Harry Dresden never knew his mother Margaret. He knows that she was a wizard, that she used the last name LaFey, and that before she married Harry’s father she hung out with some shady characters. In Blood Rites, he discovers something about Margaret that changes everything he believes about himself.
In the sixth Dresden Files novel, Jim Butcher shakes up Harry’s world. In addition to shocking new information about his mother, Harry has to deal with a revelation about Ebenezar, the White Council wizard who was his guardian. While he is absorbing those shocks to his life, Harry is waging a battle with the Black Court vampires and trying to protect a charming porno-movie director from a potent curse. Yes, I used “potent” intentionally there.
Blood Rites develops the third and strangest vampire court, the White Court. White Court vampires are incubi and succubae. Harry’s friend Thomas, a White Court vampire, and his two sisters figure prominently in the story.
The book is funny and harrowing. Even though people attached to the porno die, these sections have the most humor. When he is not body-guarding the actors, Harry assembles a rogue’s gallery to fight Marva, the eldest of the Black Court vampires. His group includes cop pal Karrin Murphy, the mercenary Kincaid, and Ebenezar. In this book, Harry also finds out a little bit more about Murphy and her family. Murphy’s mother shares a surprising bit of news; Murphy’s father was also a cop, and before they had a name for Special Investigations, they called paranormal cases “black cat” cases. Murphy’s dad was a black cat cop. This adds some mystery and risk to the character of Murphy, because her father killed himself. Mrs Murphy says she thinks he did it because he couldn’t face what he was learning about the world. Murphy has already been the victim of magic on more than one occasion; can she survive in Harry’s world?
It’s common for plotlines to converge in a Dresden book and Blood Rites is no exception. Harry uses intellect to solve the mystery of the porno death curse, and the battle against the vampires reads like an action-adventure movie. Before he is even recovered from injuries taken in this battle, Harry confronts the puppet-master behind it all. This final battle puts Thomas and Murphy in mortal danger.
From the opening sequence in a burning warehouse, to the snicker-inducing final line, Blood Rites never lets go. It has clenched-fist action, dramatic magic, intriguing mental puzzles, and a nail-biting battle of wills at the climax. Blood Rites is complex, suspenseful, funny and sets up issues that will play out across the rest of the series.
Another worthy installment in a great urban fantasy series. Lots of important things happen in Blood Rites and it still feels like we’re winding up instead of down. The audio versions of THE DRESDEN FILES, narrated by James Marsters (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), are wonderful.
“The building was on fire and it wasn’t my fault,” says Harry in the opening line of Blood Rites. This has to be one of my favorite DRESDEN FILES books, and the very first line is quite possibly one of the most memorable in the series. Harry has been asked for a favor by his pseudo-friend and White Court Vampire, Thomas Raith: he is to investigate a possible death curse at an independent adult film studio. As with all DRESDEN stories, not everything is as it appears to be. Harry finds himself in multiple perilous situations, all of which are over his head. Jim Butcher masterfully weaves the reader through the chaotic mess that is Harry’s life, all culminating in a dramatic finale that deserves a standing ovation.
There are so many great moments in Blood Rites, from demon monkeys throwing flaming poo, battle meetings held in an IHOP, to the endless humorous banter between Thomas and Harry. The events that take place inBlood Rites have a lasting impact that still lingers six books later. Several wonderful characters are introduced, and many existing ones are fleshed out. You learn more about the White Court vampires, and Harry’s relationship to them. Mouse the Fu-Dog is introduced, and Kincaid the mercenary body guard becomes one of my favorite characters.
Blood Rites is what I call a keystone book in a series, and long-running series like THE DRESDEN FILESgenerally have a few of these. The events taking place are essential to the overall story arc that will end many books later. I like to be given the feeling of a “big picture,” and Blood Rites is one of the first DRESDEN FILESbooks that really move the overall story further along. It was after Blood Rites that I first realized that Jim Butcher had a plan for how he was going to end this series.
I cannot recommend Blood Rites highly enough, and I’m excited that Roc has now released it in hardcover and Penguin has produced it in audio. In the unabridged audio version, James Marsters is the voice of Harry Dresden. You may know James as Spike from the TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I was somewhat skeptical of him portraying the haggard macho voice I had imagined Harry to have. To say I was pleasantly surprised would be an understatement.
It was so important for Penguin to cast this voice correctly. THE DREDEN FILES are written in first person, so the only voice in the story is Harry’s. Having a mediocre voice play the character would have been disaster. Luckily for us, they picked the right man: Marsters is brilliant and he has permanently portrayed Harry’s voice in my head since the first sentence he spoke — he’s perfect.
The middle books of the DRESDEN FILES certainly deserve this new attention, as they are some of the best books in the urban fantasy genre.