Ghost Story (The Dresden Files #13)
Ghost Story, the thirteenth volume of The Dresden Files is the first that manages to shake the status quo up just a little bit. If you’ve read the blurb for Ghost Story and haven’t yet read Changes then you’ve already been somewhat spoiled. At the end of the last novel you know that everyone’s favorite wizard has been shot and, is in all likelihood, dead. Aftermath, seen in the Side Jobs collection, does a wonderful job of showing some of the aftershocks that occur after Harry’s demise and the change in the magical landscape resulting not only from Harry being MIA, but also due to his choices during Changes remains one of Ghost Story’s primary focuses.
I’m not going to go into too many details about the plot of Ghost Story particularly the opening chapters since it has some fun surprises that I would rather not spoil. It is suffice to say that Harry is sent back, in spirit form, to solve his own murder lest someone he care about get killed. Harry, always willing to put the lives of his loved ones ahead of even his own soul (should Harry fail in his task he will basically be trapped and eventually become just another crazy ghost), readily agrees. It is at this point that Ghost Story reintroduces Mort. Last seen in Dead Beat (that would be six novels ago) the formerly self-serving Ectomancer has finally come into his own. While still cowardly in some senses Mortimer is a strong, engaging character that is one amongst a number of supporting characters that Butcher really gives a chance to shine.
Indeed, it is Butcher’s work with Dresden’s supporting cast in Ghost Story that really makes it stand out. From his newly spiritual perspective, and given that at numerous points during the novel Harry can’t be seen by anyone, the fact that Harry can watch but cannot act allows him (and by extension readers) a real chance to observe the way the big events of Changes have effected his friends and family. Alongside Mortimers bigger role, Butters has really come into his own. The hesitant and sensitive medical examiner has found a surprising level of confidence and serves as the new custodian for Bob. While Mortimer and Butters represent two characters have grown in strength and fortitude others have not fared so well. Molly’s sanity seems to have been almost irreparably damaged by her close proximity to so many deaths in Changes while Murphy’s denial, and the stress of taking on a leadership role are starting to show cracks in her stony foundation. All this is made more heart wrenching by the fact that there is nothing Harry can do to change things.
The Foemore remain a nebulous threat but made slightly more distinct. They are a properly horrific villain group and the notion that they graft magical organs onto human hosts with terrible arcane rituals straddles that line between terrifying and awesome. The Foemore’s motivations remain unclear and while get some history regarding the group thanks to the Leanansidhe I still desperately want to know more about them. The number of magical players on the field is all sorts of ridiculous and the sense that this all building towards something big and terrible grows exponentially as that field is further revealed.
All in all Ghost Story is a welcome addition to the Dresden Files. While some of the basic patterns of previous novels are certainly recognizable the changes wrought by Harry’s spirit form, both in his limited access to magic and with the psychological and emotional effects on himself and his friends, make for a significant and engrossing change in tone. In addition to advancing and growing Harry and company as characters Ghost Story simultaneously deepens the reader’s knowledge of the world. The end result is that Ghost Story leaves you hungry for yet more of Harry Dresden.