I've been an avid follower of Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files since I picked up a yellowing copy of Fool Moon at Landmark. It occurred to me that someone who'd name his book that should have more than a sense of humour- and I was right.
Jim Butcher has put together one of the most wise-ass, street-smart angry young wizard characters the literary world has known. Harry Dresden simply personifies those qualities just mentioned; and that pretty much sums up why people read it; at some point sequels become less about the plot and more about character development. Not so with Codex Alera, Jim Butcher's other series (which already ended, sadly; it was his only successful attempt at sword-and-horse fantasy- his words).
However, much like Star Wars or The Lord of the Rings acquires a cult following for Darth Vader or Gollum, Sauron and so on, The Dresden Files's star attraction is the smart-talking, hard-hitting Chicago Wizard. And at the end of the 12th book in the series, Changes, Harry Dresden is sent to sleep- with the fish.
Now, you'd think that death is the final frontier, but Jim Butcher would disagree. Ghost Story, the 13th in the series, pretty much sums up in the name itself what Dresden's going through now. He's dead, and he has to find out who killed him.
What's not predictable is the fact that for once in his life, Dresden realizes that while he could kick ass alive, in death he keeps getting his ass handed to him by ghosts older and stronger (never mind wiser) and that things are around that could re-kill him. Pretty much a climax of the story is that while Butcher explains frequently that ghosts are memories and not the persons they were, Dresden actually stumbles into the spirit world with his soul intact.
Shouldn't be possible, according to Butcher's World Rules- but Dresden is another version of Branson who won't actually say, "Screw it, let's do it" but he'll just go on to wreak hell.
A host of colourful characters make appearances, and Dresden just realizes that what he did in Changes just about twisted the world around. Killing off a huge faction- worldwide- would have crazy consequences, and combine that with the fact that he was dead- you're talking a lot of power plays all over. Chicago has Dresden's allies to keep it safe- potential lover and ex-cop Karrin Murphy, the now-feared Molly Carpenter who, like Harry, starts training with the Leanansidhe (Harry's Fairy Godmother-and the Sidhe are one bunch of ruthless bastards in Butcher's world) and so on.
Dresden being Dresden realizes that in the end, the only one holding him back is himself- and that as usual, he makes the craziest mistakes ever possible.
Here, I am afraid, is where things get predictable; anyone familiar with The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy should know the point where Zaphod Beeblebrox realizes who the hell erased his memories. Apply the same scenario here, and it's easy to find out who killed Dresden.
All in all, though, it's a much more humane book than the last few (I mean, the first five or so were mostly Dresden being a smartass in the worst situations possible), and Jim Butcher manages to keep the storyline going, as well as leaving us waiting for yet another installment- although the preface indicates that he may soon bring Dresden's stories to an end, let's hope it isn't anytime soon.
Like Sherlock Holmes, Dresden's an anytime read, simply for the fun of it.
Reviewer's opinion: 3.5/5
Pros: Changes in scenario, and character development and overall ending.
Cons: Story feels slightly bland, predictable outcome to the murder.