Book Review: “Blood Rites” by Jim Butcher

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Blood Rites
by Jim Butcher

Here is the sixth novel in The Dresden Files, an ongoing series that has been made into a television program, and which has been touted as the adult answer to Harry Potter. While I question the aptness of that comparison, I have enjoyed this series enough to be shocked at myself for falling so far behind. At this writing there are seven more Harry Dresden novels, plus a spinoff novelette and a short story collection. Plus, Jim Butcher has been simultaneously writing the six-book Codex Alera series of fantasy novels, beginning with The Furies of Calderon.

So I have a lot of catching up to do, and nothing makes me feel farther behind-the-game than the big change in Harry’s life that happens in this book. Truly, I think I saw it coming a few books back, but the secret that has been brewing under the surface comes out in this book, and the Harry Dresden Story turns a corner that will affect the course of all his future adventures. How can I hint at it without giving it away? Let’s start with the double entendre in the book’s title. The story has to do with blood, in more than one sense of the word. It involves vampires, and it involves family, combined in a really twisted way. I’m not just talking about Harry’s cop friend Murphy finding out that her emotionally predatory ex-husband has gotten engaged to her kid sister. I mean something way more twisted: a fiendish, deadly family reunion that gets all tangled up with the case Dresden has been hired to solve.

That case involves a series of magically freakish accidents that have been targeting the women surrounding the production of an adult film. Harry’s White Court vampire friend Thomas (naturally) is the one who gets him involved in the case, and he increasingly suspects that the sexually predatory Whites are deeply involved. But while there’s plenty of danger going around with an entropy curse swooping down on the porno’s cast and crew every twelve hours, Harry has even bigger threats to deal with. Like a Black Court vampire and her scourge of undead, mostly-dead, and still-living minions gunning for Harry in a vendetta that could claim many innocent lives. Like a hired gun whose fee Harry can’t afford to pay, and whose debt-collection tactics Harry can afford even less. Like a crisis of faith in the wizardly values he learned from his kindly but flawed surrogate father. Like a power play within an ancient crime family when Harry, as usual, is right in the middle.

At Book 6, I’m less than halfway caught up with The Dresden Files. Yet I’m far enough into the series that I can credibly conclude that Jim Butcher is not one of those authors whose work gets weaker with each installment. He seems far from getting tired of writing The Dresden Files, and I am far from getting tired of reading them. Each book excels the ones before it in displays of wizardly power, depths of otherworldly spookiness, mammoth conflicts between good and evil, and the steady flow of sexy charm and irreverent humor. And though I obviously can’t avoid pasting an “adult content” and “occult content” advisory on this book, it is only fair to note that both Butcher and his hero have a conscience about these things, as evidenced (for example) when Dresden realizes that pornography is a tool sexual predators use to lure in their prey. All things considered, I give this book, its author, and its series high marks.