Book Review: “White Night” by Jim Butcher

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White Night
by Jim Butcher

Who is Harry Dresden? In case you haven’t read the first eight books in The Dresden Files, he’s a powerful (but not very disciplined) wizard who offers his services as a private investigator, as a police consultant on cases touched by weirdness, and as a Warden of the White Council, a type of magical law-enforcement officer.

Harry’s half-brother Thomas, meanwhile, is a scion of the White Court, from a clan of vampires that uses the power of sex to suck the life-force out of people. And though Harry has looked forward to the day when Thomas would get a job and move out of his dinky downstairs apartment, he worries that his brother may have fallen off the wagon and started feeding again. For one thing, Thomas hasn’t been very communicative; in fact, he seems to be hiding something, such as what he is doing for a living. For another thing, he has been photographed alongside a young woman who has not been seen since—one of a series of women with a low-grade magical talent who have recently disappeared or died under suspicious circumstances. For a third thing, one of the apparent suicides turns out to have died in the throes of hunka-chunka, and that suggests a White Court killer.

Just when Dresden has almost made up his mind that he has to take down his own brother, something even bigger and more dangerous breaks loose—something involving undead, nearly indestructible ghouls—something dark and hellish, pulling the strings from behind a rip in the curtain of reality—something that could tilt the precarious balance of the wizards’ war with the Red Court vampires (those are the real blood-suckers for you). In order to fight this and have any hope of living through it, Harry may have to call upon the power of a Fallen Angel whose silver denarius lies buried under a concrete slab in his sub-basement workshop, and whose psychic shadow embedded in his brain has endless resources to tempt Harry to take up the coin. So, as if it isn’t enough hard work to protect humanity from a horde of rampaging demons, ghouls, vampires, and such, he must also get through the ultimate crisis of the soul. At the same time.

Clearly, life as a hard-boiled wizard isn’t easy. But reading about it is, decidedly so. Like the previous books in this series, Book 9 has an abundance of thrilling action, paranormal spookiness, magical wonder, belly-shaking humor, and a tightly controlled but very real erotic appeal. Its hero is troubled, imperfect, always ready with a sarcastic retort, sometimes self-destructively impulsive, but essentially a good guy who will always place himself between evil and its intended victims. He’s a guy’s guy who likes beer, goes everywhere with his huge shaggy dog named Mouse, and appreciates the beauty of womankind. He’s also—whatever the Sisterhood of the Cauldron may think, given that he is a gray-cloaked representation of The Man—an old-fashioned gentleman whose protective instincts, especially when women are in danger, coupled with his ongoing faithfulness to an ex-girlfriend, last seen two or three books ago fighting an urge to drink his blood, should make him appealing to women. And now that he has a teenaged apprentice following him around, hidden in the backseat of his VW Beetle under a cloak of invisibility, even kids are getting into the act. See? Everybody could love Dresden, if they give him a chance.