Author: Jim Butcher
Narrator: James Marsters
Audiobook Length: 11 hours, 59 minutes
Synopsis (Courtesy of Powell’s Books):
“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 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…”
Thoughts: Poor Harry Dresden. The man just cannot catch a break. Every time he defeats a big bad, another one rears its ugly head, causing more mayhem and danger. In Grave Peril, Harry has the benefit of the support and back-up of his friend, Michael. A certified Knight of God, Michael brings the power of faith to the battles against the forces of evil, with much success. This added element humanizes Harry by showcasing the fact that in spite of all his powers, there are powers that can supersede his own and for which he needs help if he hopes to win his battles against evil.
Much of Grave Peril is spent in the Never-Never, introducing the reader to Harry’s fairy godmother, who has insidious plans for Harry of which the reader only catches hints. The reader also gets additional hints that Harry’s memories of his mother and father may be faulty, or at least his understanding of their natures may be skewed. There is much more to Harry’s past than even Harry realizes, and these tantalizing glimpses at his mysterious family add a layer of continuity and intrigue to the overarching plot. With a total of fourteen novels in the series, and more to follow, one can only imagine that the truth will be revealed in dribs and drabs. However, enough is revealed in each, so far, that the reader is satisfied with the small bit of knowledge learned and eagerly anticipates learning more.
At the beginning of this audiobook, Jim Butcher introduces this third novel in his Dresden series and mentions that the series owes its popularity to James Marsters’ narration. I agree wholeheartedly. Marsters epitomizes Dresden: his chivalry, his inability to run away from danger, and his snarkiness. In Marsters, Dresden comes alive. Marsters’ Dresden is more than the only actively practicing wizard in the Chicagoland area but rather an everyman, one with special powers but still fallible to a pretty face, poverty, and danger. The reader cares because Dresden, through Marsters, is so earnest in his need to help the less fortunate. It really adds an entirely new dimension to a fabulous storyline.
Grave Peril is not perfect. There is much that is left unanswered, and the mysterious Big Bad Wizard, with powers Harry has never before seen and who is behind a majority of the evil doings, appears and then disappears without any true confrontation. One can only assume it is because Harry will face this threat again, but there is no clear resolution between the two foes. The tidy endings that marked the first two novels is missing with this third novel. A decidedly Pyrrhic victory for Harry leaves a bit of a bad taste in the mouth of the reader, if only because it is a departure from what the reader has come to expect.
In spite of the flaws in Grave Peril, it is so easy to gush about this series because James Marsters is truly a fabulous narrator. Of even more importance, however, is the fact that the stories are extremely entertaining. Harry is flawed, but the reader can overlook those flaws because Harry means well. His unique perspective on power, and in the case of Grave Peril, the power of faith, are comforting to readers, as it takes the mystical, fantastic elements of magic and makes them seem real and attainable. In spite of all the bad that Harry faces, he remains confident that good will always win. As a metaphor for our own society and its evils, Harry provides hope. It is an endearing message wrapped in an exciting package.