caveat: listening to audio book read by James Marsters.
Interesting things happen in this book, but the main story becomes less important than the long...morecaveat: listening to audio book read by James Marsters.
Interesting things happen in this book, but the main story becomes less important than the long-term story arc it's building up to.
From the onset, Harry finds himself knee-deep in Faery Court intrigue, and it only gets worse. Everyone's favorite kingpin disappears, and Queen Mab invokes the second of three favors from Harry, forcing Harry him to investigate it as her champion. It seems unnecessary - he would have done so because Murphy brought him in, as well as Marcone's new supernatural standing- but more likely motivates him keep going; the more he digs, the more trouble he finds. Without Mab holding his debt over his head, Harry might have backed off.
As it turns out, even the best of the criminal underworld are no match for the nickelheads - Denarians - and a decision to negotiate with them, with dubious advantages, leads to an impressive battle and unexpected loss. Harry licks his wounds, gets some sexy time, and then heads off to the final battle, with Harry coordinating the largest number of mortal characters to date. He's definitely developing a head for tactics. The final boss battle goes better than they might have hoped - they lived (more or less; sorry Michael) and Harry handles the Faery Court shootout well, and it becomes evident that even the nickelheads are pawns in a much larger game.
The story raises a lot of questions: why was Harry marked by the Summer Court before he met Mab and made her champion? Why was Mab monitoring Marcone before he disappeared? How do the Denarians rank compared to the heavyweights in the Fae courts? Was Nicodemus truly surprised by Harry's revelations or just playing him? What does it mean for so many positions of supernatural power to be unoccupied? Is Cowl one of the Black Council?
We're definitely building to something pretty big, even bigger than I thought Harry's battle with Lashiel for his soul.(less)
Note: listening to the audio book read by James Marsters.
I really enjoyed this story. I liked the glimpse into the lives and livelihoods of "lower dec...moreNote: listening to the audio book read by James Marsters.
I really enjoyed this story. I liked the glimpse into the lives and livelihoods of "lower decks" magic practitioners (people with low level talent who aren't White Council material) and aren't making money at it, seeing Little Chicago getting some use after all the setup in the last book, and seeing Mouse play a key role. Harry's investigation was one of the more complicated ones; a lot of parties were involved, so it seemed to take forever for the pieces to come together. I was pleased to see someone else cotton on to Harry's sudden upgrades in linguistic prowess, and call him out on it. The final battle was a bit desperate; I was uncertain how they were going to get out of it alive. The pinball escape was inspired. And finally, we find out what's going on with Thomas, which I did not see coming. Good for him.
Nits I would pick: - Harry's anger at Molly's persistence to involve herself made sense with the New Mexico flashback, but he could have explained what happened to her, making her understand his considerable misgivings, and also gotten the pentup feelings off his chest.
- The resolution with the Fallen Angel storyline felt a bit anticlimatic. To quote Marvin the Martian, "Where's the earth shattering kaboom? There was supposed to be an earth shattering kaboom?!?" It's probably for the best, as the battle I expected would have been nigh impossible for even Harry in his most inspired moments to pull off. Give current circumstances, he'd never be up for it. It's better that it played out the way it did. Still, it resolved faster than I would have expected, perhaps a little too pat. Regardless, it's over and I'm intrigued to know how things change for Harry as a result.
- I wasn't certain why the puppetmaster didn't play a more direct and decisive role in the final battle, because the good guys would most certainly have lost. The puppetmaster isn't the sort to hold back.
- I'm having trouble with how we see Harry's thought processes when he's desperate and dealing with things up on the fly, but his more cunning planning happens off stage and comes together in a very short time. It's a bit schizophrenic. Narratively, I understand why: Butcher wants to surprise the reader as well as the bad guys when Harry's cunning plans play out, but I'd like some hints at what's he's up to. (less)
caveat: listening to the audiobook read by James Marsters.
Every time Butcher deals with politics, whether Council or Fey related, his stories shine fo...morecaveat: listening to the audiobook read by James Marsters.
Every time Butcher deals with politics, whether Council or Fey related, his stories shine for me.
The story starts off hard edged and grim as a warlock meets with Council justice and Harry wrestles with the burden of his new role. I was surprised by the appearance of Molly Carpenter and the whole wrinkle in the Carpenter family's lives. Here I thought they led the charmed life of the Brady Bunch with the picket fence and happy home, but a little rain falls on everyone. Points awarded there.
The horror convention made me wince at the anticipation of cliches you might expect when blending movie monsters with magic, but again I was surprised. It went in some interesting directions which, with the side story about All's Not Well in the Land of the Winter Faeries, led to a pretty amazing climax. For once, Harry's destructive tendencies worked out for the best and helped the Council as well. Harry's political maneuvering at the end, avoiding an unfortunate repetition of the Council's earlier justice, was well done, even if he made himself even more a target than he already was. The denouement with Michael was a welcome relief.
Also, the revelation about Charity Carpenter was wholly unexpected. I'm always happy to when an author has even secondary characters evolve and show hidden depths that will influence the story. It makes her condemnation with Harry even more understandable.
The only things I thought were lacking were the red herring and Thomas's new situation. The red herring seemed obviously to be one, and even after finding out why the red herring was present, didn't add much to the story. Thomas's situation has changed, but in vague and poorly hinted at ways. I expect it was meant to be mysterious. I suspect I know what the change is, and possibly why, but didn't feel the story intrigued me enough to care.(less)
caveat: listening to the audio book read by James Marsters.
A magnificient recovery from the last book. A lot of things were unexpected: Murphy going o...morecaveat: listening to the audio book read by James Marsters.
A magnificient recovery from the last book. A lot of things were unexpected: Murphy going on holiday, the gravesite deal, the hidden depths of Bob, the appearance of necromancers, the involvement of Butters, and so on. The world of Dresden's Chicago opens up significantly in this book, touching on a lot of long term plots.
Butters was an unexpected pleasure. I thought we had done "the mundane person coming to grips with the reality of magic" with Murphy, but Butters offers a different angle. He brings his scientific mind to bear and solves some problems with both magic and science.
I enjoyed the fact that Harry faces foes far, far stronger than he, forcing him to resort to different tactics and calling on unlikely allies. Although truthfully, the Fallen Angels angle from Death Masks makes me a bit 'whatever' about the necromancers. Yeah yeah, they're the big bads right now (the climax was very cool), but Harry's going to survive because the Fallen Angels will need to be addressed in the future.
The summoning of Herne was dramatic - it brought the faeries into the story -- but the Wild Hunt was underused. I liked the variety of dead among the necromancers; each one had their own schtick. And what's not to love about Sue?
I did have to wonder about the wounds that Harry suffers near the climax; sure he handled the pain, but what about blood loss? I put it down to mutant healing factor.(less)
Caveat: listening to James Marsters read the audiobook (some of his character voices change from before, which I probably wouldn't have noticed but fo...moreCaveat: listening to James Marsters read the audiobook (some of his character voices change from before, which I probably wouldn't have noticed but for listening to the books back to back :)
A good read. The deus ex machine of Michael Carpenter gets the patriarchical equivalent treatment of maiden, mother and crone with a mentor and novice, each having their own interesting twists. It's nice to have Michael's family fleshed out without them being directly involved in the conflict.
The duel with Ortega was set up well, but the twist there fell short. Ortega's situation was forced into the background with the appearance of the Fallen, who were obviously more baddass than he.
The Fallen were new and different antagonists, although I don't understand who they are, exactly. Hoping that is explained in later books, as they should surely make a reappearance.
I've picked out by now that one of Dresden's flaws is that he doesn't trust anyone else to handle things. Not that he himself does a bang-up job, but he truly does not think anyone capable of shouldering the same burdens he does, so he saddles himself with guilt for not shielding others better, even if there was no expectation of him to do so. Murphy and Michael are the only ones he gives some measure of respect to. Possibly now Susan Rodriguez, given her situation. I was happy to see him moving on at the end.
Caveat: listening to James Marsters reading the audiobooks.
The best Dresden book thus far, methinks. The fallout from the war puts Harry front and cen...moreCaveat: listening to James Marsters reading the audiobooks.
The best Dresden book thus far, methinks. The fallout from the war puts Harry front and center in wizard court intrigue, while he finds himself placed front and center in faerie court intrigue, which could lead to a war more devastating than the one he helped to start.
One of the better constructed stories. The fact that Harry's self-flagellation is at an ebb doesn't hurt.(less)
Caveat: listening to the audio book read by James Marsters.
The reasons why the dispute between the criminal element and the wealthy landowner felt bot...moreCaveat: listening to the audio book read by James Marsters.
The reasons why the dispute between the criminal element and the wealthy landowner felt both too grandiose and thin, but otherwise, I enjoyed this book. I got a little lost in Bob's explanation of the differences between the variety of werewolves until the differences were made clear through action.
The difference between Bianca on TV and Bianca in the books is immense. Yikes. Also, things go extremely badly at the police station, which is impressive. Butcher is not afraid to have his characters change their world through their actions.
This is one of the best older children's books I've read. The story follows, stream of conscience style, the life of Sarah Nelson who grapples with tu...moreThis is one of the best older children's books I've read. The story follows, stream of conscience style, the life of Sarah Nelson who grapples with turning 12, a burgeoning sense of self-awareness, and a need for answers. She has more questions than God to ask and no one she can turn to, so she addresses imaginary characters and inanimate objects. Her family lives under a cloud of infamy that dogs them wherever they go, making them afraid to be recognized.
I found it surprising how candidly some very troubling social issues come up in the story: what happens to families when an unimaginable tragedy occurs: the strain it places on those who survive; how kids are affected by the adult's reactions; how these situations occur far more often than we realize. It's sobering to see - from a kid's perspective - how kids yearn to live normal lives despite these extraordinary circumstances. They take on responsibility that seems unwarranted, but helps the adults cope. It's also obvious how often the world fails to help these kids grow up, because the world is too busy going after what it wants. The way the legal system, medical professionals, media, and public treat her family is grotesque. And yet, despite all of this, the kids manage to keep going, grow up, and find their place in the world.
Sarah's tale is about how she comes into her own, forcing those around her to understand how keenly aware she is of her circumstances, and that the broken status quo no longer suffices. Things will remain difficult, but Sarah learns how to confront her life with more confidence.(less)
A decent YA sci fi story on par with the Percy Jackson series. Young teen discovers he's different from everyone else, is cast into new circumstances...moreA decent YA sci fi story on par with the Percy Jackson series. Young teen discovers he's different from everyone else, is cast into new circumstances that dazzle and confound, and then finds himself mired in saving the world intrigues. Change our world with old gods to space with aliens and computers, and you've got a series on par with the old serial sci fi series, without so much hard science.
It's a good, quick read with interesting backgrounds. The sci fi of it is squishy, soft science that takes on fantasy and Matrix appearances. The story starts strong and builds intrigue, but as the pace quickens, the narrative feels a bit rushed and loses complexity. Character interactions are shed down to the climatic buildup, improbable revelations are introduced to lead to the next book. The main character has a Super Saiyan moment at the climax, and a deus ex machine (literally) solves everything else.
Is it worth going through once? If you like kinda pulpy sci fi, yes. I found it to be an excellent "read on the bus" book.
Part of me wants to like this, but another part of me is dissatisfied. It's a great slice of life, moment in time story about nightowls and what keeps...morePart of me wants to like this, but another part of me is dissatisfied. It's a great slice of life, moment in time story about nightowls and what keeps them up. A Murakami magical mystery lurks in the background, but its relationship to the nightowls plot is uncertain at best. Sadly, except for the two nightowls getting closer, nothing else resolves. Someone who did something bad may or may not get their comeuppance. The mystery that took half the book to play out, may or may not resolve.
I guess that's the problem I have. Slices of life stories can be left unresolved, because other slices of life have yet to happen. However, mysteries demand resolution. Leaving them unknown is dissatisfying.(less)
I quite enjoyed this. It takes a long while to get through because the plot moves at a very stately pace akin to a high class English drama, but set i...moreI quite enjoyed this. It takes a long while to get through because the plot moves at a very stately pace akin to a high class English drama, but set in 1984 Tokyo. I'll avoid spoilers except to say that it's a modern fairy tale. The characters find themselves in a fairy realm and have to figure out how to get out again. Not a literal fairy realm, because this is Murakami after all. It's a magically realistic fairy realm of 1984 Tokyo. It's a slow paced story, but let it play out at its own pace. You will not get all of the answers, because you don't see the story from many different viewpoints, and Murakami doesn't really care if you understand everything that's happening. He wants you to understand what the characters are going through and thinking. You know what they do. Roll with it.(less)
The review from the first book, Blackout, applies here. I got seriously stuck in the beginning, but on the counsel of a friend, I skimmed over the end...moreThe review from the first book, Blackout, applies here. I got seriously stuck in the beginning, but on the counsel of a friend, I skimmed over the endless cycle of worrying by the main characters and got into the interactions with the contemporary characters. Perhaps it's a disservice to the author, but I don't need to wade through every single worry.(less)
Warning: if you want a story that gets into the theory of time travel, stop now. Put this book down and move on. This book uses time travel as a novel...moreWarning: if you want a story that gets into the theory of time travel, stop now. Put this book down and move on. This book uses time travel as a novel way to do historical fiction.
That said, Blackout and All Clear make an incredible story about time-traveling historians investigating the evacuation of Dunkirk and London during the Blitz. Connie puts together a great ensemble of contemporary background characters and plunks you in the head of the time travelers as they try to figure out what's going on. The book masquerades as a history lesson from the viewpoint of those who lived through it.
The only drawbacks (two) are first, Connie is -- typical to the stories that I've read -- extremely spare with her character descriptions. Most times, you start off with a name and gender pronoun. Eventually you'll get a description from the viewpoint of other characters, but it's rarely complete. Second, time crawls by inexorably and then days go by in the space of a sentence. A friend not only drew up a dramatis persona, but also kept a timeline flowchart to keep track of the various characters and their actions. You don't need it, but it wouldn't hurt.
I'm enjoying the book a lot. I find it quite gripping. In reading other reviews, people are turned off by the repetitive actions and worries that the...moreI'm enjoying the book a lot. I find it quite gripping. In reading other reviews, people are turned off by the repetitive actions and worries that the characters undergo day after day, hour after hour, but I think that's what the author wants to impress on the reader. In the heat of a crisis, people do all of those things: they worry constantly. They try to find someone in authority who has the answers. They jam phone lines trying to reach friends and loved ones to reassure themselves. They worry more about each other and themselves. They try to keep their heads straight while struggling to get basic necessities that are now unavailable because everyone who creates, supplies, delivers, or sells has been rendered ill. Society collapses and people are resort to forgery, deception, sneaking past quarantine, and pressganging people to help. Connie does a marvelous job documenting the throes people go through in this crises.(less)