Writing this review is going to be impossible without spoiling some of the series for those who have not read through Changes, just a little warning. The title of this book, Ghost Story, does a pretty good job of revealing the entire premise of the story: Harry is a ghost. Like all ghosts he has a task that must be completed in order to be at peace. A lot of what was planted in Changes bears fruit in Ghost Story. Harry is now forced to deal with the horrible decisions he was forced to make while the Red Court held his daughter. To the living, Harry has been gone for six months. All hell has broken loose in Chicago without Dresden around. Harry is now dropped in the middle of all this and is practically helpless is his current state to do anything about it. Add that to the emotional turmoil of losing Harry, and well you got a pretty good idea of how things are going at the beginning of Ghost Story.
There is a formula to the Dresden Files novels. They very rarely deviate from the rhythm Jim Butcher established in the very first book. Changes broke away from that formula, and in Ghost Story we fall back into the structure of the pseudo detective noir novel that we are used to. That’s a good feeling. Changes was amazing, and it certainly shook things up. However, I was surprised at how much I missed that familiar Dresden feel. Ghost Story tries to bring the Dresden universe back to some state of normalcy.
The characters in Ghost Story are plentiful. Many older characters are brought back from the early books, and a lot of new characters come into play as well. Jim Butcher spends a significant amount of time on the emotional state of the characters. Ghost Story emphasizes the mental and physical trauma that is weighing on them all. There were moments where I felt real empathy for many of them. I love these characters and it is painful to see them changed in irreparable ways. Dresden, in particular, wrestles with some rather big issues carried over from previous novels.
The writing in Ghost Story is solid. Jim continues to improve upon perfection and the last few Dresden Files books are damn near flawless. Ghost Story continues in the trend of mixing suspense, mystery, drama and humor. I also felt that Jim has become more relaxed in his voice as Dresden. The geek culture references are more prevalent, and maybe a bit more obscure. There is even a beautiful homage to a Star Trek battle in there somewhere.
I’ve reviewed a lot of the Dresden books and I’m finding it more and more difficult to find different ways to say how awesome these books are. They changed the way I read fantasy. I have driven 3 hours to wait in line at a signing. I have gotten my brother, father, and several friends addicted to these stories. I talk so much about these books that I sometimes feel I should be on the Penguin Group payroll. I remember reading Patrick Rothfuss‘ blog when he discovered the Dresden Files. How vindicated I felt when a best-selling author of his caliber squealed about them as much as I do. You must read these books. You have to read The Dresden Files. That is all.
This installment is intense and emotional. Harry has changed and that causes all his friends to change, too. Things continue to get darker for Harry et al and I can’t wait to see what happens next.
I’m listening to the audiobook versions. When Ghost Story was ready to narrate, James Marsters was busy filming a TV show and a movie and Penguin Audio had to go on without him to get it done on schedule. The fill-in narrator, John Glover, does a really good job, but after hearing Marster’s voice for so long, it’s a bit of a let down to not hear it here. However, I just told myself that Harry is fundamentally different in this novel (different from all the others), so the change wasn’t so jarring when I thought of it that way. Fans of the audiobooks had a fit about the switch, so Marsters is back for the next book, Cold Days.
(LATER UPDATE: In April 2015, Ghost Story will be re-released in audio with James Marsters narrating. Hooray!)