Unique access there.
Ebenezar shows just what a skilled and powerful mage can do and that Harry has a way to go in learning before he could hope to pull off anything like raining down a satellite.
Finally, I think it was in this book that I really started to wonder about Mac. Sure he is good at making beer and steak sandwiches, but just how else is he threaded into the mystical world? We'll see some hints here and there.
Kristoff Bergenholm
4. Magentawolf
I think I ran out of breath just reading that summary. There's quite a lot that went on in this book!
Emmet O'Brien
5. EmmetAOBrien
stevenhalter@3: I enjoyed the two main plotlines here. Harry's world is not a simple
one--he doesn't have the luxury of dealing with one threat at a time.


I think it's the very beginning of Blood Rites where Harry notes that threats on the scale of the events of Summer Knight and Death Masks don't come along very often and for the rest of any given year he's handling smaller-scale issues.

I can see how neither of the plotlines on their own are quite enough for a novel, it's just that by comparison to the degree of integration between different plotlines in pretty much all the other books, this one seemed a little clumsy to me. For Nicodemus to be aware of Ortega's challenge to Harry and lean on that as one more lever to tempt him to pick up the coin, for example, seems like it would have been fairly straightforward to add without messing up anything else in the book.
Azara microphylla
6. Azara
I enjoyed this one. There are two things that feature here, though, that I have some problems with.

The first is the way that the power levels involved keep getting ramped up so much that at some point there'll be nowhere further to go. It's not just the introduction of whole new orders of incredibly powerful supernatural beings like the Denarians, it's also the recurring trope that someone Dresden's already had dealings with turns out to be far more powerful than he had realised.

The other thing I wonder about is what I think of as 'The X-Files Problem'. If someone is a genuine sceptic, when they're faced with sufficient evidence that the supernatural exists, they ought to change their mind. If someone who has no religious faith is shown that fallen angels and archangels exist, and that there are enormous supernatural powers associated with specific religious artifacts like the Shroud, the Denarian coins, and the Swords of the Cross, then an 'It's not really my thing' attitude to religion seems like wilful blindness. I would expect far more seriously religious people in Dresden's universe than in ours, but it's not shown that way.
Sorcha O
7. sushisushi
Wow, I have to say that I'm glad that I have the lovely British cover for this, because that second cover is pretty poor - who is that supposed to be lying under the Shroud in a Gothic cathedral with two lightsabers mounted on the wall??
Steven Halter
8. stevenhalter
EmmetAOBrien@5:That's true that the two lines could have been merged a bit more. On the other hand, life isn't always given to smooth mergings also.
As you say, most of the time, Harry's just sitting around and feeding Mister. But, while Mister enjoys it, it's the interesting times of Harry's life that make for an exciting tale.
Emmet O'Brien
9. EmmetAOBrien
azara@6: The first is the way that the power levels involved keep getting ramped up so much that at some point there'll be nowhere further to go.

But even by Death Masks we're starting to see the answer to that; power in this universe is a multidimensional thing which, despite Harry's tendency to see everything in terms of slugfests because of that being his strong point, does not always work that way, and superior force can be overcome by alliance and smarts. Harry's already come a fair way from just charging in like he does at the end of Storm Front and that trend continues.

If someone is a genuine sceptic, when they're faced with sufficient evidence that the supernatural exists, they ought to change their mind.

No argument here, though for me, the hardest bit of suspension of disbelief there is not intensely religious people, but the overlapping contingents of real-world people who believe (or at least really want to believe) in UFOs and paranormal phenomena and National Enquirer type stuff; we know from what's said about Susan in the first few books that that segment of the press exists in Dresden's universe, and I am unconvinced that the implied forces covering up the video at the end of Fool Moon are sufficient.

If someone who has no religious faith is shown that fallen angels and archangels exist, and that there are enormous supernatural powers associated with specific religious artifacts like the Shroud, the Denarian coins, and the Swords of the Cross, then an 'It's not really my thing' attitude to religion seems like wilful blindness.

No, but I can totally grok Sanya's attitude of "Fine, there are superhuman powers out there, but as a self-respecting human being I'm not going to consider them moral arbiters just because of their power" and there is more information we get later in the series that seems to me to shore that position up as tenable.
Steven Halter
10. stevenhalter
EmmetAOBrien@9:Yeah, I like Sanya's position here also. Just because everything is shades of more/less powerful supernatural forces does not mean that you have to accept their word as to what they are/represent.
Garbonzo Bean
11. Garbonzo Bean
There seems to be some readers having problems with the general public of the dresden-verse "not having a clue". But Butcher explains several times how this is posible. These explanations actually make a great deal of sense.

The core of issue seems to be "How can people not see the evidence?" But, is really that hard to believe? Most people's worlds are really pretty small and routine. Most people are never really sure of what they see when something unexpected happens. Whole real world studies have been done on the unreliability of eye witness accounts.

Also, catching things on film is problimatic due to magic's effect on technology. So putting real footage on TV or the internet is hard to do. When Susan caught the fight at the end of Fool Moon, it was from long range and dimissed as fake. (Not to mention its disappearace, suggesting somebody, or more likley some organization that knows the truth, is actively trying to hide the truth.)

"What about the conspiracy theorists?" you say. Firstly, for every theorist who puts it together, there are a dozen crazies spouting nonsense. All of them shouting just as loud. Who's even capable of sifting through all that to find the truth.

Also, ask yourself as a normal person: How aware are you of what goes on next door?...a block away?...A mile? Our natural desire for privacy also causes us to block out things that happen outside "our area". Unless it's on TV(see above).

Finally, As Butcher points out repeatedly, not many people want to believe they could be wrong about something that big. So when something does happens, we try to explain it away. "It has to be something normal..I can't be that wrong..I'm not crazy. Even if I believe, noone else will. They'll think I'm wrong, or crazy. I better keep it to myself"
Debbie Solomon
12. dsolo
I enjoyed finding out more about the Knights of the Cross, and the Denarians are pretty scary as adversaries. One of the things that I'm really started to appreciate about the Dresdenverse, is how JB keeps setting up the events of future novels. One of my favorite novellas is Warrior, because Harry finds out about all the different levels of the battle between good and evil. Events are ramping up for Harry because he has demonstrated that he is a serious adversary. The various factions either want to recruit him or take him out. As for the number of Denarians out there, the Church has been trying to lock them down for centuries, but those sneaky Denarians keep managing to get the coins back in circulation.

Someone commented in the last reread about Harry naming things being part of his power, and that was a really interesting thought. His naming Ivy in this book has ramifications in later books, but it also works to his advantage. Sure she knows everything, but she's a little girl who didn't really get to have a childhood. At least Harry got to have a brief childhood before his father died. Imagine how easily he could have been turned by DuMorne if he had never felt loved. I think part of Harry's desire to protect those he perceives as weak goes back to being taken advantage when he was a child.
Garbonzo Bean
13. Kasiki
This book is a good example of why Butcher is so good to re-read. There are so many things that you don’t always catch e first time through, or gain nee emphasis once you know the ending. Even still, this one is a little scatter shot at times.

My favorite part of this Book was Shiro. Butcher in one of his book signings explained how awesome he was and that Shiro is the only major character (at the time of the signing) to be based on a Real Person. He is based on Butchers martial arts teacher. The quick take- A man of Chinese nobility, that was trained by Shao lin, protected his neighborhood from Yakuza, moved to Kansas City and was probably one of the most honorable and dangerous men with his bare hands in the world.
Rajan Khanna
14. rajanyk
@Kasiki - that's really interesting about Shiro. I didn't realize that. Thanks for sharing that information. I always liked Shiro a lot. He's only in the one book, but he has a lasting effect and I think he's one of the most noble characters in the entire series.
Garbonzo Bean
15. AnonyMouse
@sushishushi: I'm pretty sure that's Shiro under the sheet and the two "lightsabres" would be Michael and Sanya's swords. And the gothic cathedral would be the airport chapel.

I really miss the old covers that actually had something to do with the book. The random images of Harry (wearing a hat no less) standing around in a completely unrelated background are dull and tiresome.
Garbonzo Bean
16. Rheinman
Two thoughts on the subject of religion.

1.) I like how the majority of Christian believers are portrayed as righteous but not self-righteous. Fiction has a disturbing tendency to focus on the negative side of religious intolerance, abuse, hypocrisy and the use of self-righteousness as a cover for all sorts of evil and self serving actions both large and small (sweeping generalization, I know. but as was mentioned above, it's the abnormal that drives the plot). In the DF, while the Christian characters are written as individuals with good points and bad, the institution itself is portrayed as a force for good in the world.

2.) A criticism can be laid that the DF portrays all Christianity as Catholic with its heavy emphasis on Michael, Fr. Forthill and St. Mary of the Angels as the main Christian themed characters. I'd like to see some branching out here, as I am sure that there are a passel of Lutherans and Methodists and other denominations out there that have some members clued in to the supernatural. (I'd be curious to see how the Amish deal with supernatural threats as an example). The RPG sourcebooks set up some variation with an example of an ecumenical council in Baltimore that includes a Rabbi and an Imam among the faithful.
Emmet O'Brien
17. EmmetAOBrien
Rheinman@16:A criticism can be laid that the DF portrays all Christianity as Catholic

I'd argue that Butcher's made the choice of portraying the mythic cosmology elements of Christianity in specifically Catholic ways, though; things like referring to the Archangel Raphael as the Demon Binder (alluding to the Book of Tobit, IIRC, which you'll find in a Catholic Bible but not a Protestant Bible), or the increasing focus on a particular take on free will that's very much not in keeping with the various strands of Christianity that involve belief in an elect or salvation through grace alone rather than works; so the lack of non-Catholic Christian focus characters (except for Shiro with his accidental baptism when trying to see Elvis) could reflect the way that within the Dresden universe Catholicism appears to the branch of Christianity that has a most accurate handle on the realities of the supernatural. (I don't think there's anything in the series to absolutely lock down whether the White God is also the deity of non-Christian Abrahamic faiths or not.)
Steven Halter
18. stevenhalter
It is unclear in the story to date exactly what the interactions between the various beings who claim to be gods (or were at some point claimed to be such) are and how their mythologies relate both to the mortal world and the Nevernever.
The statements of various beings may all be true from a certain perspective--even if they also seem to be very contradictory from most perspectives.
butcher has left himself a lot of room to work with in how this will all play out.
Sorcha O
19. sushisushi
AnonyMouse@15 Yes, I realised that they were supposed to be the two Swords, it's the fact that they are glowing like lightsabers while hanging on the wall like some trophy that seemed terribly incongruous and out of keeping with how they were described in the book. Same goes for the setting - the airport chapel was described as being quiet and non-denominational, which that interior is anything but, given the Corinthian columns and stained glass windows, never mind the over-dramatic lighting. It's actually worse that the other 'Harry in a dramatic pose' covers in that it's almost, but not quite relevant to the story, and would only succeed in giving false impressions to the reader. I rather like my lovely greenish cover with faux sellotape labelling and the image from the Shroud in the top right corner (I'd link to an image, but it would probably only mean my post would get eaten).
Garbonzo Bean
20. TBGH
The novels involving the Denarians are two of my favorites in the series. It's hard to write believable smart nihilistic villains (why would they want to end everything when they're part of everything), but Butcher did it very well.

Despite the Springer Fowler opening, this one struck me as the most serious in tone until Changes. Summer Knight had higher stakes (barely) but was much less gritty.

Also, after this book was the first time I heard the tarot theory on the series. Some bright fan noticed each book corresponded to a card from the Major Arcana tarot deck in order and so far it's kept true. For example book 1 is Storm Front (fighting a warlock) and the first card is the magician. This is book #5 and the fifth card is the hierophant representing the pope or the catholic church. Book 13 is Ghost Story and the 13th card is death. If you want more details on that, go to the message boards on Butchers website: jimbutcheronline dot com/bb.
Emmet O'Brien
21. EmmetAOBrien
TBGH@20: I don't see that the Denarians have to be nihilists; I'm not recallng any textual reason to believe that they believe Armageddon is a foregone conclusion, or indeed that in Dresden's universe it is, given how much more there is than just Christian-mythos stuff, they might well believe they could win, and what is to say definitively that they might not be right ?
Garbonzo Bean
22. TBGH
@21
Maybe I'm just misremembering, but I recall conversations from the book about them playing the "Armageddon lottery." Also, they're not trying to bring about a change of power within the civilizations or make money or any other typical selfish motive; they're trying to kill everyone. To me that's nihilistic.
Emmet O'Brien
23. EmmetAOBrien
TBGH@22: They're definitely trying to bring about Armageddon, no argument there; I'm just not seeing any textual evidence that they're doing this from nihilism rather than seeing that conflict as a thing they could win. I can't recall whether Nicodemus' comment about being a saint someday is in Death Masks or Small Favour, but I took it as suggesting he hopes for a post-Armageddon world order in which Hell comes out on top.
Garbonzo Bean
24. Zazriel
Stevenhalter@3: do you think Mac might be Mannan Mac Lir?

Azara@6: I think the power up dilemma is true of any series. Stories drown in their own mythology. Anyone remember
the Theives World Series or Aces or cringe whenever a new Anita Blake novel is released. I have to applaud Butcher's ability to handle the power up with out cheapening the series.

Rheinman@16: I suspect the use of Catholism is for the same reason so many other genres use Catholism. It has a very strong central presence, with a political base. It has vivid symbology and well known mystical artifacts to Western culture. Even anime is fascinated by it.

Zaz
Garbonzo Bean
25. sfobsidian
Religion....I liked what I read about religion in this book. In all of the Dresden Files. Sanya, being agnostic and carrying a Holy sword and telling Harry that God recognizes hearts. Wow. Powerful stuff.

As for the exclusive portrail of the Catholic religion.....most all participants of any religion know something about Catholics. Kinda like if religion were blood types, they would be type O. It was the "easiest"? And does not bother me a bit. I was raised Lutheran.
Steven Halter
26. stevenhalter
Zazriel@24:Mannan Mac Lir would be interesting. At this point, I really just got the feeling that he isn't just a simple bartender.
tina solomon
27. tmsmoody
I gotta tell you, I'm amzed no one has commented on the sex scene with Harry and Susan. I don't know if Shannon gave Jim a hand in the writing of this scene or if it was his invention totally, but it was HOT! It also showed that no good deed goes unpunished - see "Changes".

Subscribe to this thread

Receive notification by email when a new comment is added. You must be a registered user to subscribe to threads.
Post a comment