Proven Guilty is my second favorite Dresden Files novel (the first being Blood Rites), so don't expect anything resembling an objective review. This book introduces the adult version of my all-time-favorite character in the series, Molly Carpenter, and also focuses on one of my favorite movie genres: 80s horror! Yes, it's Harry Dresden versus Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees, and the xenomorph from Alien! Okay, he only fights thinly-veiled stand-ins for the first two but the latter he fights directly! He even quotes Sigourney Weaver's iconic line while rescuing Newt! You can't get much more awesome than that.
The premise of the novel is Harry has been called to help Molly Carpenter investigate a series of suspicious deaths at a local horror convention. Simultaneously, there's shenanigans going on behind the scenes with the Summer and Winter Courts of the fae. This isn't surprising but their feud is costing the White Council a valuable advantage in their war against the vampiric Red Court. Harry must put all of his investigative skill to use in order to unravel who is doing what, to who, and how.
As mentioned, a major part of this book's appeal is the (re)introduction of Molly Carpenter. While she's been introduced before, this is the book which really sets her place in Harry's supporting cast. Molly is a young Goth and Punk wizardess who is the daughter of what amounts to God's Chosen Warrior on Earth. A rebellious youth, to say the least, Molly is also blessed with the potential to do magic.
While Michael Carpenter, her father, is best friends with Harry, her mother is decidedly against against her learning the ways of wizardry. This, amongst other problems of living in a house so straight-laced it would give the Osmonds diabetes, has driven her to run away. While much of the story is about the usual urban fantasy shenanigans Harry has to deal with, it's also about a relationship between a family which has lost the ability to communicate.
Molly is a great character, not just because I'm unnaturally fond of Goth and punk girls (having married one), but her entire attitude. She's cheerful, irreverent, angry, and ambitious all in equal measures. She doesn't hate her family but she doesn't want their life either. The fact Molly nurses an enormous crush on Harry makes me want to see them get together at the end of the series too.
There's a lot of great moments from the aforementioned battle between Harry Dresden and horror movie monsters from the 80s as well as a grand finale which takes our hero to the heart of the Winter Court. The book also elaborates on the setting's world-building, given us insights into how black magic works as well as the consequences should it go wrong. Many hints are given to the ultimate enemy of the series and the overarching plot is moved along without distracting from the book's strong central narrative.
By this point in the series, Jim Butcher has really hit his stride. He knows who these characters are, what kind of world they live in, and is able to tell an effortless story which still manages to reveal new facets to the leads. Watching Harry struggle with being a Warden after books of being hunted by them is one of my favorite elements. It flips his perspective on events and shows him what it must have been like for his tormentors. Harry is still more merciful than most of his kind but the newly deputized Dresden has to make some uncomfortable choices this time around.
In short, this book is awesome and one of the best in the franchise. Newcomers may be a bit lost but it's a read I wouldn't want to miss.