Johnny's Reviews > Proven Guilty

Proven Guilty by Jim Butcher
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's review
Oct 02, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: fantasy, mystery
Read in September, 2010

Unlike Christine O’Donnell, I’ve never “dabbled” in magic. It doesn’t fit my world-view. Oh, I’m not saying it’s impossible. I’m not a positivist by any means. I’m just saying that the idea of magic doesn’t fit my idea of authentic accomplishment. Even if one could wield awesome power, I’m not sure that it wouldn’t be the wielder of power who was being used rather than the supernatural source of the power. So, since this isn’t something I would seek in real-life, I feel perfectly free to play fantasy games and read fantasy novels where people do so. In all honesty, I think it gives me a chance to patronizingly shake my head when people in fantasy novels mess up in a disproportionately large way compared to my personal goof-ups.

So, I love Harry Dresden. Harry is the perpetual underdog. He has the fortitude of one of the classic detectives of Hammett (Sam Spade) or Chandler (Philip Marlowe) complete with their figurative propensity for being knights in rusty armor. I like the fact that he cares without being judgmental, as well as the fact that he doesn’t settle for the traditions and assumptions of other wizards.

Proven Guilty is a novel about the invasiveness of fear. The supernatural incursion faced by Harry and his allies is rooted in the experience of each victim’s fears and the appearance of the horrors is dictated by the appearance of monsters in horror movies. Fear, then, becomes an invitation to the very beings that wanted to destroy one.

And I particularly liked this one because there was a power that completely derailed Harry. One of the characters prays to God and the answer to her prayer proves so efficacious that it sends ripples (maybe waves) through Harry’s normal sense of order. He discovers that faith is the antithesis of fear. In this book, faith trumps magic. Harry doesn’t give up magic. Indeed, from his perspective, that’s not possible. However, he discovers that everything cannot be manipulated.

Now, the faith/magic confrontation is a very minor theme in the book, so don’t let me discourage you from reading it if you don’t happen to agree with that idea. It resonates with me, but the most exciting aspects of the book have to do with a rebellious teenager who seems so much like Harry in his troubled youth and the ongoing war between the Red Court (vicious vampires) and the White Council (the…uh…sort of, good guys). Harry has been recruited into the council and he isn’t sure that he likes it. Yes, that’s another thing I like about this series—the struggle between authority and personal responsibility. And, indeed, the main quest in this novel hinges on that struggle.

Another distinctive in Proven Guilty is that even though it is modern fantasy set in Chicago of the 21st century, one section of the quest demands a foray into the heart of the supernatural world. The descriptions of this winter kingdom and the diabolical tortures undergone by those who run afoul of the mad faerie queen in that kingdom are exquisite. I truly believe Butcher was at the top of his game in this book.

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