Saturday, April 9, 2011

Grave Peril – The Dresden Files series, Book 3

1.  Storm Front  (July 2002)
2.  Fool Moon  (April 2003)
3.  Grave Peril  (July 2005) – 4 out of 5
4.  Summer Knight  (March 2007)
5.  Death Masks  (October 2009)
6.  Blood Rites  (April 2010)
7.  Dead Beat  (April 2010)
8.  Proven Guilty  (April 2009)
9.  White Night  (April 2009)
10.  Small Favor  (April 2008)
11.  Turn Coat  (April 2009)
12.  Changes  (April 2010)
13.  Ghost Story  (July 2011)

Author:  Jim Butcher
Narrator:  James Marsters – 5 out of 5
Length: 11:59, purchased on audible 
In the Chicago Yellow Pages, there is only one entry under “Wizard.”  If you lost something, need a ghost removed, or a charm to ward of bad spirits, you can call Harry Dresden. No love potions, please. Most people in Chicago think Harry is a joke, but most people in Chicago don’t know that they walk among werewolves, vampires, the fae, as well as witches, wizards, and ghosts. Those people also don’t know that most of Harry’s paycheck comes from his contract with the police, keeping the people of Chicago safe from the supernatural.

Taking place a year after Fool Moon, book 2, Harry and Michael Carpenter, a Christian knight, have been running ragged all over town, banishing an unusual increase of harmful ghosts that are invading Chicago from the Nevernever at an alarming rate.  While he’s busy trying to keep Chicago safe, Harry must also keep himself safe from the two women who want him most.  One woman wants Harry alive.  Dresden’s godmother, the faerie Leanansidhe, wants Harry to finally fulfill a pact he entered long ago to serve her in return for her giving him enough power to escape his prior mentor.  Lean is determined to have Harry for a hellbound. The other woman wants Harry dead.  Bianca St. Claire, a vampire who runs a bordello and has been promoted to the head of the Red Court, blames Harry for the death of her friend and human servant.  In Storm Front, Harry protected himself from Bianca by attacking her with a handkerchief filled with sunshine.  The attack injured Bianca so badly, she ended up feeding on her friend until she died.  Bianca is determined that Harry pay.
Harry Potter all grown up:
You have to love Harry Dresden, the wizard.  He can make fire with his fingers, fling off bullets with a word, and make ghost dust from depleted uranium so Michael, the templar knight with a sword made from a nail off The Cross, can dispatch the ghost back to Nevernever. This audiobook opens up with a forward by Jim Butcher, in which he references that many consider Grave Peril to be a turning point in the Dresden Files. This is so true. I enjoyed Storm Front, but I wasn’t blown away by it.  I had felt that the characters were archetypes, including Susan Rodriguez, who was set up in that first book as the future love interest.  Her character – and the relationship between her and Harry – deepens in this audiobook.  The interesting part about this audiobook is its lack of focus.  Storm Front was vampires.  Full moon was werewolves.  Grave Peril was supposed to be about ghosts, but it also concentrates on the vampires and introduces the fae. This audiobook sets up the rest of the conflicts extrapolated in the Dresden Files series, and you can really see that in the ending with Harry and Susan.  Of course, the best part of Grave Peril is what draws all reader and listeners to the Dresden files: Jim Butcher’s unique and engaging voice.  He has such fantastic descriptions, like when Harry watches Michael interact with his wife, and describes himself feeling like a “hungry orphan in a Dickens novel,” looking at something he can never have.
On Narration:
James Marsters does not do voices. He’s a storyteller, but he’s no Lorelei King, Cynthia Hollowayor Tavia Gilbert, who give you consistent characters with specific and recognizable voices that become part and parcel of the characters’ identities to the listeners.  James Marsters has only three voices: (1) male – the voice for basically every character; (2) slightly British male – the male voice with a vaguely English accent for Bob, the ghost, and Thomas, the Vampire; and (3) female – the male voice, but softer and quiet. So why do I rate Marsters 5 out of 5?  No, it is not because he played Spike on Buffy, the Vampire SlayerIt’s his style in reading that really brings the Dresden Files to life.  Sure, his lack of voices makes figuring out what’s internal and what’s external when it comes to dialogue hell, but he has such a perfect, raspy, film noir way of reading these paranormal mysteries that not only works but connects the purpose of the audiobook to the listener.  For example, Grave Peril starts out with a rather frightening scene where a ghost is about to kill a nursery full of babies in a hospital.  James Marsters’s reading is down-right haunting.  When the ghost starts losing it, remembering her death, and recalling the axe she used to dispatch her abusive husband, I had goosebumps on my arms.  Also, his lack of a “female” voice – that is, pitching his voice high to make it sound girly and instead choosing to read in his normal voice but at a quieter tone – works great.  Frankly, when men do “female” voices, I usually wind up giggling, which works fine with comedies, but with thrillers, not so much.

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