In book nine of The Dresden Files, Jim Butcher’s bestselling series, we return to the world of Harry Dresden, wizard private eye. White Night sees Harry with a new apprentice, a bit of a new reputation, and a new case: someone has been murdering the magical practitioners of Chicago and leaving references to the book of Exodus and the killing of witches. But when Harry sets out to track down the killer, the evidence he gathers points to one person he cannot possibly believe guilty: Thomas Raith, semi-reformed vampire. However, in his endeavors to clear Thomas’ name, Harry attracts the attention of the White Court of Vampires and finds himself embroiled in a power play that leaves him outgunned, outclassed, outmaneuvered, and with those he holds dear at risk of serious—even fatal—harm.
Business as usual. Mostly.
Worldbuilding in white
Following in the footsteps of the previous installments in the series, White Night delves into a couple of aspects of Harry’s world that haven’t been as fully explored before: in this case, The White Court of Vampires—vampires who feed on the life energy of mortals—and the Wardens of the White Council of Wizards. While we’ve known about the four Courts of vampires that Butcher has mentioned before (Red, Black, White, and Jade), this is the first time we get a glimpse of the inner workings of the White Court—and discover that there are “subspecies” of vampires. There are three main houses in the White Court: House Raith, whose members inspire and feed on lust; House Malvora, whose members inspire and feed on fear; and House Skavis, whose members inspire and feed on pain and despair.
This is an example of why I love the world of The Dresden Files—Butcher isn’t content to have just one simple type of a supernatural something. No, he has to go and create four different kinds of vampire and then some. It makes for a distinctly rich and unique world, and gives it a complexity and sense of life that many urban fantasy worlds fail to have in the first place, much less match.
In addition to the White Court, the Wardens of the White Council get some screen time in White Night. More specifically, we get a glimpse of Harry’s role within the Wardens: working with Regional Commander Carlos Ramirez to train the next batch of Wardens to help them get up to snuff before they head out into the world to deal with all of the things that go bump in the night. And Harry… is not always the best at teaching. Which is highly entertaining.
Fleshing out the supporting roles
In White Night, a good number of secondary characters get some major screen time, and it’s what makes the novel one of my favorites in the series. “Gentleman” John Marcone, crime boss and lord of Chicago’s underworld, is one of these. Up until this point, we’ve seen very little of Marcone apart from the skilled and ruthless businessman. But in White Night, we catch a glimpse of what makes Marcone tick—and so does Harry, who hates that Marcone can’t simply be Evil™, but has to go along with it, anyway.
But the character who simply makes this novel for me is my second-favorite character in the series (my favorite being Harry’s cat, Mister, of course): Warden Carlos Ramirez. Ramirez is almost as snarky as Harry, and uses his wits at Harry’s expense pretty much constantly. He’s also one hell of a combat wizard, and proceeds to show his skill in the inevitable showdown between Harry and the murderer of the practitioners of Chicago. This is also interesting about him, because his magic is completely different from Harry’s. Where Harry likes using fire and force in his magics, Ramirez is more about using physics and principles of entropy against his opponents. It makes for some very interesting combat. And commentary from Harry’s side.
A glimpse at the bigger picture
White Night is one of the first novels that hints at the bigger things to come in the series, and it does so in no small ways. Harry begins to think about the connections between some of his previous cases, and has other information brought to his attentions. Like the circumstances surrounding his birth.
Why should you read this book?
White Night follows in the footsteps of its predecessors and meets the standard with flying colors. It continues to flesh out both Harry’s world and its inhabitants, and does so in ways that keep a reader continually engaged in the story. One hell of a magical murder mystery with a fantastic combination of introspection and high-octane action sequences, White Night is one of the best-balanced installments in The Dresden Files.