Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Dresden Files: White Night review

     As my reviews will indicate, I considered Jim Butcher to be on a role from Blood Rites onward. Subsequent novels Dead Rites and Proven Guilty were amongst my favorite in the series and introduced series favorites Butters as well as Molly. White Night isn't quite as good as these volumes but is still really-really good and one of the last of the books I unambiguously loved without qualification.

    Yes, that's a bit ominous isn't it?

    The premise of White Night is there's been a series of murders across Chicago by an obvious supernatural force. These individuals aren't killed in the traditional "blood and guts" sort of way but in more subtle ones, including death-by-sex whose discovery is rather hilarious. All of the victims turn out to be low-level practitioners of the mystic art, witches and magicians not powerful enough to join the White Council.

    Harry must find out who is interested in preying on those who have very little magic or involvement in the ongoing war with the Red Court of vampires. Complicating matters is Harry's possession by the demon Lashiel, a spirit who wishes to corrupt him to the Dark Side and is willing to do so through giving him everything he's ever wanted. Harry is losing ground every day through the temptation to use hellish powers to do good.

    White Knight is an excellent story less because of the mystery, which is decent enough, than because of the follow-up on so many other plot-lines. We get a return of Elaine from Summer Knight, the Raith clan of White Court Vampires, Carlos Ramirez the Warden, Molly Carpenter, Butters, and even minor ones like Helen Beckitt. This is a very continuity-heavy story and yet for fans of the series, is quite enjoyable for it.

    Part of what I liked about the book is the strong relationships between all of the characters. Murphy and Harry's friendship, Molly's crush on Harry, Elaine's past relationship with Harry, Helen Beckitt's friendship with her fellow witches, Butter's increasing interest in the supernatural, and a general moving away from the episodic missions of the previous books to full immersion in the overarching plot.

    Another element I like is it goes further into analyzing what it means for Harry to be part of the Wardens now. Having been one of the criminals chased by the White Council for most of his life, he's now feared and hated by exactly the sort of people he used to consider himself to be a part of. Watching Harry try to deal with people who believe he's a mad dog killer as well as an instrument of the law is both funny as well as moving.

    The White Court of vampires politics are another great thing to be enjoyed here. Lara Raith is a fabulous villainess, basically Cersei Lannister if she had all of her father's intelligence and cunning. Her scenes with Harry crackle and I really wish those two would get together. She's the best femme fatale in a series filled with them. The fact she's confirmably evil but on our heroes' side is something which adds to the ambiguity of her character.

    The Lashiel subplot was one I felt was starting to drag after three books devoted to it but the conclusion to it here was quite satisfying, as well as a bit touching. I never thought I'd expect to be moved by a plot involving demonic possession but I was. Their interaction throughout the novel was a delight and you could see where each of them gave ground to the other.

    Despite this, White Night didn't quite grab me as much as its immediate predecessors. It relies heavily on past continuity and doesn't quite pop out the same way. It's still a great novel, though, and something I think every fan of the series would enjoy. It's perhaps not the best book to start the series on, though.


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