Martha's Reviews > Blood Rites

Blood Rites by Jim Butcher
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Aug 03, 08

Read in August, 2008

I first heard of the Dresden Files when the Sci Fi Channel made a show about it. I watched all the episodes, and no, it wasn't the greatest show, but I was intrigued and hoped that it would come back a little cleaned up (I believe it's been canceled.) It turns out my parents are big fans of the books, so I thought I'd give them a try.

I should say that I read a couple of the books already, I think #1 and #3, both of which I thought were decent. Not great, but not bad either. This is not a series that you truly have to read in order, so I had no qualms about reading #6 next.

Sadly I found Blood Rites to be quite disappointing. One of the main problems I had was with the main character, Harry Dresden. At this point I'm already familiar with Dresden's back story and his general demeanor, so I was quite surprised to find him doing and saying a lot of things that just didn't make sense. Ultimately I found him unbelievable as a real person -- he had a lot of dialogue that was overly simplistic and clichéd, and often behaved contrary to someone with his upbringing.

But the worst part was all the gratuitous reference to sex and sexy women. Now this particular book is about vampires, and porn star vampires at that. Naturally that means very sexy and beautiful people, often barely dressed. But every single time one of the women vampires came in to the room, the author felt obliged to give a 1-2 paragraph description of her body, what she was wearing, and the fact that she exuded sex. Dresden's cohort, a petit barely 5 foot tall cop (I know, I know) wasn't spared. It got to the point where it was just plain icky and I had to skip over a number of scenes, particularly the one where the cop, due to completely silly circumstances, is forced to take off her pants during a fight and phrases such as 'standing in her panties holding a shotgun' are used over and over and over.

Frankly, most of this book read like the author's unusually detailed wet dream. It saddened me because I thought the overall concept of the books, a modern day wizard who solves crimes and fights the super natural in Chicago, has a lot of potential. But if you're a fan of the Dresden Files, I highly recommend skipping this particular entry.
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Comments (showing 1-8 of 8) (8 new)

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Conor Speaking as a guy who might be even more lecherous than Dresden/Butcher, I agree completely. Even I was reading that passage where she had to take her pants off and thinking "Oh come on!"

Martha Lol well it's nice to hear a guy say it was over the top!

Nathan Hm. Well first of all, I'd say that books 1 and 3 aren't the best setup -- book one was okay at best, and book 3 was IMO the worst of all of them. And none of the first five books are at all like what you're describing in this one. As I've said to many people who've said you don't have to read these books in order: You don't HAVE TO, but you really should. The character changes and develops through the series, goes through phases of growth and mood. To really appreciate the context and the character and all, for better or worse, I think you need to read all of the books that come before.

Sure, Dresden gets macho and lecherous and is in general a somewhat caricaturish character. That's sort of the point of the whole series, from what I've seen -- it's an occult spin on the old crime noir novels, where the detective is always something of a macho sexist "man's man" who doesn't quite fit in with the cultured sophisticated new world he inhabits. So maybe you don't like the genre. But that quality is fairly well-established, in fact the character references it himself and thinks about it from time to time, and it's a main element of his relationship with Murphy, who (like many of the strong female characters in the book) finds it an annoying and degrading characteristic. It's part of the story. Maybe it's too much in this one, I couldn't say. But I wouldn't just the series from this one book.

Martha It is hard not to judge from such a horribly bad book, but as I still have the first few books somewhere, I'll try reading them in order as you suggest.

Nathan Hm. Well, I've now read the book... I have to say, I really don't see hardly any of what you've described in it. I still strongly advise reading the books in order (I don't know why this is a series that so many people just blow off book-order for), but honestly, not only did I find it pretty enjoyable and much better than #1 and #3 (probably the two shakiest books in the series), but the flaws you've described weren't there as far as I could tell, so I wonder if it's just an issue of different aesthetics.

I didn't see any out-of character stuff; of course, I read all of the previous books before cracking this one, rather than jumping from book 3 to book 6, so really I wouldn't be surprised about Harry seeming a different person -- I'd be more worried if he weren't! I also didn't notice any more cliche than usual; again, some degree of cliche is meat and potatoes for the genre, so I come in expecting it.

As for "gratuitous reference to sex and sexy women"... again, I don't see any more of it than is typical and justified by the genre. This is ultimately a core element of the noir-detective genre -- where the gumshoe evaluates every reasonably attractive lady with something like "She was tall and blonde, for starters, in a black sheath dress so tight you could count her ribs." and "She had more curves than a scenic railway and a set of stems that would make a cadaver break out in a cold sweat." Complaining about that seems sort of like reading Lord Of The Rings and saying "I didn't like all the magic and elves."

And since you mentioned that "standing in her panties holding a shotgun" was said over and over, I found myself looking for it when the relevant scene came... and I never saw it said even once. In fact, the whole thing was way more understated and undercommented than I'd have thought it would be.

All in all, I think Harry's attitude towards all the nudity and sex surrounding him in this book was pretty respectful and appropriate. He hadn't wanted to get involved in a job that put him in a porn studio in the first place, and there were actually a number of situations where he could have been fairly lewd or lascivious without it seeming like a stretch, and he remained more on the old-fashioned side of things.

So I have to say, I didn't see any of the elements you complained about in terms of being problems. I wouldn't say it was one of the best of the series, but I thought it was far from being one of the worst of the series, or even bad in general.

Maybe it's just aesthetics, differences in what we're comfortable with, that sort of thing. *shrug*

Dolores Portalatin The one dimensional way women are portrayed in this series is what really ruins it for me. For example, the ONLY thing I know about susan, is what she looks like naked. There is never any explaination about what motivates her to be so passionate about supernatural phenomina, there is no information about her family, nothing about her past. None of the women in the series aside from murphy is treated as anything other than eye candy. But the male side characters? We meet their families, hear about their pasts, and learn in lots of detail their relationship with harry. If the author changed this one problem, the series would be a thousand times better.

Conor Nathan, I'm glad you're enjoying the series, but it's not quite that simple. I'm a HUGE fan of noir and detective novels and was reading Hammett and Chandler long before the Dresden Files. I can assure you, neither of those masters ever resorted to anything as utterly absurd as inventing a situation where a woman had to take her pants off to sneak into a room.

Also, I read the books in order up until Blood Rites. I understand what Butcher was trying to do initially, but the further along he went, the more ridiculous and farfetched things got. There's a difference between using genre cliches and tropes, and abusing them. I have no discomfort with sex in a book. But I do have a discomfort with writing that is so utterly contrived it shatters the suspension of disbelief even in a book full of wizards and magic.

Martha Yes, that! Exactly what Conor said! Sorry for the late reply, somehow only just noticed you had posted a response. But whole heartedly agree that there is a difference between writing something in deference of an older genre and just plain bad writing.

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