“The building was on fire and it wasn’t my fault,” says Harry in the opening line of Blood Rites. This has to be one of my favorite DRESDEN FILES books, and the very first line is quite possibly one of the most memorable in the series. Harry has been asked for a favor by his pseudo-friend and White Court Vampire, Thomas Raith: he is to investigate a possible death curse at an independent adult film studio. As with all Dresden stories, not everything is as it appears to be. Harry finds himself in multiple perilous situations, all of which are over his head. Jim Butcher masterfully weaves the reader through the chaotic mess that is Harry’s life, all culminating in a dramatic finale that deserves a standing ovation.
There are so many great moments in Blood Rites, from demon monkeys throwing flaming poo, battle meetings held in an IHOP, to the endless humorous banter between Thomas and Harry. The events that take place in Blood Rites have a lasting impact that still lingers six books later. Several wonderful characters are introduced, and many existing ones are fleshed out. You learn more about the White Court vampires, and Harry’s relationship to them. Mouse the Fu-Dog is introduced, and Kincaid the mercenary body guard becomes one of my favorite characters.
Blood Rites is what I call a keystone book in a series, and long-running series like THE DRESDEN FILES generally have a few of these. The events taking place are essential to the overall story arc that will end many books later. I like to be given the feeling of a “big picture,” and Blood Rites is one of the first DRESDEN FILES books that really move the overall story further along. It was after Blood Rites that I first realized that Jim Butcher had a plan for how he was going to end this series.
I cannot recommend Blood Rites highly enough, and I’m excited that Roc has now released it in hardcover and Penguin has produced it in audio. In the unabridged audio version, James Marsters is the voice of Harry Dresden. You may know James as Spike from the TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I was somewhat skeptical of him portraying the haggard macho voice I had imagined Harry to have. To say I was pleasantly surprised would be an understatement.
It was so important for Penguin to cast this voice correctly. The Dreden Files are written in first person, so the only voice in the story is Harry’s. Having a mediocre voice play the character would have been disaster. Luckily for us, they picked the right man: Marsters is brilliant and he has permanently portrayed Harry’s voice in my head since the first sentence he spoke — he’s perfect.
The middle books of the DRESDEN FILES certainly deserve this new attention, as they are some of the best books in the urban fantasy genre.