Proven Guilty, by Jim Butcher (Dresden #8)

  • TITLE: Proven Guilty (The Dresden Files #8)
  • AUTHOR: Jim Butcher
  • PUBLISHER: Orbit (UK)
  • PUBLICATION DATE: May 2nd 2006

Proven Guilty is a hard book to review.For someone having read only a handful of the Dresden books, a detailed review of Proven Guiltywould be very spoilerific in that it would mention characters not yet introduced or established, and that can—in my opinion—spoil the enjoyment of getting to where we are now in the series. The further through a series a reviewer gets, the harder it is not to talk about the series as a whole, and previous books.

Proven Guilty is an important book in that a whole new game plan is presented: Harry will be changed forever by the end of the book and the series will be changed in turn. It’s a good change. Frankly, it’s quite possibly the second most awesome Big Deal Plot Point in the series so far, and it was exactly what I hoped would transpire when I realised where the plot was going. Less fanboying; more review.

Proven Guilty is the eighth book in the series, and readers are pretty familiar with the setup by now, and Butcher needs to work harder to keep the series upbeat, lively, and just as interesting as it was in the beginning. In fact, the books are getting better and better, entirely because Butcher needs to work far harder and craft far more complex and far-reaching stories. Otherwise, by now, the series would have ground to a repetitive halt. It hasn’t.

I disliked Dead Beat, but I respect that Butcher tried something different, to keep the interest there. It did not work for me, but hey, in a series this long, there’s always going to be a 2 or 3* book amidst the 4s and 5s. Proven Guilty is another 5* book for me.

The cast is familiar by now—from Thomas, to Michael, to Murphy to Charity, we know the regulars and we’ve grown attached to them: they are the Dresden Files cast—and so letting a new character into the inner circle was always going to be a risk for Butcher. Some might not warm to the new addition, but frankly the tight plotting, exciting presentation and downright realistic “yeah, that would happen, that’s what Harry would do” authenticity of the storyline adds everything required to immediately accept the change.

In Proven Guilty Harry finds himself, for the first time since his “promotion” in Dead Beat filling the shoes of a Warden, instead of having them on his heels. It’s an important responsibility and forces Harry into a different role—both things that develop his character. A change in Harry that wasn’t a grim-faced determination to swear off love after Susan, trust after McCoy, or that innate and reckless selflessness that was starting to shape him into a bit of a badass paladin, was well overdue. For once, Harry isn’t beaten down and his character, esteem or morale doesn’t take a figurative bashing. For once, in fact, Harry has the smarts, and he definitely has the cool.

In Proven Guilty, Harry is a Warden for the first time—and it works.

Asked in very confusing circumstances to investigate recent workings of black magic, Harry assumes a very different role in this investigation. Something that feeds on fear is kicking about, and with a horror convention (SplatterCon!!!) in town, there’s tantamount to an All You Can Eat buffet available. But someone must be allowing these phobophages through from the Nevernever, and Harry needs to find out.

But things are never that simple, and with both the Summer and Winter Ladies working with him—and with each other?—Harry is convinced something is afoot. But then, something is always afoot when it comes to Harry Dresden.

We get a deeper look into Charity whilst Michael is elsewhere, and Thomas fulfils more the role that I’d hoped he would—but didn’t—in Dead Beat, by coming as close to being Harry’s sidekick when the trouble turns to treacle; sticky, thick and very, very gloopy. Complete with a tricky, complex plot, overlaying a deeper seed that will almost certainly be developed in later instalments, Proven Guilty goes a long way to compensate for the failings of Dead Beat.

An absolutely riveting novel where, once again, the concepts of good and evil and that tricky space in between are examined in a simple but effective, and very unassuming fashion: nothing is black and white, and Butcher is very well aware of this, and it only makes his novels and characters stronger. Tightly plotted and intriguing to the last page, Proven Guilty is the best Dresden since the excellent Summer Knight, way back as book four. Dead Beat was a stumble on the road, but Butcher’s got his footing back, and he’s writing excellent Dresden novels again.

Proven Guilty is a must read, and a must read fast: a true page-turner of an urban fantasy.



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