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Elevated "into the front rank of urban fantasy heroes" (SF Site), professional wizard Harry Dresden is pledged to fight crime, banish evil, and outwit the masters of dark arts in the shadowy corners of Chicago....
Harry Dresden is the only wizard in the Chicago phone book. He consults for the police department on those so-called "unusual" cases. He's even been on talk shows. So there's no love lost between Harry and the White Council of Wizards, who find him a little brash and undisciplined. But now war with the vampires has thinned the ranks of wizards, and the White Council needs Harry, like it or not. He's drafted as a Warden, and assigned to look into rumors of black magic in the Windy City.
And, if that isn't enough, another problem arrives for Harry in the form of the tattooed and pierced daughter of an old friend, all grown-up and already in trouble. Her boyfriend was the only one in the room when an old man was attacked, but in spite of this, he insists he didn't do it. What looks like a supernatural assault straight out of a horror film turns out to be...well, something quite close to that, as Harry discovers that malevolent entities that feed on fear are loose in Chicago. All in a day's work for a wizard, his faithful dog, and a talking skull named Bob...
Harry Dresden, Chicago's only consulting wizard, takes on phobophages, creatures that feed on fear who attack a horror film convention, in the diverting eighth installment of Butcher's increasingly complicated Dresden Files series (Dead Beat, etc.). Harry finds that fighting monsters is only the prelude to maneuvers amid the warring wizards of the White Council and the vampire Red Court. Less and less V.I. Warshawski with witchcraft, Harry aims his deductive powers at political intrigues rather than crime solving. The body count from the magical melees, however, would do any hard-boiled gumshoe proud. Butcher's believable, likable set of characters go for the jocular much more than the jugular. Deeper fears do run through the book, and Harry, taking on an apprentice, has to face up to the consequences of his all-too-human failings. Look for the series to really take off with the debut of a two-hour pilot on the Sci-Fi Channel this summer produced by Nicholas Cage. (May)
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April 30, 2006
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Excerpt from Proven Guilty by Jim Butcher
Blood leaves no stain on a Warden's grey cloak.
I didn't know that until the day I watched Morgan, second in command of the White Council's Wardens, lift his sword over the kneeling form of a young man guilty of the practice of black magic. The boy, sixteen years old at the most, screamed and ranted in Korean underneath his black hood, his mouth spilling hatred and rage, convinced by his youth and power of his own immortality. He never knew it when the blade came down.
Which I guess was a small mercy. Microscopic, really.
His blood flew in a scarlet arc. I wasn't ten feet away. I felt hot droplets strike one cheek, and more blood covered the left side of the cloak in blotches of angry red. The head fell to the ground, and I saw the cloth over it moving, as if the boy's mouth were still screaming imprecations.
The body fell onto its side. One calf muscle twitched spasmodically and then stopped. After maybe five seconds, the head did too.
Morgan stood over the still form for a moment, the bright silver sword of the White Council of Wizards' justice in his hands. Besides him and me, there were a dozen Wardens present, and two members of the Senior Council--the Merlin and my one-time mentor, Ebenezar McCoy.
The covered head stopped its feeble movements. Morgan glanced up at the Merlin and nodded once. The Merlin returned the nod. "May he find peace."
"Peace," the Wardens all replied together.
Except me. I turned my back on them, and made it two steps away before I threw up on the warehouse floor.
I stood there shaking for a moment, until I was sure I was finished, then straightened slowly. I felt a presence draw near me and looked up to see Ebenezar standing there.
He was an old man, bald but for wisps of white hair, short, stocky, his face half covered in a ferocious-looking grey beard. His nose and cheeks and bald scalp were all ruddy, except for a recent, purplish scar on his pate. Though he was centuries old he carried himself with vibrant energy, and his eyes were alert and pensive behind gold-rimmed spectacles. He wore the formal black robes of a meeting of the Council, along with the deep purple stole of a member of the Senior Council.
"Harry," he said quietly. "You all right?"
"After that?" I snarled, loudly enough to make sure everyone there heard me. "No one in this damned building should be all right."
I felt a sudden tension in the air behind me.
"No they shouldn't," Ebenezar said. I saw him look back at the other wizards there, his jaw setting stubbornly.
The Merlin came over to us, also in his formal robes and stole. He looked like a wizard should look--tall, long white hair, long white beard, piercing blue eyes, his face seamed with age and wisdom.
Well. With age, anyway.
"Warden Dresden," he said. He had the sonorous voice of a trained speaker, and spoke English with a high-class British accent. "If you had some evidence that you felt would prove the boy's innocence, you should have presented it during the trial."
"I didn't have anything like that, and you know it," I replied.
"He was proven guilty," the Merlin said. "I soulgazed him myself. I examined more than two dozen mortals whose minds he had altered. Three of them might eventually recover their sanity. He forced four others to commit suicide, and had hidden nine corpses from the local authorities, as well. And every one of them was a blood relation." The Merlin stepped toward me, and the air in the room suddenly felt hot. His eyes flashed with azure anger and his voice rumbled with deep, unyielding power. "The powers he had used had already broken his mind. We did what was necessary."