Fantasy Round 22.6: Ghost Story
It’s time for another round of the Dresden Files, and this one is a doozy.
If you haven’t read this far in the series yet, don’t read this review. The spoilers get increasingly large with time.
You Are Already Dead
In case you hadn’t guessed (or read the previous book), the story starts post-mortem. Dresden has to learn his way around as a ghost.
The whole business is a mix of entertaining and deadly serious. The reason why ghosts always look like they’re howling when they go through something? It’s actually painful to move through objects. Why are all the ghosts people actually notice, poltergeists? Because only insane ghosts are capable of manifesting, being seen, and moving physical objects. The previously seen rules about spirits being unable to cross thresholds and damaged by sunlight still hold. Ghost dust appears again, and so forth.
However, we also learn that ghosts are, essentially, living memories — so Dresden has to relearn how to use his magics as a ghost. There’s a lovely “oh crap” moment when he first realizes he can’t fling his usual Fuego.
That, and there’s the fact that he’s been sent back by an angel to solve his own murder.
Waldo Butters Rides Again
He’s back, and he’s still awesome. Waldo Butters is our clever everydude. In fact, while entirely lacking magical talent himself, he manages to end up with a couple of nice comments from Bob about his cleverness. He helps Bob design devices that let Dresden be seen and heard by normal mortals, despite being, well, dead.
For bonus points, he and a friend pretend to be Wardens in order to stall a bad guy long enough to deal with him. And does a pretty good job of pulling it off, at that.
Even though we don’t see the impacts on the mundane world, we get plenty of references to how the destruction of the Red Court of vampires has left behind a massive power vacuum. The White Council is busy putting out a thousand brushfires, the Fomor and others are making various power-grabs, along with assorted other individuals trying to take advantage of the chaos. I appreciate the inclusion of consequences that both make sense… and which have our protagonist kicking himself for not thinking of them. Speaking of which…
The Ghost and the Unreliable Narrator
This is, in my opinion, one of the best aspects of the novel.
We’ve seen the use of the unreliable narrator before in the Dresden Files series. (The most clear example being when the Queen of Winter had messed with Dresden’s mind, to prevent him from using his fire magic.) However, this particular variant takes the cake.
The whole deal is explained near the end of the novel. The answer to “who killed Dresden?” is… Dresden himself. He hired Kincaid to shoot him, and then made Molly wipe his mind of what he had just done. Why? Because he thought that, as the Winter Knight, he would inevitably become a cold, unstoppable monster.
But, one of the Fallen had meddled, pushing him into do it, by saying seven words and making Dresden think they were his own thoughts. So, an angel got to settle the score by saying seven more words. (Of course, that angel was sneaky, and got Dresden to volunteer for the ghost deal.)
Regardless, Dresden has a big old “What the hell, hero?” moment. He made a deal with the devil and took suicidal actions that damaged the sanity of his apprentice. He’s not sure what else he would have done, but he realizes that what he forced Molly to do crossed a line. And, in helping rescue her at the end, he helps to make that right. A little bit. Dresden’s help consists mostly of telling her to call the cavalry…
You Shouldn’t Have Left The Ectomancer With A Basement Full Of Wraiths
This is one of the other aspects I like about the series — the characters are not static, and characters other than just Dresden get some pretty good character development.
Mortimer Lindquist is one of those characters. He started out as a has-been medium whose powers had seriously faded. Now, after a few separate appearances, he’s back to full strength as a world-class ectomancer. He’s a small, bald and unimposing man. He’s also really, really good at handling ghosts.
So, it makes sense that our villain would, in her hurry to try to take over Molly’s mind, forget about him. Morty is pretty forgettable.
He still doesn’t like fights, but if you leave him with a whole bunch of wraiths… well. If you’re a ghost, he can take you out.
The failure of the Corpsetaker is also believable. Given the arrogance of the character and her great desire to possess someone as powerful as Molly, she overreached. And she… overlooked a little detail. It’s kind of annoying when a villain fails due to doing something dumb, but here, I can buy it. Since it’s just one… small… mistake…
It’s Not Quitting Time Yet
So, thanks to Mab and Demonreach… and some mysterious magical parasite… he’s not dead. And looks to recover. And, with a hint from an angel, he knows that Mab can’t change who he is. On to the heroics in the next novel!
That parasite, by the way? I suspect it’s what’s been giving Dresden nasty headaches that have gotten a mention in a few of the previous books. But we learn more about that in the next book — Cold Days.