Today I present to you a book that has been out for a while, but represents a huge pivotal point in an ongoing series. If you haven’t read The Dresden Files books by Jim Butcher, you are seriously missing out. Butcher blends magic, mystery, and sarcasm in the perfect ratio to produce what I (and many who have read them) consider the best Contemporary Fantasy books available. I have recommended this series to probably a thousand folks in the past eight years and not one has ever returned one or complained they didn’t like it. That said, on to the review of Death Masks, which is Book 5 of the series.
Without giving away plot points, and thereby ruining the story or series for others, let me just say that so much happens in Death Masks that you don’t realize half of what’s happening until you are reminded of it in later volumes. This novel is a major turning point in the series in that it introduces a plethora of new characters that really help to flesh out the world of the protagonist.
Meet “Harry Dresden, Chicago’s only practicing professional wizard” and the scary magic filled world he lives in. The background created in this series is one where magic and monsters exist on both our plane and in the Nevernever. Vampires, Fairies, Werewolves, you name it… they exist, only we have no idea they’re out there. Harry places himself firmly between humanity and all the things that want to kill/eat/rule us. He works as a private investigator and in conjunction with the local police as a consultant. He gets hurt, he cracks jokes, and he has just enough moral fiber to always find a reason to step into the line of fire, so to speak.
In Death Masks, he is searching for a lost religious article. More to the point, he is one of MANY people looking for it and not all of them play well with others. At the same time, he is involved in multiple altercations with representatives from the war he helped start (not going to spoil it, just read the first books… you’ll thank me for it). He has a very strained relationship with an ex-girlfriend that helps/hinders his investigation. Not to mention the fact that he’s having to deal with the some new enemies that far outclass him on every level.
Death Masks folds together old plot lines and introduces new characters and enemies to the scene. This combination produces a book that is more like a fast-paced, lively read that you cannot put down and less like a bridge book between plots. If you can’t find the first four books, this is an excellent place to jump in — Butcher’s skills fashion a great tale of intrigue, guile, and enchantment. Harry epitomizes all that a hero should, right down to the fact that he doesn’t try to be one. In every instance, he just wants to do the right thing and help people… even if it means placing himself in danger to do it. It’s not like he goes out there and saves the world. Or does he?