Review: Ghost Story

Posted: December 15, 2011 by in Books We Like (4/5 single_star) Meta: Jim Butcher, Urban Fantasy

I realize this review is fairly (really) late. I simply wasn’t sure what I should say about Jim Butcher’s latest. Overall I love this series, but there have been some moments that have driven me absolutely crazy (like the whole novel, TURN COAT). The newest Dresden Files novel, GHOST STORY (Amazon), is not the absolute best in the series, but is isn’t the worst either. In the end, it’s fairly solid.

What GHOST STORY amounts to is “It’s a Wonderful Life, Dresden Edition”… kinda.

Coming right out the gate I’m just going to say there are some spoilers in here. If you haven’t read the past few novels, then I’m going to ruin a few things for you. There’s no way around it, and frankly if you are reading this review of the thirteenth novel in the series without having read the rest of them… well, you deserve to have some stuff spoiled. So there.

Harry Dresden is dead. He’s a freaking ghost. At the end of CHANGES he gets totally shot and we are left wondering what the heck happened to our snarky hero. So GHOST STORY is essentially about Harry being a ghost and attempting to solve his own murder while also trying to help the friend who he left behind when he ate a bullet. Through it all, Harry sees just how crappy Chicago and his friends are without him around.

The interaction between the physical world and the spirit world that Harry is part of is pretty well done. In addition, the way characters have changed since Harry has been gone is believable and really well done. Seeing the anger and anguish in many of these characters was fantastic. The point of it all was to allow the readers of the novel and the characters within the novel to see that Harry really was the glue holding everything together. No one acts out of character, and that consistency is really the strong point here.

Action, of course, is handled well. It has a different feel to it which was a tad refreshing for a series that has been going on as long as the Dresden Files has. There is a lot less of the overt “and then he put all of his remaining anger and emotion to cast one last spell” crap.

So, I’ve pointed out a lot of good stuff here. The story is solid, the characters are great, etc. But there are some things that, in my opinion, hold it back a tad. Nothing game-breaking, but there were things that bothered me.

The newest Dresden Files novel, GHOST STORY, is not the absolute best in the series, but is isn't the worst either. In the end, it's fairly solid.

On a minor side, the middle 100 pages of the novel are slow and repetitive. We get to see some of Harry’s younger life, and while that may seem cool on the surface, old Harry just isn’t near as interesting as the current Harry is (if the reverse was true, we’d have serious problems). These moments are cool on the surface, but when I sat and really thought about them I realized that they weren’t really needed at all and were repetitive. Some readers will no doubt absolutely love them, but they didn’t work 100% to me.

My main gripe is that I’m starting to get a little jaded to Harry’s ability to be so much more clever than everyone. This drawback (in my opinion) shows it’s ugly head late in the novel and darn near killed it for me. I mean, I get that he is a rock-star wizard at this point, but would it hurt to actually have him fail in a meaningful way that isn’t totally swept under the rug or easily rectified later? I need that sense of danger. I need to see that Harry fail in a big way to make his accomplishments seem even better. Right now I feel I bit like I am seeing the Green Bay Packers take on a high school powder puff football team. There’s just no competition for Harry.

What saves this book for me is the raw character emotion of the other characters other than Harry. The ending of GHOST STORY specifically has some real moments of pure emotion that are near perfect. It helps me overlook most of the above nit-picks that I have.

So does GHOST STORY keep the Dresden Files relevant? I think so. It’s still one of the best Urban Fantasy series out there today. My opinion is that I need to start seeing a direction for the latter books in this series. I don’t want things to return to the status quo in the next book, but right now that is my greatest fear for this series. Until then, GHOST STORY is well worth your time.

  • Recommended Age: 15+
  • Language: There can be some strong language, but it never gets out of control
  • Violence: Not near as bloody this time around since most things are ghosties
  • Sex: Far lighter of the innuendo and what not this time


  • Murphy7 says:

    That is an excellent review, and sums up what my greatest concern is for the Dresden Files going forward … that Harry Dresden becomes Spenser, in that there is no competition, danger, or consequences for failure (or even success) to be faced by the protagonist.

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