Blood Rites by Jim Butcher
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
The best thing about this book is a dog.
That's not an imprecation on the quality of the book, which is hilarious, intense, surprising and even thoughtful by turns. Rather, it's an expression of this reader's pleasure at the portrayal throughout of a scrappy, supernatural puppy. It's very evident that Butcher is a dog owner and lover, and maybe I'm biased, but I read a little bit of Bichon in the furry tag-along's behavior.
In a way, the puppy is a good example of the way details infuse the whole story, from developments in the life of Dresden's friend (hmm, is that the right word?) Murphy to the difficulties of planning a raid on very cunning Dracula-esque vampires. You would think the story of an investigation centered around an adult film production and psychic-sexual vampires (a whole different court and kettle of fish from those mentioned in the last sentence) would come off gimmicky and shameless, but it's deftly handled, lampooned when necessary, treated honestly otherwise.
If you read my review on the previous volume in this series, I had issues with cohesiveness. I found none in Blood Rites. There's probably almost as much going on, but it's fused together more smoothly, and though it still has multiple climaxes, they follow each other in natural sequence. If I had any complaint, I think that the final fight scene was a bit muddled - the way the plan changed and the scene devolved into something like a brawl wasn't entirely appealing to me. That's not enough to lose a star off the rating, however.
Coming into the series from the previous five volumes, I had the feeling that the emotional revelations within would have less impact to a new reader. However, this is not because Butcher lacks skill in setup: all the pieces were there. Rather, there's just no substitute for the slow, gradual melding of literary flavor over five books.
And what a satisfying stew it is. I've briefly mentioned the humor, but it really bears more praise. I love the way Dresden wise-cracks (even when he knows better), the turns of phrase that fly past ... and the way that it enhances rather than diminishes the darker and more serious sides of the book. It's a delicate balancing act, requiring attention to detail.
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