When last we left Harry Dresden, he was learning how to deal with his new status, and fighting against despair at how things have changed, most specifically his apprentice. But he also reminded himself that he’s the one who gets things done in Chicago and so he sets out to do just that.
Harry goes to meet Fitz and tells the kid that they can help each other. He also tells Fitz who he is, which seems to impress the kid. Harry has him go to his old boss, Nick Christian of Ragged Angel Investigations. He asks Nick about any new gangs wearing hoods and Nick gives him a lead. Then Harry has Fitz go see Father Forthill about a shower and some food. Leaving him there, Harry heads to find Grey Ghost and the Big Hoods.
Before he gets there, though, he has a good think about how he’s been doing things, realizing that he’s been operating largely on rage and emotion. He starts thinking that maybe he should think more. Act rationally. Of course, where Maggie is concerned, he’s all rage.
At the Grey Ghost’s place he senses some kind of magic on the door, a kind of beacon for spirits and it almost compels him to enter. A moment later, Harry sees it work its magic on a horde of wraiths, all of whom enter the place. Surmising that there wouldn’t be any kind of danger to his own troops, Harry enters the same way, veiled by magic. He finds his way to a large room with a pit in it. A pit full of wraiths. Also there are some lemurs and a bunch of Big Hoods. Two of them suspend a trussed up Mort over the pit, and the Grey Ghost floats in front of him. It seems the Grey Ghost needs something from Mort, and when he refuses, the Big Hood lower him into the pit of wraiths, the Grey Ghost threatening that it will drive him insane. The Grey Ghost also sounds female.
Harry thinks about what he can do. He has Stuart’s gun, so he moves forward so that he can shoot at the Grey Ghost and then run. Before he can get there, though, Evil Bob pops up. There’s a messenger there from the Fomor who turns out to be the leader of the group that took on Molly. His name is Listen, and from his conversation with the Grey Ghost Harry learns that the Grey Ghost wants a body, namely Morty, but that she needs him to be willing. Then she agrees to turn over the Big Hoods to the Fomor and will take out Molly. The conversation brings them close enough to dawn that the Grey Ghost has to go for cover, and Harry returns to his grave. He realizes who the Grey Ghost really is. It’s the Corpsetaker, disciple of Kemmler and thorn in Harry’s side. If she takes over Mort’s body, her old powers would be back.
Back in his grave, Harry journeys through his memories, thinking of Elaine, his first love, and the day he ran from Justin, when he knew he was in danger. He gets to where he ran from the house and Lea, there at his grave, asks what happens next. Harry, wiser in death than in life, says that he will trade it. Lea appreciates that he has learned. She also mentions that her help in taking on the Red Court at Chichen Itza was in payment for his taking out Bianca (Bianca gave Lea the athame that caused her madness). Harry agrees to tell the rest of the story for the answer to three questions.
We get a flashback of Harry just after he fled from Justin. He had no money. No nothing. Just a sixteen year old kid. So he, um, holds up a convenience store. He puts his hand in a bag and simulates shooting with his magic. But something enters the store, something that Harry can feel but not see, not until he looks in the reflection of a video game. He That Walks Behind. A huge thing, a being from the Nevernever or beyond. And it throws him all over the store. Harry runs for the doors and outside. He sees the clerk stuck, as if unable to get away, and He Who Walks Behind (hereafter abbreviated HWWB) kills him. Sixteen year old Harry gets mad. The clerk’s death wasn’t right. He feels power fueled by his rage. As HWWB stands between two gas pumps, Harry uses his first “fuego” and blasts the pumps, destroying HWWB’s body.
Harry now has two questions to ask. He asked one in the middle of the story—whether these memories were truth—and Lea said that they were. Harry thinks on the other two. He could find out about all manner of things, but his priorities are helping people right now. So first he asks about Corpsetaker. Lea says that it took her a while to cohere after having her body destroyed by Harry. Then she could only talk to mortals who could hear her, so she assembled her Big Hoods. Now she’s looking for a body with significant power. She’s also making deals with the Fomor, probably to establish herself under their authority. Harry also learns he has to get to her before she possesses Mort or else he can’t get her out again. Lea also explains that the Fomor were enemies of the Fae from ages ago, cast out and now returned to get vengeance.
For the third question, Harry asks Lea who killed him. Lea seemingly has a dilemma. She says she must and she must not. Eternal Silence even chimes in to say that she must not. She can’t tell him the answer she wants, but she promises to tell him a true answer. Harry pushes for three true answers. The first is that Harry knows the killer. The second is that Harry’s death was one of thousands at this person’s hands. The last is that the killer was a proxy for another person more powerful than he.
Before Lea leaves, Harry asks her to care for Molly and Lea says he missed the point of the lesson which was for her to learn to care for herself. She says Harry didn’t do her any favors by being gentle on her and Harry admits she might be right. After she leaves, Harry thinks about how he shouldn’t have let Molly go to Chichen Itza. He thinks about what it must have been like for a sensitive like Molly. And he cries.
Sometime later, Butters and Fitz appear. Butters figured out where Harry would take a kid like that. Fitz tells Harry that Father Forthill went to talk to Aristedes and they need Harry to help them get him back. Butters holds out Bob’s skull and Harry enters it. There he finds a decked out apartment and Bob, appearing as a person. Harry fills Bob in on what’s been happening and Bob seems to think that Harry’s being manipulated. That he’s a piece being used by the archangel Uriel. Also, he mentions that Chicago’s winter in May means that Mab is in town, and maybe the two are working together, using Harry against the Corpsetaker. It also makes Harry think about HWWB and maybe that he hadn’t been sent by Justin after all. Or that maybe someone had been using Harry to take out Justin. Or in some way as a weapon. Bob also informs Harry that he’s not really a spirit. He’s walking around in his soul. And if he ends, he ends for good. But he also points out that Jack never said his body was gone and so he might have a body to get back to.
Then Butters summons Bob. They’ve reached Aristedes’ place and are getting ready to go in. They hear someone approaching and try to attack him but it’s, only Daniel Carpenter who has been tailing Butters on Murphy’s orders. He tries to get them to leave, but Harry drops that Father Forthill’s in trouble and Daniel agrees to help. Butters tosses him some grey cloth to masquerade as a Warden.
Butters does a good job, praising Aristedes while Harry goes to check on Father Forthill. He finds the priest battered and beaten and unconscious, guarded by a kid with a steak knife. Standing over Forthill is the Angel of Death. Harry threatens her, but she explains that she’s there to protect Forthill’s soul should he die. Harry asks her to intervene on the father’s behalf, but she says she can’t, not having free will. And she knows Harry’s true name so he couldn’t take her on if he wanted.
Harry returns to the others in time to see Butter’s charade break and Aristedes rush forward with inhuman speed, a knife in his hand. Aristedes slashes at Daniel, taking him in the chest and belly, but Daniel clearly has combat training, and one of Charity’s special vests. It stops the knife easily. Aristedes isn’t as good a fighter as Daniel, but he has speed, and as they slash at each other, both draw blood, but Aristedes gives Daniel stab wounds in both of his legs which puts him down. Then he uses magic to torment Daniel with pain. Butters then appears, smashing Aristedes’ knee with a lead pipe, but then Aristedes suckers Butters, who can’t bear to see people in pain, into helping and knocks him out. There’s not much Harry can do. He goes to Fitz and tries to convince him to do something rather than run. That he’s the only person who can.
Fitz comes back and tells Aristedes that he’s going to take the crew, and everyone else, and that Aristedes should never see them again. Aristedes tries to use his magical influence on the kids, but Fitz tells them to stop, and they listen to the kid who cared for them. Aristedes is powerless, and Fitz calls an ambulance. They get everyone patched up and to the hospital, including a very much alive Father Forthill. Harry realizes that Bob was tailing him the whole time. Seems that no one really trusts that Harry’s Harry until he does something Harry-like. Harry fills Butters in on what the Corpsetaker is doing and asks for Murphy to send her Viking soldiers to the lair. Butters helpfully informs Harry that they’re really Marcone’s people. Butters agrees to talk to Murphy and figure something out by sundown.
Harry first stops at Morty’s house and he can feel the faintest echo of the summoning spell there. He takes Sir Stuart’s gun and the ball within it and then focuses on his memories of home, feeding them into the bullet and using them to summon Mort’s spirits. The gun turns into a staff, not only a weapon but a symbol of authority, and Harry enlists the spirits in the quest to save Mort.
When Harry gets to the Corpsetaker’s lair, however, it’s now covered in wards and there’s no way to enter. Unless maybe from the Nevernever, since they have a way in. Of course that one’s guarded by Evil Bob. Still, it’s the only way. Harry has some spirits find Molly and bring her to him. Molly’s dressed for battle—she says Butters called her. Murphy and others are coming. Harry asks her to open a way into the Nevernever so he can go disable the wards so the others can come in, which she does.
Harry ends up in the opening scene of Saving Private Ryan. Harry and his spirit army storm the beach. The shots kill the ghosts they hit, so the danger is very real. Then shelling starts, skulls shooting from Evil Bob’s defenses. They storm the defenses using spirit grenades. Harry looks for the way to the Nevernever, but before he can get there, Evil Bob appears, looking like a Nazi with a skull head. He almost shoots Harry with a spirit Luger until Harry stalls and Stuart deflects Evil Bob’s shot. Bob makes Harry an offer, to join him as an apprentice since Kemmler would have been happy with Harry. But the offer just reminds Harry that he would never join with people like Evil Bob or Kemmler, and that gives him power. He flips Evil Bob, but it doesn’t put him out. Evil Bob starts some kind of massive spell until Bob, real Bob, our Bob appears and puts Evil Bob in a hold buying Harry time to exit the Nevernever.
They emerge in the midst of the wraiths and lemurs and Harry sends his troops to attack (though some of them are sent to dismantle the wards). Harry takes on Corpsetaker, exchanging magical attacks and defenses with her. But before the ghosts can attack her, Corpsetaker orders them to stop. Then Corpsetaker takes down her own wards, which can’t be good.
Harry goes to be recon for the mortal team and checks in with Murphy and Butters and Molly. Molly can’t do any magic inside because of the threshold, and Harry can’t even enter. So Murphy blows the door and they send the wolves in. Then Murphy gets one of the gang members to invite everyone in. Molly then demonstrates her increased power by putting all the Big Hoods to sleep.
Harry returns to where the Corpsetaker is devouring the last of Harry’s army. Harry tries to attack her with his power until he realizes that it’s draining his form. Then Corpsetaker summons Boz, a lumbering disgusting shell of a person, to kill Mort. Now that Corpsetaker has eaten so many ghosts, she has the power to assume physical form, and doesn’t need him anymore. But Harry realizes that ghosts have to be crazy to interact with the physical world. And he makes himself physical to fight Boz. Then he frees Mort and goes after Corpsetaker before she can posses one of his friends.
He gets upstairs and finds Molly missing and everyone else asleep. Except for Butters. As Harry is checking on Murphy, Butters sticks a gun against Harry’s head. Corpsetaker has taken Butters’ body. She seems impressed by Harry’s ability to form a physical body, but expects him to be a wraith soon due to the power he’s using. Then she shoots him in the back of the head. It kills Harry’s physical body, turning him back into a spirit. A slow spirit without much juice left. Corpsetaker twists the knife by dropping a veil hiding Butters’ spirit, now displaced from his body. He’s melting, it seems and all he can do is stare in terror.
Before Corpsetaker can leave, though, Molly appears, slamming Butters’ body into a wall. Then she soulgazes with Corpsetaker, fighting her with mind magic. It seems an even struggle for a little while until Corpsetaker jumps into Molly’s body. And Harry tags along for the ride. Inside Molly’s mind, it’s a war, though Harry realizes that he’s not in danger. He’s still a ghost. Molly’s battleground is a city full of fortresses, but Harry knows that Corpsetaker has far more experience and will eventually win this battle. He goes to find Molly.
He finds Molly in a treehouse, the inside of which looks like the bridge of the original series Star Trek Enterprise crewed all by Mollies. Harry urges her communications officer to make a long-distance call to an unknown person. During Molly’s activities, Harry notices a rather non-descript door and cabinet, out of place on the bridge. Science Officer Molly and Captain Molly begin fighting and Ensign Molly mentions that they’ve been like that “ever since they killed you.”
Harry is shocked. Then he remembers the door and cabinet. He flashes back to after he’d broken his back, at his building fire in Changes. Sanya and Molly take him to Father Forthill’s church. Harry knows he is out of action, but he has to save Maggie. He knows he has to become the Winter Knight. But he knows that it will change him, turn him into a monster. So he arranges to have Kincaid kill him and then has Molly remove the memory of their whole conversation, all of it. She replaces it with what we saw in Changes. Harry arranged for his own murder.
Harry returns to the bridge, but then transitions to a featureless white expanse, and Uriel appears. Harry thinks about what he’s done to Molly—not just his training, but asking her to help him kill himself. He also realizes that he hasn’t thought of Thomas before now because he feels guilty about not telling him. Harry realizes that his whole search was meant to lead him back to that memory. Harry asks Uriel for clarification and the archangel mentions that he’s there to preserve free will and that the other side cheated with Harry. He shows Harry that moment in the church with his broken back, when he’s blaming himself, and there’s a fallen angel whispering in his ear. A lie, at the right time, that influenced Harry’s actions.
Speaking of lies, Harry tips Uriel off to the fact that Jack Murphy lied to Harry at the beginning. Three people he loves weren’t necessarily going to die. But it got Harry moving. Harry asks what’s next and Uriel tells him he can either work for Uriel, like Jack, remain Between, or he can move on, prepared to accept judgment for all of his actions. Before Harry can move on, though, he has to know that his friends and family are okay. He needs to make an informed decision. Uriel takes him back to Corpsetaker’s lair.
There, Molly is still struggling with the Corpsetaker. Harry asks Uriel to help, and Uriel says he did what he could by putting Harry there to help. Then Mort appears. He’d been left in the pit of wraiths and took control of them. He throws them at Corpsetaker, who tries to escape, but Molly holds her there. The wraiths take Corpsetaker outside and dispose of her. That was the long distance call Harry had Molly make—to Mort.
Mort helps Butters get back to his body and the police and EMTs arrive to take care of everyone. Mort confirms to Murphy that it was really Harry’s ghost, confirming that Harry is really dead and Murphy breaks down. Mort helps shield her from everyone else and Harry is forced to accept that Mort’s a good guy. Meanwhile, Uriel accepts Sir Stuart into his service.
Before Harry will move on, he asks to see Thomas. Thomas seems in bad shape, drinking, bearded. But as Harry watches, Justine comes in, telling him he has to feed and that Harry’s death isn’t his fault. To help him, she brings in another woman, saying that if she has sex with the other woman, then Thomas can have sex with her. A loophole to his condition. Harry feels that Thomas will be fine.
Finally, Uriel takes him to the Carpenter house, which is now guarded by archangels. This is where Maggie is, where Father Forthill placed her, a house where she will be cared for, loved, and where she will have a family. Harry sees her in her room, and she’s beautiful. And he has a tearful (for me, too) reunion with Mouse, who can see him, and who will protect Maggie for as long as is needed.
Harry returns to Uriel’s precinct and is ready to move on to the next step. But he mentions that the scales haven’t really been balanced. The fallen angel whispered to him but he can’t see how that has been addressed. Uriel says nothing. Harry walks through the door and....
...finds himself in pain, and back in his old body. Vines are growing into his body, helping to keep it alive. Mab is there. And Demonreach. He’s on the island. Mab has been keeping him alive for months along with Demonreach and something called the parasite. Mab is going to hold Harry to being the Winter Knight. Mab claims he is hers to shape as she pleases. Then Uriel whispers in Harry’s ear: Lies. Mab cannot change who you are. Now things are balanced. This gives Harry the strength to stand up to Mab. He tells her she can’t make him a monster, and the moment she tries to mess with his mind, he’ll stop being him, he’ll be nothing but a servant. Mediocre. A thug. He tells Mab it’s her choice, but she obviously needs him and he will be a great knight for her, if it’s on his terms. Mab isn’t pleased, but seems to accept his word. She tells him to prepare to go to the Winter Court.
Harry’s Death: Well, even though we got a whole novel of Harry as a ghost, turns out the rumors of his death were, well, you know the rest. Turns out that Harry was kept alive by an unholy triumvirate. His whole attempt to avoid being the Winter Knight was a bust. Which brings us to....
Winter Knight: Harry is now the Winter Knight. Again. He now feels like he won’t be changed by the experience, that he is his own person, but is he right? And do we expect Mab to leave Harry alone? I have a feeling it’s not going to be as easy as Harry thinks. And what is up with Mab working with Demonreach?
Harry’s Growth: This is something of a transitional novel, taking place after many of the elements of Harry’s life (his love, his home, his work) have been taken from him. He begins the novel unable to do anything, a newbie so to speak, and has to begin learning from the ground up. Though he eventually finds his stride, he doesn’t have the power that he used to, and spends a lot of time observing and advising. But he also seems to recognize that his shoot from the hip approach has often had unforeseen fallout—the power vacuum in Chicago, the effect on Molly and so forth. I think it finally sinks in that he has to think more, that he has to be more measured and thoughtful. This is an important lesson for Harry. I hope it carries through in future books.
Molly: Molly is in a bad place. Torn with guilt, maybe some madness, dealing with post-traumatic stress from Chichen Itza. People are scared of her, something that she’s trying to encourage. She’s also training under the Leanansidhe, and her powers have grown (as Harry remarks several times during the book). It remains to be seen if the events of this book will change anything for Molly. And it seems Harry has a lot of regrets when it comes to his former apprentice.
Power Vacuum: Harry’s destruction of the Red Court has brought about many unforeseen (by him at least) circumstances. The Fomor have been repeatedly trying to invade Chicago and have invaded other cities. Murphy has become a leader of Chicago’s defenders, assembling a Justice League of sorts. Marcone has constructed a fortress and seems to be organizing the city’s defenses as well, bringing in Norse warriors. Things in the city seem particularly bleak.
Evil Bob: Bob’s evil self pops up again here, separate from the real Bob. The last we see of him is Bob restraining him so Harry and his ghosts can escape the Nevernever. But I doubt that he’s gone, since Bob said he couldn’t defeat him. I’m willing to bet that he’ll show up again.
The Parasite: Demonreach makes one mention to the parasite when Harry awakens on the island. That it’s responsible for keeping the blood flowing inside of him. What is this parasite? And will it remain?
Maggie: We learn in this novel that Maggie is safe with the Carpenters, which seems to be a good place for her. Mouse is also with her, and probably will be for the rest of her life. With the archangels guarding the Carpenter place, it seems like she should be safe from any enemies, shouldn’t she?
The Swords of the Cross: Mentioned in this book by Daniel Carpenter, who has become a lot more capable than he used to be. The swords still don’t have owners. Murphy has taken one up in the past—will she do so again? She’s no longer a cop—it would seem to make sense now. And then there’s Daniel Carpenter, son of Michael, former Knight of the Cross. It would seem to make sense that Michael would step into his father’s old role. And if Michael was descended from Charlemagne, then so is Daniel. It makes a kind of sense.
What did you think of Ghost Story? Did you expect Harry to come back the way he did at the end? As usual, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.