Author: Jim Butcher
Format: audio book
Publisher: Penguin Audio Books
Release Date: 4/6/2010
Length: 15 hours 28 minutes (HC is 448 pages)
The blurb from the website:
Long ago, Susan Rodriguez was Harry Dresden’s lover – until she was attacked by his enemies, leaving her torn between her own humanity and the bloodlust of the vampiric Red Court. Susan then disappeared to South America, where she could fight both her savage gift and those who cursed her with it.
Now Arianna Ortega, Duchess of the Red Court, has discovered a secret Susan has long kept, and she plans to use it – against Harry. To prevail this time, he may have no choice but to embrace the raging fury of his own untapped dark power.
Because Harry’s not fighting to save the world…
He’s fighting to save his child.
My spoiler-riddled thoughts
Jim Butcher has the greatest opening lines for his Dresden books:
I answered the phone, and Susan Rodriguez said, “They’ve taken our daughter.” I sat there for a long five count, swallowed, and said, “Um. What?” “You heard me, Harry,” Susan said gently. “Oh,” I said. “Um.”
I think those few simple words perfectly capture Harry’s utter shock at Susan’s revelation. It’s been some 8 years since Harry’s seen her and she sure never mentioned that their last encounter had produced a little bundle of joy.
Harry struggles with anger a lot during this book and it’s no wonder. He’s pissed at Susan for not telling him he was a father. He’s probably a little pissed at himself for not being there for his daughter, despite the fact that he didn’t know that she existed. And mostly, he’s phenomenally pissed at Arianna Ortega, widow of Duke Ortega… as well as the entire Red Court for having the audacity to kidnap his child in order to get at him.
Harry is ready to kick some major ass and God help anyone that gets in his way. And so Mr. Butcher commences with the destruction of Harry’s entire life.
His building is destroyed by explosives that were wired into the walls of Harry’s office, something for which he is being investigated by CPD. He learns that the Red Court intends to sacrifice the daughter he didn’t know he had as part of a curse. He seeks assistance from the White Council but finds no help there or even from his fellow Wardens. Ivy, the Archive is also unable to assist directly. His car is destroyed, his house is burned down, he’s paralyzed and an angel from Heaven above is even powerless to do anything for him.
All seems hopeless, even moreso than usual for a Harry Dresden tale. As is also usual: Harry’s pre-Hell-breaking-loose checklist.
‘Focus. Forethought. Reason. Sound judgement. That’s what was going to get me through this.
Fact one, my daughter was still in danger.
Fact two, I was hurt. Maybe badly, maybe forever. Even the efficient resilience of a wizard’s body had its limits and a broken spine was quite likely beyond them.
Fact three, Susan and Martin could not get the girl out on their own.
Fact four, there wasn’t a lot of help forthcoming. Maybe, with Sanya along, the suicidal mission could be considered only mostly suicidal… Sanya was the wielder of Esperacchius, The Sword of Hope. We needed hope right now. At least I did.
Fact five, I’d missed the rendezvous with Ebenezar many hours ago. I’d never intended to go and there was nothing I could do about the fact that he was going to be upset. But my absence had probably cost me the support of the Grey Council, such as it was.
Fact six, Sanya, Susan, Martin and whatever scanty help I could drum up couldn’t get to Chichen Itza without me and I sure as hell couldn’t get there in the shape I was in. According to the stored memories in my mother’s jewel, the Way required a swim.
Fact seven, I was going to show up for my daughter and to hell with what it would cost. And there were only so many options open to me.
I took the least terrifying one.’
And then he summons Mab, the Queen of Air and Darkness, who eventually consents to bestow upon him the mantle of the Winter Knight. In a very… interesting yet terrifying way.
‘What we did wasn’t sex, regardless of what it appeared to be. You can’t have sex with a thunderstorm, an earthquake, a furious winter gale. You can’t make love to a mountain, a lake of ice, a freezing wind.’
Harry’s War Council, which consists of most of the regular players, heads out to do battle with the entire Red Court of vampires. I won’t detail the whole of the battle or the end of the book here because, as usual, Butcher skillfully and beautifully crams so much between the covers of this book that to do so would result in a massive review, such as the one I posted last summer (this is a much-revised version of that monster). The sheer amount of information and action that he includes in these stories never ceases to amaze me.
This book was just brutal to Harry. He loses his office, his car, his home… he loses his child almost as soon as he learns of her existence, and he also not only loses her mother but carries the guilt of using her to destroy his enemies. He loses his freedom by becoming the Winter Knight and worries that he’ll lose himself by doing so… and finally, when there’s almost nothing left, he loses his very life.
This was only my second time listening to this particular book in the series and I don’t remember having such strong emotional reactions to some of these scenes the first time through. I’m not sure what it is, exactly–perhaps it’s my increased familiarity with the story and the characters or my heightened appreciation for the genius of James Marsters’ reading, or both–but I found myself in tears more frequently and I cried more intensely than I did when listening to this book for the first time last year.
So, I’m caught up. Finally. And now, I can get to this beautiful book sitting next to me, #13 in the series, which is fittingly and hauntingly titled Ghost Story.
My own personal summary:
The one in which Harry: learns he’s a dad; tells Susan it’s over, for realsies; learns that the Red Court owns his building, just before they blow it up; crashes Arianna Ortega’s bullshit bid for peace in Edinburgh; flees from his basement into the Nevernever and fights a giant centipede; hides Bob and the holy swords in the Nevernever; gets arrested; sees his godmother who gives him a jewel, left in her possession by his mother; meets a god; is sad over the final destruction of the Blue Beetle; helplessly watches Thomas almost eat Molly; saves his elderly neighbors from the fire that destroys the boarding house; is paralyzed; begs an archangel for help; becomes the Winter Knight; wears armor; gets turned into a dog; learns exactly how intelligent Mouse really is; duels Duchess Ortega; saves his daughter; destroys the entire Red Court by killing new-vamp-Susan and generally hates himself for it; learns that Ebenezar is his grandfather and that the bloodline curse was primarily aimed at him; plans a date with Murphy; and… is murdered.
“Something like this will test you like nothing else. You’re going to find out who you are, Harry. You’re going to find out which principles you’ll stand by to your death–and which lines you’ll cross. You’re heading into the badlands. It’ll be easy to get lost.” ~Mac to Harry
‘”Ack!” Fearless master of the witty dialogue, that’s me.’
“I will make Maggie safe. If the world burns because of that then so be it. Me and the kid will roast some marshmallows.” ~Harry to Murphy
“Booya! What have you got for a fiery beam of death? Huh?! You’ve got nothing for a fiery beam of death! Might as well go back to Atari bug boy, ’cause YOU don’t got game enough for ME!” ~Harry to the giant centipede
‘Hells bells, I needed to stop being so arrogant.’
“Not ready for the burden of wise-assery are you.” ~Harry, in a Yoda voice, to Molly
“If we only had a wheel barrow, that would be something.” ~Harry
“Wizards don’t giggle. This is cackling.” ~Harry to Murphy
“The more I look at it, the more certain I am that I have no idea what’s going on.” ~Harry
“I met the Eebs while you three were playing with the ick… ick… with the ickcoocachoo. With the Ick.” ~Harry to Molly
“Whatever you do, do it for love. If you keep to that your path will never wander so far from the light that you can never return.” ~Uriel to Harry
‘I carefully kept myself from letting out a shriek. It would have been unwizardly.’
“I don’t think I’m temperamentally suited for the action thing.” ~Butters to Harry
“Did it hurt when you kissed Mab? Because I always thought that her lips looked so cold that they would burn like streetlamps in Winter. Oo-OOO-ooh, did your tongue get stuck to her like on that Christmastime show?” ~Toot-toot to Harry
“So. Mab. You hit that. You… tapped that ass.” ~Sanya to Harry
“Good, now we have somewhere to go, someone to rescue. This part, I know how to do.” ~Sanya to Harry
‘Hope was a force of nature.’
‘Go, go gadget Faustian bargain.’
‘I stared up at the Erl King and with my typical pithy brilliance said, “Uhhh-ohhh.”‘
“Wow. You really do have a faerie godmother.” ~Susan to Harry
‘If I was on the road to hell, at least I was going in style.’
“That bitch.” ~Mouse, referring to Lea
“Restore them before I rip your ass off. Literally rip it off.” ~Mouse to Lea
“Bite me… asshole.” ~Harry to the Red King
‘I used the knife. I saved a child. I won a war. God forgive me.’
“Only so many black-hearted villains in the world and they only get uppity on occasion. Stupid’s everywhere, every day.” ~Ebenezar
‘The only thing certain in life is change. Most of my changes lately hadn’t been good ones.’
‘Typical. Even when you’re dead, it doesn’t get any easier.’
Check out my other Dresden Files reviews: