“Harry, the only wizard in the Chicago phone book, is drafted to look into rumors of black magic in the Windy City. And if that wasn’t enough, he must help the daughter of an old friend, whose boyfriend was the only one in a room where an old man was attacked. He insists he didn’t do it. And what looks like a supernatural assault straight out of a horror film turns out to be — well, something quite close to that, as Harry discovers that malevolent entities that feed on fear are loose in Chicago.”
Thoughts: Proven Guilty, the eighth book in The Dresden Files, opens with the reader’s first glimpse of Harry in his new role as a Warden of the White Council. As a position he has always despised, he must reconcile his abhorrence at the blind following of the law that the Council tends to adopt with his own sensibilities and ethics. It is a complication that lends sobriety to a series that tends to veer towards the jocular as often as possible and a major clue that Harry will have to master his tendency to crack jokes first and think through his words carefully if he hopes to prove capable of attending to the Big Bad storyline that is brewing a little stronger with each novel. In fact, everything about Proven Guilty establishes Harry’s growing involvement in White Council business, political and magical, and paves the way for future character maturation before Mr. Butcher reveals the final master plot.
What makes Dresden’s world so interesting is the interconnectedness of his circle of friends and acquaintances. Every novel adds another level of depth and understanding to these side characters. In Proven Guilty, the readers get the chance to know more than just Michael but the entire Carpenter family. Charity’s disapproval and distrust of Harry, as well as Molly’s teenage confusion, establishes a better knowledge of the Carpenter family dynamic and Michael’s special role in the battle between good and evil than Michael’s direct involvement in Harry’s cases ever did. While Harry’s story is essential to the overarching plot of the entire series, it is the spotlighted side characters that bring heart and added tension to the individual storylines.
What can be said about James Marsters as narrator that has not already been said? His ability to move beyond the words on the page and bring to life Harry and the entire cast of characters is practically unparalleled. Dresden’s Chicago comes to life through his narration better than any reader’s imagination could create. Let’s face it – Mr. Marsters actually makes an old Volkswagen Beetle a sympathetic secondary character. If he can do that with inanimate objects, imagine what he does with sentient beings and then go experience it for yourself. You will not be disappointed!
With Proven Guilty, Mr. Butcher continues to build upon a strong series. This is no series built haphazardly but rather a full and carefully plotted story reminiscent of J.J. Abrams and Joss Whedon, whereby each successive story is better, more engaging, and more informative than the last. Harry’s future is building towards something big – that is something careful readers unequivocally know thanks to subtle hints and clues. However, what it is remains tantalizingly unknown. As the stakes get higher, and the reader gets closer to uncovering the Big Bad Plot, the series gets more and more interesting, if that is even possible. Proven Guilty uncovers a few new clues for readers to contemplate while allowing the characters to sufficiently develop to continue to make them realistic and at the same time providing an intriguing standalone story. This means that Proven Guilty is not exactly what fans of The Dresden Files series have come to expect; it is even better than expected.
Acknowledgments: Mine. All mine.