Let Sleeping Dogs Lie…

This week over at The Fantasy Review Barn we are travelling once again through the tropes of fantasy.  This week’s topic is pets.  I’ve decided to stick to our best friends.  The canines!

Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden has a dog – Mouse.  Quite the opposite as he’s something of a giant!

Kevin Hearne’s Druid Chronicles – Atticus the Druid has a dog called Oberon.  Oberon is one of the best fictional dog characters EVER and has the funniest lines of the whole book – well, no, he doesn’t talk but Atticus and Oberton can converse telepathcially.

J K Rowling’s Harry Potter.  Hagrid’s dogs – Fluffy and Fang – I think Fluffy was the three headed dog and Fang is the big black shaggy soft hearted critter.

Toto – The Wizard of Oz – not even going to give a name or description – don’t be pretending that you don’t know who Toto is or I’ll set the flying monkeys on you.  Would have mentioned them as pets to the Wicked Witch but I’ve decided to stick with the dawgs!

A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs – John Carter finds himself with a very unusual dog like character called Woola – fiercely protective and with three sets of teeth quite a formidable character.

Honorary Mentions –

JRRTolkien’s LotR – Bill the Pony

Captain the cat from Owl and the Japanese Circus by Kristi Charish because a vampire hunting cat is pretty cool

Blood Rites by Jim Butcher

I love this series!  It seems like every book just gets better than the last – which is a pretty awesome accomplishment considering I enjoyed all the previous books in the first place.  How can they just keep getting better and better?  Well, I suppose it’s because we find out a little bit more about Harry during every adventure.  A little more about how he got where he is today and what motivates him, so that whilst every story is individual and self contained, they also follow on and link into one another – that just sounds total nonsense but if you’ve read this series you’ll know what I mean!  If you haven’t then – firstly, what are you waiting for? and secondly, get on with it!  This is a really entertaining series with some great characters.  If you’re not already aware Harry is a private detective working out of Chicago.  So far so normal.  However, he’s also a magician and he has fairly regular encounters with a range of unusual creatures ranging from demons to brownies.  He’s got a great sense of snarky humour, a soft spot for a damsel in distress and an ability to very quickly find himself in masses of trouble.

Blood Rites gets off to a fiery start with Harry rescuing a box of puppies from the clutches of some evil demon monkeys – demon monkeys who throw pooh!  In his escape he’s assisted by Thomas, one of the vampires from the White Court who we’ve met in previous instalments.  Thomas seems to show up unexpectedly on a number of occasions and this time he has a request for Harry.  It seems that somebody who he knows may have become the subject of an entropy curse and two unlucky people have already died as a result of getting in the way of this curse and Thomas wants Harry to intercede before its too late.  This involves going undercover a little bit and in this respect Harry poses as an assistant on a movie set.  The person he is assisting (or protecting) is called Arturo, the producer of pornographic movies who has recently broken away from the main studio to go it alone.  The plot quickly branches out from there with more than one thread being explored.

As you’ll know by this point we’ve been introduced to the White, Red and Black courts – all vampires, but all different in terms of their behaviour.  In this particular story the black court are still determined to make Harry pay for his past misdemeanours (at least in their eyes).  The Black Court vampires are particularly nasty!  The White Court on the other hand have always felt somewhat ‘softer’ somehow – that impression is set to change slightly in this story as we become familiar with some more of Thomas’s family and in particular the feared head of the family.  As we do so we get to see a different side of things altogether.

Straight away Harry is thrown in at the deep end.  He has the black court jumping out of dark corners at him at every opportunity and on top of this he’s trying to come to grips with the entropy curse and exactly what the motive is behind it.  He ropes in Murphy to help make discreet enquiries without drawing attention and then further needs her aid in helping to try and destroy a Black Vampires nest that has been established in the town.

Why did I really love this particular story.  Well, although it doesn’t appear to have any out and out wars in this one, more Harry trying to stay alive and solve a case whilst surviving no end of cuts, bumps and bruises, I really enjoyed the extra knowledge that comes with this story.  Thomas gains family in a most unexpected way.  He also finds out a few home truths about his mentor Ebenezer which don’t sit too easily with him.  We get an insight into Murphy and what takes place in her personal live – and OMG – her sister!!!  On top of this Bob obviously makes an appearance and Kincaid also reappears on the scene – and we get to see a different and darker side of him than previously, particularly when Harry uses his ‘sight’ to see what’s really there.

Harry’s adventures are always fast paced, rough and tumble.  There’s always plenty going on.  If you like dark urban fantasy with plenty of humour thrown in for light relief plus a mystery to be solved then you’ll love Harry.  Clearly Jim Butcher, has found in Harry, a character that is going to keep growing with every story thereby endearing him more to his readers and, as is proving to be the case, ensure his longevity.

I love this character and definitely recommend this series.

 

The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher: Ghoul Goblin

I just finished reading Ghoul Goblin which is a graphic novel combining six comics plus extras such as a summary of the series.  The story is set in the world of Harry Dresden and is a completely unique story (as oppose to being one of the already written books turned into graphic format).

I enjoyed this.  I can’t say that I’ve read extensively of graphic novels, because frankly I haven’t, but I find it’s something that I think I could quite easily become enamoured with!  That being said, I’m clearly no expert – I just like what I like – so, if I come up with a pile of gibberish in the eyes of all the experts out there than that’s my defence!

The story in Ghoul Goblin revolves around a family that seem to have been the subject of a curse.  Harry becomes involved when one of the local lawmen seeks his help following a couple of grisly murders of two of the Talbot family members.  This involves Harry travelling away from his usual Chicago stomping ground to the quiet town of Boon Mill in Missouri.  Of course not everybody there is pleased to make his acquaintance and he becomes particularly unpopular after causing havoc at the funeral for the most recently deceased.  The story involves near death experiences with a ghoul and a goblin, being thrown into a cell by the local law – who think he’s some sort of charlatan and seeking the help of a guardian spirit.  Something which is far from easy and involves encountering a rather large, okay huge, snake.

What I particularly liked about this is it’s a unique storyline that fans haven’t read before.  It gives everybody a little snippet of Harry whilst they’re waiting for further instalments and it brings together all the usual Harry trademarks.  The duster, Bob, the VW and Harry’s strange aversion to anything electronic, or more to the point the fact that he’s the glitch in the system.  It was also interesting to read a story about Harry accompanied by graphics – although I think Butcher does such an amazing job in the books that visuals aren’t really necessary. I thought the graphics were well done, the story, although obviously much shorter than I’m used to when reading about Harry, was intriguing and the overall experience of reading a graphic novel is so refreshingly different, almost less intense, than reading a novel (or do I just like ogling the pictures!)

In terms of criticisms.  I didn’t have anything major although I felt like the graphics could have been slightly darker.  That could simply be that my only experience with graphic novels is the Sandman series which is very dark but the Dresden Files is certainly not a series aimed at a YA audience.  It can be quite violent and doesn’t shy away from the grim and harsh realities of the strange world that Harry inhabits.  I think I wanted more creep factor is all but this wasn’t enough to spoil the experience for me.

I think if you love Harry and you’re just dying for your fix then this will be a great pick me up in between instalments.

I received this from Net Galley in exchange for a honest review.  The above is my own opinion.

 

Death Masks by Jim Butcher

Just finished reading Death Masks by Jim Butcher and at the risk of sounding repetitive this series just keeps getting better.  Harry Dresden is a private investigator working out of Chicago.  The ace up is sleeve is that he’s also a wizard.  He’s a wizard who seems to be storing up more and more bad feeling between him and a lot of nasty characters – such as vampires and demons.  Death Masks is No5 in the Dresden Files so beware of potential spoilers.

In the latest instalment Harry lands himself into all sorts of trouble.  As we all know the Red Court don’t like him very much.  Neither, for that matter, do his peers on the White Council!  (Well, there are a few exceptions – thankfully).  We start off with a new job, desperately needed by our wizard PI – the Shroud (of Turin no less) has been stolen.  Interest has been sparked and it’s recovery is essential to prevent a rather dreadful prophecy from being fulfilled.  On top of that we have a dead body – sans head and hands, some rather dastardly Denarians (more about that in a moment), the return of Susan, still struggling with her semi-vampiric nature and Michael and a couple of his co-workers, i.e. two other Knights of the Cross.

Firstly, the story.  Loads going on this time around that all comes together very well at the end.  There’s the theft of the Shroud, and the investigation to find the thieves and the intended buyer.  Something is going on with the Knights of the Cross who all seem to have descended – scenting trouble somehow.  And, Harry has been given a resolution to the impending conflict between the White and the Red – a challenge to the death with one of the Red Court Warriors – Ortega, with a promise that the war will be called off if Dresden accepts the challenge.

The characters.  We literally have the good, the bad and the ugly going on this time around.  These Denarians are some bad ass critters who I don’t want to meet, ever, thank you very much.  They’re incredibly powerful, very difficult to get rid of and can shapeshift into some pretty terrible nastiness.  We have a reappearance of Susan who has become a lot more clued in during her absence.  She can look after herself now and on top of that instead of being a bit ‘yippee here’s a life threatening situation lets have some fun’ she now seems to realise that the ‘life threatening’ bit is actually quite serious!  She has a man in tow and the sparks of jealousy coming off Harry could cause some serious damage.  We have two new Knights of the Cross – a Russian guy – who actually doesn’t believe in God – and Shiro who is like some sort of Japanese master – now, I don’t know why but I just kept picturing Master Shifu out of Kung Fu Panda – yes, I know, different countries and a whole other load of stuff that makes that wrong but the picture was there anyway.  And, is this crazy, but I liked the role that Marcone had this time round – could it be possible that I’m starting to like him??  Surely not, but he had a good bit of banter going on with Harry this time round and on top of this he jumped straight into the fray when needed, even if it was a little self-serving.

On top of all that Butcher continues with his world building and the world he is imagining is becoming a very easy place to imagine. The circle of friends and acquaintances who Harry mixes with is expanded upon each time with old characters sometimes taking a bit part or sitting out the story completely but resurfacing for a later instalment.

What else can I say.  I really enjoyed it and have no hesitation in recommending this series.