Book Review: Ghost Story, by Jim Butcher
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
In reading this book, I came to realize one of things I love about Harry Dresden. For all of his obvious (and often self-described) flaws, he is relentlessly focused on other people. He doesn’t throw himself into harm’s way for grand, high-fantasy, altruistic reasons. He’s not out to save the world, at least not directly. Rather, he acts because of an immediate and visceral concern for those around him. Usually, he is moving to save those he loves and, in the process, saves a wider community as well. Nevertheless, time and again Dresden is faced with both the possibility of violence being done to a loved one and the knowledge that he can prevent their pain. Regardless of the personal consequences, he is almost compulsively motivated to act. It’s a much more personal sort of bravery which underlies the epic scale of some of his actions. Does he always get it right? Nope. Often his actions have wildly unintended consequences, but this adds an element of reality to the character (to say nothing of extending the series). Who among us hasn’t done something with the best intentions, been measurably successful, but still seen it backfire in a way we never imagined? I’ll raise my hand. For all his human failings, however, there is something Christ-like in Dresden’s single-minded devotion to standing between those he loves and the darkness which would consume them.
In Ghost Story, this character trait is brought into sharp relief and actively ruminated upon because of Harry’s limited abilities to affect the world. He’s a ghost, you see, and struggles to deal with the fact that he cannot directly impact the mortal plane of existence. For someone used to direct, usually forceful action, this is a difficult pill to swallow. Don’t worry, though. This is still Jim Butcher, and it’s still Harry Dresden. Chicago’s only wizard in the phonebook doesn’t get all weepy on us and, instead, finds a way to make his presence known. In the end, it is another excellent entry in the series, as entertaining and well-paced as always.