Grave Peril (The Dresden Files #3) by Jim Butcher

This review contains slight spoilers for the first (Storm Front) and second (Fool Moon) books in the Dresden Files.

Grave Peril is the third book in the bestselling urban fantasy series The Dresden Files. The Dresden Files is currently composed of thirteen main “case file” novels and numerous short stories, some of which are collected in an exclusive anthology (Side Jobs).

Harry Dresden has fought an evil sorcerer and a gaggle of werewolves, but now he must face ghosts that are running amok in Chicago. While dealing with this uprising of ghosts, Harry is brought into conflict with the powerful vampire court. To make matters worse, one of the vampire courts is headed by someone who wants him dead. While dealing with all of these supernatural occurrences, Harry also has to juggle his love life.

An ever expanding world
Grave Peril is typically known as the turning point of The Dresden Files, and for good reason. The reader is introduced to an expanded cast composed of a paladin, a fairy temptress, and a semi-good vampire. The reader also gets a glimpse of the political aspects of Harry’s world. Most of the politicking involves the White Council (the court for wizards), and the various Vampire Courts. For centuries, the White Council has been much stronger than the vampire courts, but the vampires have learned a few new tricks so that they can gain the advantage. The tenuous relationship between the White Council and the Vampire Courts will excite those who love deception, and politics.

A sympathetic hero
Grave Peril’s plot is riveting, but the thing that will keep you up at night is the protagonist, Harry Dresden. Harry is a self-described chauvinist, a wise-cracking wizard, and most importantly, a good person. Underneath Harry’s self-deprecating humor lies a man who is willing to go to hell and back for the people close to him. This is important to note because, unlike the first two books, Harry has quite a few people he has to protect.  There are many times throughout the novel when Harry must decide if he should save himself or face an unfathomable number of enemies to save his friends. Harry’s personality is not composed only of sunshine; we get see a bit about his past and some of his darker actions. If you are tired of the perfect Mary Sue protagonist, you need to read the Grave Peril. Harry is a good person, but incredibility flawed.

The importance of magic
At first glance, the magic in Grave Peril is extremely generic. We see an assortment of magical swords, staves, and wind spells, but don’t let this fool you. What sets Gravel Peril’s magic apart from other novels is how closely the characters are connected to their magic. Most fantasy novels treat magic as a tool which the characters use for various purposes. The characters are typically separate from their magic, like a police officer is separate from his gun.  The characters of Grave Peril, however, see magic as an extension of themselves. When a character is depressed, their magic ebbs, but it grows stronger as the character is enraged. You can feel the emotional toll with every spell cast by the characters, and how important magic is to them, especially to Harry.

Why should you read this book?
If you are looking for the voice of urban fantasy, I highly recommend Grave Peril. This voice is composed of a beautifully crafted world, a brilliant lead, and an emotionally charged magic system.  If you have not read the first 2 novels in The Dresden Files, you should hurry so you can read this one—it is truly a gem.

About Cameron Harris

Cameron Harris
Many people think the old adage of being born a nerd is hyperbole, but if they met me, they would know it was true. I have been an avid reader of fantasy for many years now. While most college students find partying to be fun, I typically like being lost in the pages of a book instead. I also enjoy playing a copious amount of video games, and watching a lot of anime.

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