Yes, another Dresden Files review! As I mentioned in my past reviews, I read Blood Rites, Dead Beat, and Proven Guilty back-to-back over the course of two weeks just before the Holidays, unable to stop myself from doing so. I hadn't realized how I'd missed Jim Butcher, so I couldn't help but pick up the next book as soon as I finished the one I was reading!
With hundreds of casualties and wounded members, the White Council of Wizards has recruited Harry Dresden and named him Warden and regional commander. With the escalating war with the Red Court, this was done out of necessity, not out of respect and faith in the man. Many of Harry's peers resent his nomination. And with all eyes on him, he is acutely aware that he doesn't have much room to manoeuver.
Here's the blurb:
There's no love lost between Harry Dresden, the only wizard in the Chicago phone book, and the White Council of Wizards, who find him brash and undisciplined. But war with the vampires has thinned their ranks, so the Council has drafted Harry as a Warden and assigned him to look into rumors of black magic in the Windy City. As Harry adjusts to his new role, another problem arrives in the form of the tattooed and pierced daughter of an old friend, all grown-up and already in trouble. Her boyfriend is the only suspect in what looks like a supernatural assault straight out of a horror film. Malevolent entities that feed on fear are loose in Chicago, but it's all in a day's work for a wizard, his faithful dog, and a talking skull named Bob...
Now a full-fledged member of the White Council, at the beginning of the novel we find Harry attending the execution of a young adolescent found guilty of black magic. Knowing that this could have been his fate at a younger age, Harry ends up in an argument with the Merlin. What is already a bad day gets worse when two members of the Senior Council approach him secretly with requests of their own. Harry's old mentor, Ebenezar, with whom Harry is no longer on speaking terms, would like him to use his Faerie connections to discover why Mab, the Winter Queen, hasn't declared war on the Red Court for their recent transgression within the realm of Faerie itself. But everything must be kept on the down low, for Ebenezar is not the only one who suspects that the White Council traitor could well be a member of the Senior Council. The older man also bears a missive from the Gatekeeper. The mysterious wizard asks Harry to investigates repeated acts of black magic around Chicago, and it appears that he must keep this to himself as well. And as if Harry didn't have enough on his plate already, as his investigation gets underway he receives an unexpected call from Molly Carpenter, daughter of his friend Michael, wielder of one of the blades of the Knights of the Cross, who ended up in jail and turns to Harry for help.
As a matter of course, one of the highlights of the series remains the first-person hardboiled narrative of the endearing, if frequently inept, wizard Harry Dresden. Harry's heart is always in the right place, and his flawed nature definitely makes him one of the most likeable SFF characters out there. Witnessing events occurring through Harry Dresden's eyes is never dull, and Proven Guilty is another doozy!
As the only POV protagonist, Harry must take centre stage once more. And yet, it's the supporting cast which helps make this 8th volume the best one yet. The relationship between Dresden and Murphy continues to evolve and they finally face the fact that the have feelings for one another. Thomas finally moved out of Harry's apartment, but the bond between them will continue to grow. Molly Carpenter, who is no longer a little girl, plays a big role in this one, and it's obvious that Butcher has a lot more in store for her. Revelations about her mother, Charity, also have important repercussions throughout this novel. Familiar faces from both Summer and Winter make appearances as Harry gets in touch with his Faerie contacts.
Proven Guilty is the most convoluted installment yet. While his inquiry among the Faerie offers disconcerting news that could spell doom for the White Council, Harry investigates acts of black magic which have left people dead and injured at a local horror movie convention. What will follow will unveil shocking truths about Molly and will take Harry Dresden and his companions down dangerous and unanticipated paths. The endgame was the most satisfying one yet, though the novel's title makes what comes after a bit predictable. The aftermath will change both Harry and Murphy in profound ways, and it opens the door for so much more. Indeed, it appears that they were all manipulated by an unknown power that's playing for extremely high stakes.
Dead Beat was in fact the point where the Dresden Files shifted into high gear. Now Proven Guilty builds on the storylines introduced in basically every other installment and pushes the envelope even further. Once again, far from losing steam, this series continues to grow in size, scope, and inventiveness. As things stand, the sky truly appears to be the limit for the subsequent volumes. Having grown as a writer, Jim Butcher has now hit his stride and he appears to be more confident, more ambitious. And with so many plot threads now coming together to form a striking tapestry, the potential for what comes next is huge.
Fun, witty, entertaining, engrossing, with superior character development, and multilayered plotlines; that's Proven Guilty in a nutshell!