Review: The Crown of Stones: Magic-Scars

The Crown of Stones: Magic-Scars

by C.L. Schneider

Reviewed by JMD Reid

b00s05q722-01-lzzzzzzzIt’s been two years from the events of the last novel. And for those two years Ian Troy, a magic-using Shinree, has been a slave to the magic-suppressing drug kanyl. In a haze, he has worked in the mines, performing back-breaking labor for the man defeated him—Drakon.

Now Drakon and his Shinree ally are threatening to control the known world. Only the Crown of Stones can stop him. And only Ian Troy knows where it is. The resistance has no choice but to risk exposure to save him.

Ian Troy awakens to a world he may want to forget as he struggles to piece together the fragments of his life and deal with the acts he has committed. Again, it all falls in his shoulders. And he may be too scarred to carry them.

Magic-Scar is a great follow-up to Magic-Price. More nail-biting action, whirling plots, and characters whose true motivations are hidden. Schneider delivers another fast-paced fantasy novel, expanding her world building and revealing new secrets and mysteries to the Reth family and the truth about the ancient Shinree empire.

Again, Schnieder writes the book in first person from Ian Troy’s perspective. It keeps her protagonist in the heart of the action because anything he doesn’t witness has to be told instead of shown, and no one wants that. Again, it works great in this book, helping to drive the intensity of the plot.

Fans of exciting, fast-paced fantasy will enjoy the world Schneider has created with her Crown of Stones Trilogy. If you haven’t read the first novel, pick it up. And if you’ve had, why haven’t you dived into book three?

You can buy Crown of Stone-Magic Scars from Amazon!

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Reread of Fool Moon: Part 1

Reread of The Dresden Files

Book 2: Fool Moon

by Jim Butcher

Part 1

Welcome to Part 1 of my reread. Click here if you missed the Intro!

Chapter 1

Harry is at McAnally’s pub for dinner with Kim Delaney, a former student of Harry’s. Kim was a minor talent that Harry taught the basics to. She asked Harry to come (with the promise of free food) if he could tell her about a complicated magical circle she came across. Harry advises her to forget about it, that it’s out of her league. She protests, saying its not for anything serious, just “academic interest.”

Harry’s hunger causes his resolve to waver and he agrees to tell her about it. Harry’s had some financial troubles lately. For some reason Karrin Murphy hasn’t been hiring him as a consultant for Chicago PD lately. After they finish eating their steaks and fries, Kim asks Harry about the circle.

Harry explains that it is High magic and the three concentric circles act like “layered walls.” The outermost stops creatures of the Nevernever, the middle stops mortal flesh, and Harry calls the third circle a mistake and asks if she copied it right which Kim insights she did. Harry explains that it looks like the circle was built to hold something of spirit and flesh, and Harry lies and says there are no beings like that. Harry lied because a cage like this would only be need to stop something immensely powerful like a demonic demigod or archangel.

Kim doesn’t believe Harry because someone made this circle to trap something. She persists and Harry finally tells her that what this circle is meant to contain is way out of her league. Harry knows its more than academic interest driving her and warns her that she doesn’t have the training or knowledge, comparing it to a grade school kid trying calculus. Kim gets angry, saying Harry has no right to tell her what to do.

Harry changes the subject, asking about how her fund-raiser is going. Kim is an environmental activist and she is burned out on the whole thing right now. Harry tries to get her to promise one last time to not mess with the circle.

She tossed her napkin down, left a few bills on the table, and stood up. “Enjoy your meal, Harry,” she said. “And thanks for nothing.”

I stood up as well. “Kim,” I said. “Wait a minute.”

But she ignored me. She stalked off toward the door, her skirt swaying along with her long hair. She cut an impressive, statuesque figure. I could feel the anger bubbling off her. One of the ceiling fans shuddered and let out a puff of smoke as she walked under it, then whirled down to a halt. She raced up the short flight of stairs and exited the bar, banging the door shut behind her. People watched her leave, then glanced back to me, speculation on their faces. I sat back down, frustrated. Dammit. Kim was one of several people I had coached through.

Harry broods in McAnally’s worrying about Kim. That circle was the big time and it could go wrong from her. Not to mention the White Council doesn’t like it when people mess around with major summonings. Harry’s just wished Kim trusted him enough to listen to his advise. As he broods, Murphy walks in to the pub and over to Harry’s table. She notices Kim’s paper, which Harry had balled up and thrown on the floor, and tidily picks it up.

Harry greets Murphy, trying unsuccessfully to keep the anger out of his voice. Murphy starts to explain and Harry cuts her off, talking about an article in the Tribune that called him a charlatan and asks if Murphy read it. Murphy is impatient with Harry’s whole rant and tells him that there’s been a murder in Harry’s field of expertise.

My Thoughts

The book starts with a quote about how Harry know keeps track of the phases of the moon, presumably after the events of this book.

Kim Delaney is far to eager and excited by this magical circle for it to be academic. She is going to attempt it and due to the law of storytelling, it will go wrong. It has been foreshadowed. Of course, maybe she’ll buck convention and actually succeed.

Once again, we see Harry denying someone the whole picture, just telling them they need to listen to what he says because he’s the wizard without telling them why. Maybe Harry would have been more effective if he explained what the circle for and maybe talk about how the White Council is and why they’ll cut your head off if you break one of their laws.

Weirdly, in later books, the local minor talents, like Kim, are well aware of the White Council and the seven laws and the Wardens who cut peoples heads off for breaking them. It really feels like the Dresdenverse is still in flux right now. The third book is where Butcher starts thinking more about the universe and how it works beyond Harry and Chicago.

Kim Delaney is also an environmental activist. Probably not important. Nope. I’m an author, that’s how I know that things like this are never important.

And Murphy picking up Kim’s discarded paper is probably not important. Just Butcher making sure his characters are environmentally responsible and discarded their trash.

Harry, passive-aggressiveness is just petty. I’m from the Seattle area and that’s how everyone up here handles conflict so I know. Petty and annoying. Be the bigger man! Murphy here to give you work. There’s been a murder.

I should not be so excited about someone’s untimely death, but it’s the start of a Harry Dresden Investigation.

Chapter 2

Harry and Murphy drive to the scene in Murphy’s Saturn. Murphy is in a hurry, driving reckless even for a cop. Their destination is a half built strip mall and Harry is confused since they are outside of Chicago city limits and asks if there out of her jurisdiction. “People need help wherever they can get it, Dresden.” She explains the other killing took place inside city limits.

Murphy leads him to the building and Harry realizes its the Varsity, Marcone’s club that burned down last spring, and Murphy explains its being rebuilt. Inside, the police are documenting the murder scene of a man that had been badly mauled. Harry recognizes him as one of Marcone’s bodyguards that Harry calls Spike.

Murphy is not pleased when Harry tells her who the victim is, and she tells him to look around. Harry finds blood on broken glass and it looks like someone or something smashed through the window. Harry pockets a piece of bloody glass. Harry continues to look around and spots a large paw print and then notices the almost-full moon through the window. He asks Murphy is the other attacks happened about a month ago. Murphy nods in agreement and asks if werewolves are real. They are.

Four FBI agents enter the scene and Murphy gets pissed, wondering how they got here so fast. The lead FBI, Agent Denton, is not pleased to see Murphy here and reminds her that she’s not welcome in his investigation. Denton asks who Harry is and makes snide comments about him being a charlatan. He orders Agent Benn, the female agent, to escort “these two civilians” from the scene. Murphy refuses to leave, saying she has permission from the local police to be here. Denton orders Benn to remove them again, and she tries to grab Murphy. Blows are traded, and Murphy slams Benn into a wall.

Benn’s expression went from shocked and surprised to furious in the space of half a second. Her hand dipped into her jacket, hesitated for half a second, and then resumed motion. She drew her gun with an expert’s precision, smooth and quick without seeming hurried. Her green eyes blazed. I threw myself at Murphy, colliding with her and driving her over and down as the gun went off, louder than a close clap of thunder in the interior of the half-finished restaurant. We landed in a heap on the dusty floor.

Denton moves between Murphy and Agent Benn. All the cops on the scene race over and Denton says there was a misfire. Murphy backs Denton up, to Harry’s confusion. He keeps calling Benn a “crazy bitch.”

Denton orders the two other FIB agents, Harris and Wilson, to escort Harry and Murphy. Harry asks why Murphy didn’t say what really happened. Murphy is just pissed that Agent Benn tried to sucker punch her. Harry points out she also tried to “ventilate” her. Harry watches as Denton is talking to Benn and thinks Denton is hiding something.

Agent Harris, the youngest of the FBI Agents, apologizes on behalf of Benn, saying she’s been stressed out by the Lobo killings. Agent Wilson tells Harris to shut up and tells Murphy to leave or they’ll contact Internal Affairs.

My Thoughts

Wow! Really, Agent Benn, shooting your colleagues it so not cool. This woman needs to be relieved of duty immediately. Why are you guys covering for her, especially you Murphy. I know you’re not really supposed to be here but that was like attempted manslaughter or something.

Anyways, we have full moon related animal killings. It’s a werewolf! They’re calling them the Lobo Killings. That’s a great name for a werewolf serial killer, The Lobo Killer. And poor Spike. We barely got to know you. So, somehow Marcone is involved in this mess.

So, how did the FBI Agents arrive so quickly, what’s the real reason for Agent Benn’s temper tantrum, and what is Agent Denton hiding? All these questions and more simmer through the book. Butcher is great at setting up his mysteries and throwing so many twists and turns at you. But they’re still coherent on a read through and don’t fall apart under scrutiny.

Chapter 3

Outside, Harry takes a minute to get his stomach under control after viewing such a gruesome murder scene and coming down from the adrenaline high of saving Murphy from a psychotic (my words) FBI Agent. Murphy apologizes to Harry at the car, saying she wasn’t supposed to be here and for dragging Harry into it. Harry asks her to explain what’s been happening. She hesitates, and Harry points out that he saved her life twice now. Things get awkward between them.

Harry knows that their relationship has been off since last spring when Harry held out information from Murphy and Harry tries to talk about it and Murphy asks why they didn’t talk about six months ago. Harry tries to explain why he held back on here and she is still angry because she trusted Harry and he broke that trust.

I winced. That stung. What’s worse, she was in the right. “Some of what I knew… It was dangerous, Murph. It could have gotten you killed.”

Her blue eyes fixed on me with a glare that made me lean back against the car door. “I am not your daughter, Dresden,” she said, in a very soft, calm voice. “I am not some porcelain doll on a shelf. I’m a police officer. I catch the bad guys and I put their asses away, and if it comes down to it, I take a bullet so that some poor housewife or CPA doesn’t have to.” She got her gun out of its shoulder holster, checked the ammo and the safety, and replaced it. “I don’t need your protection.”

“Murphy, wait,” I said hastily. “I didn’t do it to piss you off. I’m your friend. Always have been.”

She looked away from me as an officer with a flashlight walked past the car, shining the light about on the ground as he looked for exterior evidence. “You were my friend, Dresden. Now…” Murphy shook her head once and set her jaw. “Now, I don’t know.”

Harry doesn’t know what to say, he had never tried to see it fro her perspective before and realizes that by not telling her everything, he left her defenseless and unprepared last spring. Harry apologizes and she accepts and tells Harry that there can be no more secrets this time and refuses to involve anymore if he doesn’t promise. He reluctantly promises to tell her everything this time.

She glanced at me, at my eyes for a breath, and then looked away. She started the car and drove from the parking lot. “All right,” she said. “I’ll tell you. I’ll tell you because I need every bit of help I can get. Because if we don’t nail this thing, this werewolf, we’re going to have another truckload of corpses on our hands this month. And,” she sighed, “because if we don’t, I’m going to be out of a job. And you’ll probably end up in jail.”

My Thoughts

OMG! Harry realizes that not telling Murphy is why there relationship is strained and he realizes he did the same thing to Kim. Maybe you can eventually overcome this problem, Harry. I’m glad it occurs to Harry just what a compromised position he put her in last spring.

But, even with this self-realization moment, Harry is still reluctant to commit to telling Murphy the whole truth. Come on, Harry. Murphy’s a big girl, she can handle it. Hell, she’s not flinching at all away from this whole werewolf business.

Murphy trusted Harry and he re-payed that trust with secrets. He deserves to be in the doghouse with her so he would have to be an idiot to make the same mistake again. She’s given him a second chance.

And not pressure to put too much pressure Harry, but Murphy’s job and his freedom is on the line. Nothing like High Stakes to motivate a character. Especially Harry who thrives when the shit hits the fan.

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Reread of Fool Moon: Intro

Reread of The Dresden Files

Book 2: Fool Moon

by Jim Butcher

Intro

619uoim4iolAfter devouring the first book of the series, Storm Front, in a day (I miss my younger years when I could do that), I was eager for more. I was hooked from the very beginning thanks to Harry’s advertisement:

HARRY DRESDEN—WIZARD
Lost Items Found. Paranormal Investigations.
Consulting. Advise. Reasonable Rates.
No Love Potions, Endless Purses, Parties, or Other
Entertainment

Now I was eager to dive into Book 2 and find out what new adventures were in store for the only practicing wizard in the city of Chicago. Like the first book, I devoured Fool Moon. Butcher does a great follow-up to his first book, building on the events that happened which all impact the plot of this book from the strain in Dresden and Murphy’s relationship, the politics of the city, and the activities of the gangster Johnny Marcone.

And even better, it’s about werewolves. And not just any werewolves, but all of them. Butcher manages to take all the dispirited different versions of werewolves from mythology and legend and weave them into his story, giving different flavors. The world building of the Dresdenverse is always something I enjoy about reading them.

Let’s find out if Book 2 is as good as the first! (Spoiler, it is)

Be warned. There are SPOILERS ahead. It’s a given that I’ll be spoiling this book and may touch on themes that happen later in the series, but I will keep those to a minimum. This is an amazing book series. While each novel is a standalone story (though that line did blur with the last few), there is an overarching mythology and plot points spawned from this very book. If a character survives and had a modicum of impact on the story, expect their return. Butcher gathers a rich tableau of allies, enemies, and frenemies for Harry Dresden while weaving myths from every culture into a seamless universe.

So lets dive into an amazing urban fantasy series!

If you haven’t gotten bored yet, click her for Part 1

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Review: Dragon Lightning

Dragon Lightning (Dragon Dreamer 2)

by J.S. Burke

Reviewed by JMD Reid

b01ma1zoj6-01-lzzzzzzzDrakor falls injured onto the ice flow, hurt in an earthquake as he investigated the volcano near his people’s home. The ice dragon realizes that he their home is about to be destroyed. The volcano is nearing its eruption.

Only problem, he’s too wounded to get back to them, drifting on the ice, facing death.

Arak, the dragon dreamer, is excited. Sailing with his fellow gold dragons and his octopodes friends, Scree and Orm, he is on a quest to find the legendary ice dragons, the kin of his people. They live in the cold north and as his skiff sails through ice floes, he realizes he’s on the right track.

But the ice dragons are not what he’s expected and a threat looms that will impact not only the ice dragons but the gold dragons and octopodes. The same volcano that threatens the ice dragons is part of a chain leading south. And the undersea volcano near the gold dragons and the octopodes reef may also be on the verge of erupting.

Arak, his companions, and a new friend will have to uncover the truth of the volcanoes and find a way to protect their people. But those aren’t the only problems facing them. They will have to work together to overcome their goals.

Or they might all perish.

Burke continues her excellent series about dragons and octopodes in her sequel to Dragon Dreamer. The book, written towards elementary students, not only has great characters and life lessons, but is full of real-world scientific knowledge about octopodes, underwater life, herbal medicines, and other facts that enrich her series.

With its focus on community, friendship, and forgiveness, Dragon Lightning is another excellent book for young readers, an adventure story to keep them enthralled and kindle the love of reading in a new generation. If you’ve read Dragon Dreamer (and if you haven’t, why?) then you will love Dragon Lightning.

You can buy Dragon Lightning from Amazon!

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Reread of The Warrior Prophet: Chapter Six

Reread of Prince of Nothing Trilogy

Book 2: The Warrior Prophet

by R. Scott Bakker

Part 1
The First March
Chapter 6
The Plains of Mengedda

Welcome to Chapter Six of my reread. Click here if you missed Chapter Five!

One sorcerer, the ancients say, is worth a thousand warriors in battle and ten thousand sinners in Hell.

DRUSAS ACHAMIAN, THE COMPENDIUM OF THE FIRST HOLY WAR

When shields become crutches, and swords become canes,

some hearts are put to rout.

When wives become plunder, and foes become thanes,

all hope has guttered out.

ANONYMOUS, “LAMENT FOR THE CONQUERED”

My Thoughts

Interesting that the Inrithi believe that one sorcerer is worth ten thousand sinners in Hell while the Fanim believe one Cishaurim is worth the breath of thousands. One group is revered, the other tolerated. Which is the point of Achamian’s quote, to show us just how much value sorcerers have on the battlefield.

The second quote shows the plight the Fanim of Gedea are about to endure. They have just been conquered. We see the wives and other women of the Fanim camp-followers are taken as plunder at the end of the battle, and Saubon’s dream is to be king of Gedea. It’s why he marched in the first place. To be Thane. It is also a Norsirai lament, since it uses Thane to describe the leader. The poems language is visceral, conjuring limping Northmen leaning on swords and canes, fleeing the battle only for their wives to be taken as plunder and the men who just beat them to be their new rulers. Who wouldn’t despair?

Early Summer 4111 Year-of-the-Tusk, near the Plains of Mengedda

Morning dawns to war horns blaring for the Inrithi host. Despite dozens of small battles, Saubon has reunited with the Tydonni and Thunyeri hosts in the hills adjacent to Mengedda. The three hosts have agreed to march together and press their advantage, believing they have the best terrain on which to fight the Fanim. As the host assembles, some soldiers in it wonder if others had troubled sleep and can hear the hissing sound.

The soldiers assemble, the lords marshaling their men. Wives and concubines embrace their men while priests lead everyone in prayers or sacrificial rites. Everyone is preparing for battle, calling upon any superstition to see themselves and their loved ones through the battle.

Augurs cast their bones. Surgeons set knives upon fires, readied their kits.

As the Men of the Middle North finish forming their line of battle, the Fanim appear. The “entire horizon seemed to move, winked as though powdered by silver.” The Grandees of Gedea and Shigek have arrived to do battle. At the same time, scouts find the bones of the Vulgar Holy War rotting in the field. “The ruin of an earlier Holy War.” Then hymns are sung by the Inrithi, at first a multitude, bu tone wins through.

A warring we have come

A reaving we shall work.

And when the day is done,

In our eye the Gods shall lurk!

The song was old, hailing from the Sagas. It inspires the soldiers, invigorating them. “A thousand years and one song!” The Inrithi are prepared to stand and fight, crying as they sing their hymn as the flashing Kianene ride out to fight. The Agmundrmen with their yew bows are the first to fire on the advancing enemy. Then the Inrithi knights charged, Athjeari the first with more following. The footman watch the avalanche, cheering them on. The knights are hit by Kianene arrows but keep riding as “the madness fell away. Once again it was the pure thunder of the charge. The strange camaraderie of men bent to a single, fatal purpose.”

They charge over brush and the bones of the Holy War. Twenty-thousand heavily armored men bear down on the Kianene. “The fear dissolved into drunken speed, into the momentum, became so mingled with exhilaration as to be indistinguishable from it.” Then they slam into the Kianene lines. Men die.

But the Kianene do not stand and fight. They retreat, firing arrows behind them. They are swifter, not encumbered by all the armor. And then the lightly armored Kianene break apart and heavily armored cavalry slam into the Inrithi charge. The Fanim let out ululating cries. “But war was bloody work, and the iron men hammered their foes, split skulls through battlecaps, cracked wooden shields, broke the arms battering them.”

The fighting is viscous. Yalgrota Sranchammer lays death about him as if the Fanim “were children.” The great names fight, rallying their men. Some die. It is chaos. The Fanim are everywhere, hitting their flanks, even charging into their rear.

Beset on all sides, the Men of the Tusk died. Taken in the back by lances. Jerked by hooks from their saddles and ridden down. Pick-like axes punched through heavy hauberks. Arrows dropped proud warhorses. Dying men cried to their wives, their Gods. Familiar voices pierced the cacophony. A cousin. A mead-friend. A brother or father, shrieking. The crimson standard of Earl Kothwa of Gaethuni toppled, was raised once more, then disappeared forever, as did Kothwa and five hundred of his Tydonni. The Black Stag of Agansanor was also overcome, trampled into the turf. Gothyelk’s householders tried to drag their wounded Earl away, but were cut down amid a flurry of Kianene horseman. Only a frantic charge by his sons saved the old ear, though his eldest, Gotheras, was gored in the thigh.

Retreat is sounded, but they are surrounded and unable to flee. Until suddenly, an opening appears. Shrial Knights shout to flee. Panicked Inrithi knights follow. Many of the retreating men are slaughtered within sight of the safety of the lines. The song has died.

“Dread and the heathen were upon them.”

Saubon is furious, screaming that they had them. But Gotian argues with Saubon, telling him that they were fools to keep pursing. When fighting the Kianene, you retreat back to the lines when they break. They regroup to fast. Saubon is furious still, ranting about how the Kianene broke like children. Then an arrow strikes him in the chest, but stopped by his armor. Gotian gets through to him. And Saubon realizes he’s doomed them.

Gather your wits, man!” Gotian roared. “We’re not like the heathen. We’re hard, but we’re brittle. We break! Gothyelk is down. Wounded—perhaps mortally! You must rally these men!”

“Yes… Rally…” Abruptly, Saubon’s eyes shone, as though some brighter fire now moved him. “The Whore would be kind!” the prince cried. That’s what he said!”

Gotian could only stare, bewildered.

Coithus Saubon, a Prince of Galeoth, the seventh son of old evil Ereyeat, hollered for his horse.

Now the Kianene lancers charge the Inrithi lines, facing pikemen and falling dead from arrows. Some Fanim throw the heads of dead noblemen at the Inrithi, who just throw them back. Their charge falters in parts, stunned by the ferocity and stout hearts of some of the Norsirai. The Fanim keep charging, looking for the weakness in the iron men’s lines to exploit. But each time, they fail and are forced to retreat, leaving scores of dead in their wake.

By a marsh, Crown Prince Fanayal, the Padirajah’s son, lead famed heavy cavalry, the Coyauri, against the Inrithi. Despite their initial success, a charge of surviving Inrithi knights drive them away after taking heavy losses. This heartens Saubon, and he musters more of the Inrithi knights to counter-charge the Fanim. They have learned from their earlier mistake, and retreat back to their lines instead of pursuing the Fanim and becoming enveloped.

The sun climbed high, and scoured the Battleplain with heat.

The Earls and Thanes are learning to respect and fear the Fanim, their skill at horsemanship, and their archery. Thousands of Inrithi lie dead from the arrows alone. In a lull in the fighting, exhausted men break down crying while the camp followers give first aid. Then word comes that the Fanim seek to outflank them, but Saubon anticipated it and the attack is undone, which bolsters Inrithi spirits.

Then Skauras himself, the Sapatishah-Governor of Shigek, appears before his forces, taunting the Inrithi surrounded by a group of retainers. Archers try to shoot him, spurred on by a reward offered by Saubon. Some of the Agmundrmen arrows come close, but Skauras and his retinue pretend not to notice until one is killed. The escort scattered, but Skauras doesn’t. He remains there, unmistakable in his battle garb.

Arrows fletched in faraway Galeoth pocked the turf about him [Skauras], but he didn’t move. More and more shafts feathered the ground as Agmundrmen began finding the drift and distance. Facing the Inrithi, the remote Sapatishah pulled a knife from his crimson girdle—and began pairing his nails.

Now the Fanim began to laugh and roar as well, beating their round shields with sun-flashing scimitars. The very earth seemed to shiver, so ferocious was the din. Two races, two faiths, willing hate and murder across the littered Battleplain.

Skauras raises his hand, and the Fanim advance. The Inrithi ready to fight as the Fanim charge across the entire line, lances lowered. Others fired arrows. The charges came in waves, crashing over and over into the northmen. “Entire companies were sacrificed for mere lengths of earth.” The fight is brutal, chaotic, lacking any tactics. It is a desperate struggle. And then the Cishaurim appear.

Saubon is fighting on horseback, screaming, “The God wills it!” He kills men over and over, hacking hard with his sword, the Coyauri he fights grew nervous, retreating from his ferocity as he calls them cowards. And then his fourth horse is killed out from beneath him. He is on the ground, struggling to get back to his feet, but he his attacked and knocked down on to his face.

By the gods, his fury felt so empty, so frail against the earth! He reached out with his bare left hand and grabbed another hand—cold, heavily callused, leathery fingers and glass nails. A dead hand. He looked up across the mattered grasses and stared at the dead man’s face. An Inrithi. The features were flattened against the ground and partly sheathed in blood. The man had lost his helm, and sandy-blond hair jutted from his mail hood. The coif had fallen aside, pressed against his bottom lip. He seemed so heavy, so stationary—like more ground…

A nightmarish moment of recognition, too surreal to be terrifying.

It was his face! His own hand he held!

He tried to scream.

Nothing.

Then Kussalt, Saubon’s groom, helps him to his feet, saving him. Saubon is reeling, realizing the ground is cursed. He recovers thanks to Kussalt’s fatherly manner. Saubon gathers himself and then demands Kussalt’s horse, calling him old and slow. Kussalt sours and Saubon berates him. Then the old man is hit with an arrow in the back. As the old man’s dies, he laughs, one of the few time Saubon ever heard. He grieves, not wanting Kussalt to die.

I would have you know…” the old man wheezed, “how much I hated you…”

A convulsion, then he spat snotty blood. A long gasp, then he went utterly still.

Like more earth.

Saubon grows empty, and then realizes this place is cursed. He can’t believe that Kussalt, the nearest thing to a father to he has, hated him. He tries to believe it’s a joke, to shake it off. And then people scream Cishaurim. Sorcery explodes. Gotian shouts for him. Saubon grows angry at Kussalt, but transfers it to Gotian. He remembers Kellhus words for the Shrial knights to be punished.

“Charge them,” the Galeoth Prince said mildly. He hugged his dead groom tight against his thighs and stomach. What a joker.

“You must charge the Cishaurim.

Fourteen Cishaurim walked into battle to elude Chorae crossbowmen instead of striding the sky where they would be obvious and vulnerable. No Cishaurim can be risked since the Scarlet Spire marches with the Holy War. “They were Cishaurim, Indara’s Waterbearers, and their breath was more precious than the breath of thousands. They were oases among men.” They walk among the lines of the Fanim, casting sorcerery, burning Inrithi arrows into ash. Wherever their sightless eyes gazed, Inrithi died in “blue-blinding light.” Many northmen remember their training, huddling behind shields while others fled, including the Agmundrmen archers. The center dissolves. “Battle had become massacre.”

Fanayal and his Coyauri cavalry withdraw in the confusion, pursued by four thousand Shrial Knights. Only they aren’t charging the Coyauri, but the Cishaurim, howling, “The God wills it!” Gotian’s horse is burned out from beneath him. Sarcellus is killed by the shrapnel from a knight exploding beside him. Hundreds of knights die in heartbeats. But they keep charging across the “smoldering ruin of their brothers, racing one another to their doom, thousands of them, howling, howling.”

Then a lone rider, a young adept, swept up to one of the sorcerer-priests—and took his head. When the nearest turned his sockets to regard him, only the boy’s horse erupted in flame. The young knight tumbled and continued running, his cries shrill, his dead father’s Chorae bound to the palm of his hand.

Only then did the Cishaurim realize their mistake—their arrogance. For several heartbeats they hesitated…

A tide of burnt and bloody knights broke from the rolling smoke, among them Grandmaster Gotian, hauling the Gold Tusk on White, his Order’s sacred standard. In that final rush, hundreds more fell burning. But some didn’t, and the Cishaurim rent the earth, desperately trying to bring those with Chorae down. But it was too late—the raving knights were upon them. One tried to flee by stepping into the sky, only to be felled by a crossbow bolt bearing a Tear of God. The others were cut down where they stood.

They were Cishaurim, Indara’s Waterbearers, and their death was more precious than the death of thousands.

Silence falls as the Shrial Knights limp back to the Inrithi, Gotian carrying a burnt youth. But Skauras isn’t dismayed. He has realized the Cishaurim have done their work. The Inrithi center has collapsed and struggles to reassemble So he orders his men to charge again. But the the iron men reform in time, heartened by the Shrial knights charge. And they began to sing their song once more. “As the afternoon waxed, many more joined the fallen.”

But that doesn’t matter, the Northmen have rallied. They are heartened, all singing together. The Fanim resolve falters as they crash over and over into the Inrithi lines. “For they saw demons in the eyes of their idolatrous enemy.” And then Proyas’s banner is seen, his Conriyans have arrived, and Skauras sounds the retreat. The haggard Northmen charge in pursuit and the Fanim panic and rout instead of retreat in an orderly fashion. “The knights of Conriya swept into their midst, and the great Kianene hosts of Skauras ab Nalajan, Sapatishah-Governor of Shigek, was massacred.” The Fanim camp is looted, women are raped, slaves murdered, and plunder taken.

By sunset, the Vulgar Holy War had been avenged.

Over the following weeks, the Men of the Tusk would find thousands of bloated horses on the road to Hinnereth. They had been ridden to death, so mad were the heathen to escape the iron men of the Holy War.

Saubon watches the camp-followers of Proyas’s host walking wearily, and he realizes Proyas had pressed hard to reach the battle. He notices Achamian and asks where Kellhus is. Saubon takes offense that Achamian called him by name. Achamian doesn’t know. Saubon grows angry but then is unsettled by the memory of seeing himself dead and buried. He then asks Achamian for help. Bemused, the sorcerer agrees.

“This ground… What is it about this ground?”

The sorcerer shrugged again. “This is the Battleplain… This is where the No-God died.”

“I know the legends.”

“I’m sure you do… Do you know what topoi are?”

Saubon is hit with fatigue as Achamian explain that topoi are like tall towers built from trauma and suffering. And like tall towers, they let you see farther than you can from the ground. Only topoi let you see into the Outside. “That’s why this ground troubles you—you sand perilously high… This is the Battleplain. What you feel isn’t so different from vertigo.” Saubon agrees, exhausted. And blames that on his experience. But Achamian continues, saying that this topoi is special. Saubon asks him to explain what that means.

The soul that encounters Him,” the Schoolman continued, “passes no further.”

“And just fucking what,” the Galeoth Prince said, shocked by the savagery of his own voice, “is that supposed to fucking mean?”

The sorcerer looked out across the dark plains. “That in some way, He’s out there somewhere… Mog-Pharau.” When he turned back to Saubon, there was real fear in his eyes.

“The dead do not escape the Battleplain, my Prince… This place is cursed. The No-God died here.”

My Thoughts

The troubled sleep and hissing sound is our first hint that Mengedda is, as later explained, a topoi. A place where the Outside bleeds into reality. The land is marked by the many battles and witnessing the death of the No-God. These whispers are only the beginning of the weird stuff that happens.

The opening section of this chapter is Bakker writing in the historical mode, more recounting events than having characters experience it. He mixes that close, personal style of POV with these more sweeping ones so he can describe chaotic battles in their total instead of limiting the reader to only small snippets of it. He also uses it to pass time and describe the impact of events. I rather like the mix of the omniscient and the limited third person.

And, of course, the Norsirai, based on Germanic Europeans, ride into battle drunk. You’ll notice how some, like the Galeoth, have been “Inrithi” long enough to lose most of their pagan ways while the Thunyerus only converted in the last generation, still very much barbarians and not civilized wholly yet.

The song the Inrithi sing is haunting. I can just imagine thousands upon thousands of soldiers singing it, this deep, rumbling bellow coming from these barbaric men in armor on foot as the graceful Fanim in their colorful silks and nimble horses advance.

The Sagas are a collection of works about the First Apocalypse that Achamian is dismissive of. Well, he does live the events in his dreams.

I love how Bakker differentiates the two forces. The Kianene are a race of the sun, the desert, all brilliant and colorful, while the Norsirai are dour men of the gray north, from haunting woods and cloudy days.

We also see some of the problems of feudal warfare. Since each lord has his own troops, there is disparity in size. Some spots on the Inrithi line don’t have enough men, while others have far too many. And there is plenty of arguments, the command structure iffy at the best of times. These men like to see themselves as equals, not officers. But despite that, they are united in common cause.

Of course Athjeari is the first to charge. He’s a minor character, but the young man and his cavalry are always out in the fore, scouting, raiding. He seems to want to be first in everything, full of that brash confidence of youth.

Bakker really captures the charge of the Inrithi, his prose bringing to life the armored men, noting the differences in their appearance, the fall of arrows. I particularly love the line right before they reach the Kianene “Saw eyes whiten in sudden terror.” Twenty-thousand heavily armored men charging at me would do that.

Reading this part is enthralling. You can almost hear the Fanim cry like Bedouin tribesmen of our own world.

And through the battle, Bakker drops all these names of characters we may never even heard of or who might have been mentioned in passing. But it doesn’t overwhelm us. It’s like reading history, hearing about this noble dying, this group of soldiers perishing. His world building is on full display, giving us a peek into all the back story that the novels are built upon, the foundation unseen because it is sunk so deep into the dirt.

Saubon has lost it, seeing victory turn into disaster. He saw the enemy break, not realizing the Fanim don’t break like soldiers normally do. They are used to retreating. It doesn’t demoralize them. They regroup fast. But soldiers who don’t think retreat is an option, like the Inrithi, have a hard time. They can last far longer but when they do retreat, it is a rout, broken, fleeing. They are not flexible. It’s both a strength and a weakness. They can take a lot, but it’s bad when they lose. But then, he remembers Kellhus’s words. He clings to them. They are his only hope now.

The fighting grows fiercer, but now the Inrithi’s iron stubbornness becomes their strength, their footman holding time and time against enemy charges. The Fanim don’t have the weapons to face the Inrithi in melee. With their heavy shields, two-handed weapons, and pike formations, they are butchering the lighter cavalry. Even the heaviest cavalry the Fanim have, are driven back.

We also get our first glimpse of Fanayal. Remember his name, he’ll be mentioned quite a lot as the series heads farther and the Holy War continues against the Fanim. He’s brave, fighting with his men, doing dangerous work. And he’s the heir of his country.

Skauras pairing his nails is a brilliant bit of writing. Here we are seeing the personality of the general commanding the Kianene forces, a wily tactician we’ve heard about since the series started. The man respected by Conphas of all people. Unwilling to show fear as archers come closer and closer to killing him, defiant, inspiring his men while risking his own life, and keeping his nails tidy in the process. It is posturing at its greatest and most deadly. War is belief. When you believe your winning, you keep fighting. When you believe your losing, you stop. Numbers rarely matter unless they are vastly lopsided. And even then, belief can keep men fighting.

What a sad sentence to write about how truly pointless war can be sometimes: “Entire companies were sacrificed for mere lengths of earth.”

Remember Saubon seeing his own face and hand stick out of the earth. The Battleplain is a topoi, and this event will be revisited one day in the series. (And for those who have read that part, such chills reading this passage again knowing what is to come).

Saubon sees Kussalt as the father he yearned for instead of the abusive one he had. And yet he is as abusive to the old man as his own father was. “You’re old and slow.” Just takes away the man’s pride, right when he was actually showing some affection for Saubon, pride at him for stemming the breach. As he dies, he finally tells Saubon how he feels. Just like Saubon hates his father for being abused, Kussalt hates Saubon for the same reason.

And then Saubon tries to deny those words. Kussalt appears to be the only person Saubon cares for, a man he respects and loves. And then to learn the man hated him, it sends him reeling. He transfers his anger at Kussalt onto “the fucking picks.” Picks, of course, a racial slur for Ketyai, like Gotian and the Kianene.

Bakker always describes sorcery as something at once both beautiful and horrific. “Filaments of blue incandescence, fanning out, glittering with unearthly beauty, burning limbs to cinders, bursting torsos, immolating men in their saddles.”

How many authors would kill a major character like Sarcellus with such a bare bones mention, almost off-hand, in the catalog of casualties suffered by the charging Shrial Knights. Just like that, the skin-spy masquerading as Sarcellus is killed by a piece of shrapnel. No fanfare. Nothing to draw attention to the significance of the event. But killing Sarcellus was the whole point of Kellhus’s “punish the Shrial knights.”

Nothing hammers home in Bakker’s work on both the rarity of sorcerers and their value when fourteen are killed and it is a disaster. But you see why. They ravaged the Inrithi. Even Skauras thinks that the amount they killed was enough.

And here we see belief at work. The Northmen are heartened despite taking so many causalities because of the Shrial Knight’s suicidal charge worked. The Cishaurim, this great and terrible force that was decimating them, was defeated through impossible odds and insane courage. And then, charging the Fanim when they retreat, finally broke them because they believed they had lost. They are flexible, but even the most stretchiest rubber can snap thanks to Proyas’s timely arrival.

Saubon is so haunted by the battle, he speaks to Achamian despite the man being his lesser. You can see that same off-handed insulting manner Saubon has. He probably doesn’t even realize that he does it. The sort of casual abuse that sours a man against you over time.

How utterly horrible to die fighting on the Battleplain and end up stuck here, buried in the ground maybe, reaching up at your own living self. All those men who had trouble dreams, all those men who heard strange noise, how many of them are trapped in the vacuum left by the No-God’s passage. Bakker truly has a horrifying afterlife. (And it only grows more disturbing the more you learn).

So, Saubon did it. Even without Proyas, he had one the battle. Proyas just ensured it was such a one-sided victory. Kellhus’s gamble paid off. The first Great Name now has proof that Kellhus is a prophet like he claims.

Click here to continue on to Chapter 7!

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Review of The Crown of Stones: Magic-Price

The Crown of Stones: Magic-Price

by C.L. Schneider

Reviewed by JMD Reid

b00hew3szq-01-lzzzzzzzIan Troy is haunted by his past and his abilities. He is a Shinree, a race who can use magic. But magic always comes with a price. To cast a spell, something living has to die. When Ian Troy decides to end the war between his nation, Rella, and the Langorians using the fabled artifact the Crown of Stone, magic’s price goes two far killing both armies and his lover, Queen Aylagar.

Ten years later, Troy has vowed to never use magic again. Fear and reviled as the man who killed so many people, he exists as a bounty hunter, staying on the fringes of society trying to forget his guilt. But events are moving again and Troy finds himself embroiled in a plan that will affect all the nations of the world.

Once again, Troy will be forced to use magic to protect Rella and his friends as he faces against a Shinree who wants to restore the glory of their enslaved people. A people addicted to magic fed off living creatures’ deaths.

Schneider’s writes a fast-paced plot, zooming from one catastrophe to the other as Troy has to react to the machinations of his enemy while trying to protect those around him. He fights against the call of magic, battling it like an alcoholic battling his demons. The only problem—the alcoholic doesn’t need to drink to have the power to protect Rella and those he cares for.

Troy does.

Schneider explores the moral question of what to do with a race of beings that has to kill living creatures to fuel their addictive magic. Especially when said magic is so useful from oracles, to healers, to soldiers capable of fighting with more skill, and even teleportation. Should they be enslaved by drugs? Set free? Or exterminated? With magic’s price so high, there are no easy answers as she explores this dilemma through the unfolding plot.

The use of first person for a fantasy novel was interesting. It is not often done, but it works great here. She keeps the book entirely from Troy’s perspective and since he is at the fulcrum of the enemy’s plans, it keeps his character right in the heart of the action. If you’re a fan of fast paced writhing, exciting action, and romantic encounters then you’ll enjoy the first in the Crown of Stone trilogy.

You can buy Crown of Stone-Magic Price from Amazon!

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Reread of Storm Front: Part 9

Reread of The Dresden Files

Book 1: Storm Front

by Jim Butcher

Part 9

Welcome to Part 9 of my reread. Click here if you missed the Part 8!

Chapter 25

Harry’s Sight reveals no magical alarms or traps as he limps up the porch stairs. For the hell of it, he tries the front door and is stunned to find it unlocked. Inside, the house appeared to Harry’s Sight, just as vile as the outside, and hungry, glittering eyes stared at him from the shadows.

Harry can hear music, the same song that played at Tommy Tomm’s hotel room, coming from a hallway. Harry makes his way towards the music and a room filled with purple light. Finally, Harry heard a man repeating an incantation and a woman moaning in pleasure. The hallway opens up a living room. Stairs lead up to the second floor where the ritual is being performed.

Against the wall are boxes and crates stacked. Harry finds them filled with ThreeEye or the ingredients to make the drug: absinthe, ammonia, peyote mushrooms, alum, antifreeze, glitter, and other materials.

Thunder rumbles closer, and Harry hears Victor’s chanting increase in volume. Harry gathers his courage as the ritual nears its climax. “You pays your money, you takes your chances,” Harry mutters and slags the stereo with fire magic. Then, using wind, lifts himself up to the second floor.

Victor is in a circle of purple light with a rabbit bound before him and a sharpened spooned to dig out the rabbits heart. A lock of Harry’s hair is tied to the rabbit’s head. In another circle, the Beckitts were “writhing together in mindless, sweating desire” to power Victor’s spell. Victor is stunned to see Harry.

“You!” he shouted. “Me,” I confirmed.

“There’s something I’ve been meaning to talk to you about, Vic.”

His shock transformed into snarling anger in a heartbeat. He snatched up the sharpened spoon, raised it in his right hand, and screamed out words of the incantation. He dragged the rabbit in front of him, the ceremonial representation of me, and prepared to gouge out its, and therefore my, heart.

I didn’t give him the chance to finish. I reached into a pocket and hurled the empty plastic film canister at Victor Shadowman.

As a weapon, it wasn’t much. But it was real, and it had been hurled by a real person, a mortal. It could shatter the integrity of a magic circle.

The canister went through the air above Victor’s circle and broke it, just as he completed the incantation and drove the spoon’s blade down at the poor rabbit. The energy of the storm came whipping down the cylinder of focus created by Victor’s now-flawed circle.

There’s an explosion of power and Victor screams “Why don’t you just die!” Victor sends flames at Harry manages to conjure an adequate shield. Victor summons a bone tube as Harry does the unexpected in a magical duel, tackles Victor and starts to kick him on the ground. Harry is interrupted by Beckitt, who shoots Harry in the hip.

Victor dumps a half dozen scorpions out of the bone tube and turns they grow into identical creatures that had just tore up Harry’s office. Harry crawls backwards into the kitchen and ducks behind a counter and grabs a broom, his only weapon.

A roomful of deadly drug. One evil sorcerer on his home turf. Two crazies with guns. One storm of wild magic looking for something to set it into explosive motion. And half a dozen scorpions like the one I had barely survived earlier, rapidly growing to movie-monster size. Less than a minute on the clock and no time-outs remaining for the quarterback.

All in all, it was looking like a bad evening for the home team.

My Thoughts

Come on, Victor. You have an evil lair and are preforming evil rituals, as well as storing quantities of illegal narcotics, and you don’t even lock your door?

I once again love the potion ingredients. Butcher manages to take such mundane items, mix them with some exotic, and it makes intuitive sense for why they work as potions. He really needs to have Harry whip up more potions just because I love the creativity he puts into them.

Harry makes quite an entrances, especially when you consider he’s wearing sweatpants and cowboy boots. SciFi or SyFy or whatever stupid name you call yourselves now, why wasn’t this scene in the adaptation of Storm Front for the Dresden File TV show? Why couldn’t you be bothered to a faithful adaption to begin with.

I could write an entire blog post on the subject, but I digress.

“Why won’t you die!” Many bad guys ask this about Harry. He’s like the energizer bunny, he just keeps going and going.

Love how Harry is more than willing to just kick Victor ass than bother to have a proper magic duel. Poor Victor. Spent all that time learning how to carve the hearts out of bunnies to kill people and not enough time on the self defense. Lucky the Beckitts are packing or that would have been such a pathetic end to a villain.

Butcher brings all the elements of his magic system to play, with rituals, magic circles, all the stuff he has taught us about over the course of the book and how easy it is for Harry to disrupt it.

Chapter 26

Trapped in the kitchen, and without his blasting rod, evocation magic is too dangerous in the close quarters of the kitchen. Harry remembers a spell he learned when he was an apprentice, and enchants the broom he’s holding. The broom comes to life, much like in Fantasia, and sweeps the scorpions off the second floor before they had a chance to grow much.

Victor screams in rage and the Beckitts try to shoot the broom. Fire from Victor’s spell is spreading now and Victor offers to let Harry go. Harry counteroffers of waiting for the fire to spread and kill them all and wipe out Victor’s drug stockpile.

Victor snarled and pitched another burst of flame into the kitchen. This time, it was much easier to cover myself, half-shielded as I already was by the counters. “Oh, cute,” I said, my voice dripping scorn. “Fire’s the simplest thing you can do. All the real wizards learn that in the first couple of weeks and move on up from there.” I looked around the kitchen. There had to be something I could use, some way I could escape, but nothing presented itself.

“Shut up!” Victor snarled. “Who’s the real wizard here, huh? Who’s the one with all the cards and who’s the one bleeding on the kitchen floor? You’re nothing, Dresden, nothing. You’re a loser. And do you know why?”

“Gee,” I said. “Let me think.”

He laughed, harshly. “Because you’re an idiot. You’re an idealist. Open your eyes, man. You’re in the jungle, now. It’s survival of the fittest, and you’ve proved yourself unfit. The strong do as they wish, and the weak get trampled. When this is over, I’m going to wipe you off my shoe and keep going like you never existed.”

Dresden lies and tells Victor the police, the White Council, and Marcone all know about him. Victor demands to know who hired Dresden, and Harry continues to mock him, hoping to angry Victor enough that he makes a mistake. Victor tells the Beckitts to start the car and then begins to summon his toad-demon, Kalshazzak.

Harry’s curiosity gets the better of him, and he peers over the counter to see the demon being summoned. Harry see the same toad-demon he banished last night (you can’t kill a demon, just destroy the bodies they create to inhabit the mortal world). Victor gloats in triumphant, “There Dresden. Do you see? The strong survive, and the weak are torn to little pieces.” Victor sics the demon on Harry. Harry stands to face it.

“My God, Victor,” I said. “I can’t get over how clumsy you are.”

Victor’s smile immediately became a snarling sneer once again. I saw fear touch the corners of his eyes, uncertainty even though he was on top, and I felt a little smile quirk my lips. I moved my gaze to the demon’s.

“You really shouldn’t just hand someone else a demon’s name,” I told him. Then I drew in a breath, and shouted out in a voice of command, “Kalshazzak!”

Harry speaks the demon’s name a second time and struggles to speak it’s name a third time. He thinks of Jenny Sells, Murphy unconscious on a stretcher, and Susan sick and unable to run. Harry had beaten it once and gathers his will and yells “Kalshazzak” for the third time.

The demon turns turns to Victor and ignores his orders. Victor runs for the door, but Harry tackles him and the pair grapple at the balcony. Victor demands to know what Harry did, and Harry explains about the Fourth Law of Magic forbids “binding any being against its will” so Harry set the demon free.

“What do we do?” Victor said. His voice was shaking, and he started shaking me, too. “What do we do?”

“We die,” I said. “Hell, I was going to do that anyway. But at least this way, I take you out with me.”

I saw him glance at the demon, then back to me, eyes terrified and calculating. “Work with me,” he said. “You stopped it before. You can stop it again. We can beat it, together, and leave.”

I studied him for a moment. I couldn’t kill him with magic. I didn’t want to. And it would only have brought a death sentence on my head in any case. But I could stand by and do nothing. And that’s exactly what I did. I smiled at him, closed my eyes, and did nothing.

Victor tries to throw Harry at the demon, and the pair continue their grapple. The railing on the balcony snaps, and Harry fall down onto the first floor with the scorpions while Victor hangs onto the railing. Harry, seeing Victor prepare to use magic on the demon, distracts Victor by telling him Monica ratted him out. Victor is stunned and furious, and the demon bites Victor in the neck, severing an artery.

Harry climbs up Victor’s dying body, dangling over the balcony in the toad-demon’s maw. Harry’s weight pulls the toad-demon and Victor over the railing and drop them down with the scorpions. Harry was prepared for this, and hung onto a guardrail. He pulls himself up onto the balcony as the scorpion tear into Victor and Kalshazzak.

Harry’s strength gives out, the house is engulfed in flames and Harry lies there waiting for death when Morgan strides into the house, sword drawn. Morgan kills a scorpion and walks over to Harry, sword raised to strike at Harry.

Typical, was my last thought. How perfectly typical, to survive everything the bad guys could do, and get taken down by the people for whose cause I had been fighting.

My Thoughts

What an epic battle. Harry the underdog comes through, outsmarting Victor through the sheer fact that Harry was the professional and Victor was the amateur. Again, SyFy, why wasn’t the broom sweeping scorpion monsters in the Storm Front adaptation?

While Harry isn’t the most intelligent guy at figuring out what’s going on until it’s too late, under pressure, when everything is going down, he can think fast and throw together ballsy plans while others might be too overwhelmed by the situation to think. That and his pig-headed stubbornness is probably the character’s greatest strengths.

Most of the time.

Victor fails in classic villain manner, destroyed by his own creation. Well done, Dresden.

Of course, Morgan shows up at the worst possible time. Poor Harry. Except Morgan has a code. And though he’s a dick, he lives by that code.

Chapter 27

Harry wakes up to Morgan performing CPR on him. Harry is stunned that Morgan saved him and Morgan explains he saw the confrontation, how Harry risked his life to stop Shadowman without breaking the Laws.

“I wasn’t the killer,” I said.

“No.”

“So,” I wheezed, “that would make me right. And then that would make you—”

Morgan scowled. “More than ready to carry out the Doom if you cross the line, Dresden. Don’t think this has gotten you off the hook, as far as I’m concerned.”

Harry realizes that Morgan is now obliged to report what happened to the council and Morgan is not pleased. Morgan, and others, still think Harry “consorted with the powers of darkness.” And plan to continue watching Harry closely. Morgan stalks off as the police arrive.

The Beckitts are arrested fleeing because they’re naked and later are convicted of drug trafficking and sent to prison. Marcone burned the Varsity down for insurance money and put out the rumor that Harry was hired by Marcone to take out the ThreeEye gang.

Harry was in the hospital when the White Council met and the Doom of Damocles was lifted from him for “valorous action above and beyond the call of duty.” Murphy was in the hospital room down the hall from Harry and he sent her some flowers and the remains of her handcuffs. Murphy claims she doesn’t remember what happened in the office, rescinded the arrest warrant, and paid Harry his fee. She even called Harry to consult again.

Monica Sells and her children vanished into Witness Protection. Bob returned after his 24 hours were up, and there were rumors of a very wild party a the University of Chicago. Susan published her article, DATE WITH A DEMON. She visited Harry in the hospital, and he used sympathy to leverage another date with her. “That time, we were not interrupted by a demon. And I didn’t need any of Bob’s love potions or advice, thank you very much.”

Mac got his TransAm back, while Harry got the Blue Beetle back. Harry missed the TransAm. Harry sends a pizza a week to Toot-toot and his friends out at the lake. Mister the cat got nothing, but didn’t seem to care.

The world is getting weirder. Darker every single day. Things are spinning around faster and faster, and threatening to go completely awry. Falcons and falconers. The center cannot hold.

But in my corner of the country, I’m trying to nail things down. I don’t want to live in Victor’s jungle, even if it did eventually devour him. I don’t want to live in a world where the strong rule and the weak cower. I’d rather make a place where things are a little quieter. Where trolls stay the hell under their bridges and where elves don’t come swooping out to snatch children from their cradles. Where vampires respect the limits, and where the faeries mind their p’s and q’s.

My name is Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden. Conjure by it at your own risk. When things get strange, when what goes bump in the night flicks on the lights, when no one else can help you, give me a call.

I’m in the book.

My Thoughts

What a great end to book and the start of a promising series. After I finished this book, I had to race back to the bookstore to pick up the next in the series. For a week, I read through the books up to Proven Guilty, where, sadly, I caught up with the what was published.

Harry can’t help but bait the bear with Morgan even when the guy just saved his life. Harry, sometimes you can give your smart mouth a rest. Geezs. Lucky for you, Morgan believes in duty and tells your story straight to the council.

Not much to say, pretty straight forward chapter that explains how everything turned out over the the next few months. As always, Harry’s personality adds quite a bit of humor and color to what is essential a checklist and makes it into something enjoyable and entertaining.

The foundation that Butcher builds later books has been laid here, many of the elements wrapped up at the end will come back as plot points in later books. Many of the characters will return (even in the case of one, not for a while) and we’ll even learn more about Victor’s killing spell way down the line and exactly what the spell is called. There will be a few continuity issues (like Harry claiming he saw his master summon He Who Walks Behind but in Book 13 when Harry tells the story, he doesn’t see it at all). But those are minor quibbles to the start of a great series.

At the end of the book, Harry ponders whether he really is a dangerous wizard like Morgan thought and realizes the temptation will always be there for Harry to do evil. He just plans on never giving in. We’ll see, Harry, we’ll see if you can keep walking that path as your enemies only get harder.

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