And this is where it gets good.
Grave Peril, the third book in Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files series, starts about a year after the events of Fool Moon. It’s rather worth emphasising that point: this book takes place a year after the last one. Many series like packing as much events into a short space of time as possible. This is not the case in the Dresden Files, which has about fourteen years between the first and the fifteenth book. This gives the characters and the world real time to change and grow up. By now, Susan and Harry have been dating for about a year-and-a-half, and he’s had a strained relationship with Murphy for about a year. These aren’t trivial amounts of time.
The big breakthrough in this book comes from the characterisation. It’s a lot better than in the first two books. It’s helped greatly by Harry staying with a couple of the characters for extended periods of time, giving us time to get to know them. And, of course, one of them is Michael, one of the great characters of the series.
Michael is a Knight of God; just a regular human, but one whose faith (and a really good sword) allow him to perform wonders. He makes the perfect foil for Harry, and the early chapters where they’re tracking down angry ghosts give the book an excellent start. Quickly introduced is what we think will be the central mystery of the book. However, Butcher isn’t done with us and things quickly escalate. It’s one damn thing after another, and from the middle of the book, Harry is just dealing with the fallout from his actions in this book – and the previous ones.
Butcher doesn’t cop out at the ending, either. There’s no nice reset button at the end of this book, and the ramifications of what happen are going to keep returning in the series for several books to come. It’s also nice to see quite a lot more time and definition given to Murphy and Susan. Grave Peril is no easy “monster of the week” book, but tells a story where the culture of the monsters is important both now and in the future. The world-building is great, and this time the characters are as well.
And there are better books than this in the Dresden Files. This is where the series starts getting good – it’s not where it stops.