Grave Peril (Dresden #3), by Jim Butcher

Michael unbuckled his seatbelt, even before the car had come to a stop and reached into the back seat to draw an enormous sword, fully five feet long in its black scabbard, from the back seat.

  • TITLE: Grave Peril (The Dresden Files #3)
  • AUTHOR: Jim Butcher
  • PUBLICATION DATE: 1st September 2001
  • PUBLISHER: Orbit (UK)

Grave Peril begins slightly differently to the previous two Dresden novels, in that you are thrown straight into the action. Furthermore, for the first time we see Harry really working with someone: Michael Carpenter.

Michael is a Knight of the Cross (or Knight of the Sword). He wields a holy sword and is driven by his devout faith in God (of the Christian variety) and he lends Harry his aid when their paths cross. He does, however undertake his own work without Harry, and that he has done for many years, bearing the “burden” of the sword.

So far, the only character who actively participates in the casework has been Harry (with the exception of Murphy), so it was a great addition and change of pace to see Harry “partnered up”.

Unlike the other Dresden novels so far, much of the plot revolves around a case that does not appear in the book itself, but rather took place previously. In this instance, the case is not an investigation into a homicide-by-magic, rather, restless spirits wreaking havoc and a mysterious Nightmare causing chaos in the Nevernever, bent on something even Harry can’t fathom—yet.

With the bulk of Grave Peril revolving around spirits and ghosts, we are invited to fully glimpse the Nevernever for the first time—the world of demons, faeries and other supernatural creatures. Butcher’s execution of this is seamless, imaginative and just familiar enough that readers naturally slip into the setting.

The plot of Grave Peril is expertly woven and utterly seamless and inventive: it is predictable enough to be comprehended without explanation, and surprising enough that Grave Peril is the slickest, quirkiest Dresden novel yet. This is where Butcher’s true talent for weaving a story begins to show: he effortlessly crafts a gripping story whilst crafting the world surrounding it more solidly than ever before. His own complete understanding of the rules and conventions of his supernatural and his magic make sure that there are no holes, no snags and no awkward moments throughout the entire book. Butcher entirely understands his world and his characters and presents them accordingly.

This instalment is really where the wider world in which Harry exists is glimpsed: from occasional peeks into the Nevernever, to further mention of his parents, initially hinted at in Fool Moon, a larger story with subtle subplots is being formed, a larger story that has Harry Dresden at its heart.

And if rampant ghosts and the visions of a Cassandra’s Tears curse weren’t enough, whenever he even so much as tickles in pinkie-toe into the Neverever, it seems his Faerie Godmother is never far behind with her hellhounds close-by. Tensions mount both in the Nevernever and the mortal world and Harry has to find a way of preventing all hell breaking loose—and even then, he might not have the power to prevent everything that may come to pass from doing so. Moreover, he might be entirely unwilling to pay the price of peace. The only alternative to peace, is war.

Grave Peril begins to give readers a glimpse into Harry Dresden’s heart—and it’s not as cold as even he might think. As his relationship with Susan Rodriguez develops and Harry thinks about those Three Words, darker forces lurk in the background of this case and threaten to change everything.

This instalment is a turning point: the third book of the Dresden Files and by far the most exciting and gripping yet. Laced with political complexity in the supernatural and mortal worlds, flecked with twisted mysteries, and topped off with a growing cast of likeable, approachable characters, Grave Peril is an absolute winner and fans of urban fantasy would be mad not to give Dresden a try.

Utterly excellent in both scope, imagination, and presentation.

4.5/5

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