By: Corey Lack
Grave Peril is the third book in Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files series and it is the first book where the path that seemed to set for the series takes a sudden and unexpected turn. The best way to describe it is like this if the first real chapter in a book and the previous two books were the prologue. That is how different the plot of this book to the previous two.
The plot has multiple plotlines that manages to get tied up in a great and dramatic climax that, as mentioned earlier, changes the entire direction of the plot. First, Dresden is working with a newly introduced character, Michael, a knight of the Cross, to investigate why ghosts throughout the city are suddenly so violent and powerful, only for their investigation to interrupted by the appearance of Dresden’s fairy godmother. Yes, that is really who she is, but she’s not there to help him, at least not by Harry’s definition. After the two escape from her, Harry is suddenly invited to a party by Bianca St. Claire, the powerful vampiress of the Red Court of Vampires, which can’t possibly lead to even more trouble for Harry. Then, Harry has to worry not only about his godmother popping in and homicidal ghosts, but also whatever Bianca is up to.
One of the great things about this book is that it is the first time the author actively uses aspects from religion and ancient mythologies to affect the plot. The concept of the Fae and a fairy “realm” goes back centuries and Butcher managed to make it fit into a more modern story that also includes aspects of the Christian religion, vampires, wizards, and dragons. On top of that, he gives each of the different factions and species their own rules and restrictions while also sticking to the rules he’s given magic through the past two books.
Another great aspect about the book is to show that these factions that always seem to be after Harry aren’t some Borg collective all after the same goal. Butcher shows this through the introduction of Thomas Raith, a vampire of the White Court who is disliked even among his own people. In fact, Thomas, when he is first introduced at Bianca’s party that of course Harry ended up going to, is treated with obvious dislike by his fellow vampiric partygoers and it even turns out that Bianca herself has a grudge against him. This is made even worse by everyone knowing that Thomas’s father sent his least favored child as a hope that Bianca will kill him.
Now, without talking about major spoilers, let’s discuss the plot. As I have mentioned, it changes the direction of the overarching plot rather dramatically. To give you an idea, let’s compare this to another series that most people likely know by now where the main character is a wizard named Harry. Yes, I’m talking about Harry Potter. Like with the first three books of in that series, the first two books of the Dresden Files have everything turn out alright in the end and only the merest hints of possible trouble on the horizon. Well, at the end of this book, like at the end of the fourth Potter book, the trouble is shown to be here and everything doesn’t just turn out alright for the heroes. This dramatic change of pace is sudden, unexpected, and I totally love it. Add into the fact that everything great about the previous two books is still very present makes this book a must-read.