Tuesday, December 28, 2021

 See How Harry Digs a Hole for Himself In. . .

Grave Peril

Okay then. Here we go on Harry Dresden’s third outing, Grave Peril. And this one sounds as if it might be his best – and most difficult – caper yet.

Let’s take a peek at the Blurb:

Harry Dresden’s faced some pretty terrifying foes during his career. Giant scorpions. Oversexed vampires. Psychotic werewolves. It comes with the territory, when you’re the only professional wizard in the Chicago area phone book.

But in all Harry’s years of supernatural sleuthing, he’s never faced anything like this: the spirit world’s gone postal. All over Chicago, ghosts are causing trouble—and not just of the door-slamming, boo-shouting variety. These ghosts are tormented, violent, and deadly. Someone—or something—is purposely stirring them up to wreak unearthly havoc. But why? And why do so many of the victims have ties to Harry? If Harry doesn’t figure it out soon, he could wind up a ghost himself...


So what do we get?

A story of – what I like to call – “start/stop/starts.” That’s what.

What do I mean?

Let me explain. It starts off well: this adventure takes place about twelve months after his previous one, and Harry has made some new friends. In particular, Michael. A holy knight with a blessed sword. Just the thing Harry needs when dealing with all things fiendish and foul. Which is exactly what you get from page 1. Harry and Michael are speeding toward a local hospital where a crèche full of infants are in danger from the specter of a dead nurse. She’s powerful. She’s nasty. And before her death, was desperately unhinged. You get an idea from the blurb that she’s also hyped up on some form of ghostly steroids.

So, we’re straight into a bout of magical mayhem and fisticuffs. Action that hooks you into the storyline and gets you invested almost from the moment you turn that first page . . . (That’s the great start I mentioned).
Then things grind to a near-stop when Harry is presented with the perfect opportunity to end the situation early on, only to do what I complained about in the previous novel. His Mr. Nice Guy/goody-two-shoes syndrome kicks in, and spoils what is a great opening action scene.

I mean, think about it. A nursery full of newborns is in peril. The ghost is killing them, draining their little souls away. One baby in particular has been singled out, and has already stopped breathing. Harry Dresden is gifted with an opening that would unbind the phantom and send her back where she belongs. What would any sane person in their right mind do?
Yup . . . ZAP! Goodbye spook. You’re already dead, so get yourself back into the spirit realm and stay there where you can’t harm anyone else.
Except, Harry doesn’t do that. Just as he’s about to dispatch the infant-murdering ghoul, he feels a pang of sympathy for what she went through in life and holds back. Not only does that turn everything upside down, increasing the danger for everyone present, but for me, (and this is only my personal opinion, mind you), it arrested the connection I’d made with the story. I just can’t imagine anyone in a position to save so many children acting so irresponsibly . . . and all because he didn’t want to hurt a poor ghost’s feelings?

Anyway, I stuck with it and soldiered on.

Thankfully, the story picked up again sufficiently to recapture my interest. But it was trying, as there were several more instances where Dresden acted like a wet-wipe in a way nobody in their right mind would do, which dragged the tempo right down.

And yes. I know we’re talking about a work of fiction here. Something designed to titillate and entertain. Yet, works of fantasy also need to carry a solid element of reality. Something the reader can anchor themselves to, thereby allowing them to stretch the realms of ‘what might be’ into the fringes of the ‘might be plausible’ or ‘yeah, I can see that happening.’ And I don’t know. Perhaps it’s my background. But when I see a character gain control of a situation, or gain the upper hand, only to choose – time and time again, and quite deliberately – to put other decent, innocent, law-abiding (you get the picture) characters in danger at the expense of a bunch of supernatural murdering scumbags? No. It grates on my nerves and spoils my enjoyment of what would otherwise be a great story.

Like I said at the beginning, it’s a start/stop/start kinda tale. It begins like a blazing comet; sputters badly, due to the main character’s unbelievable choices; stokes up the heat for a second time; cools again; recovers well; only to fizzle toward a finishing line that thankfully raises the bar to pyrotechnic glory with its dying breath.

A shame. I really, really want to like this series. But I think it might give me hives if I try any more.

Amazon Review

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