1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on June 28, 2004
Well, this is the fifth book of the series and it still perfect. It is fantastic how Jim Butcher is able to keep the series on a so high level. He made only a mistake, in the book you are lead to believe that the language spoken in Brazil is Spanish. It is not, We speak Portuguese here, Spanish is not even our second language. Apart from that mistake, the book is flawless. I can't wait for the next book and I really hope Jim Butcher will keep the series as it is.
on August 13, 2012
The Dresden Files book sequence has become one of the most popular series in the speculative fiction genre, its last few installments topping the New York Times bestseller list. At first, the series was a bit formulaic and episodic in format. Nevertheless, for all that the misadventures of Harry Dresden made for entertaining and fun-filled reads. With Summer Knight, Butcher elevated his game, bringing the Dresden Files to a higher level and setting the stage for a lot of fireworks to come!
And with Death Masks, the author raises the bar even higher. Regardless of its immense popularity, a lot of speculative fiction fans look down on the urban fantasy subgenre. But Jim Butcher demonstrates that urban fantasy can be as good and multilayered as any other subgenre.
Here's the blurb:
Harry Dresden, Chicago’s only practicing professional wizard, should be happy that business is pretty good for a change. But now he’s getting more than he bargained for.
A duel with the Red Court of Vampires’ champion, who must kill Harry to end the war between vampires and wizards…
Professional hit men using Harry for target practice…
The missing Shroud of Turin…
A handless and headless corpse the Chicago police need identified…
Not to mention the return of Harry’s ex-girlfriend Susan, who’s still struggling with her semivampiric nature. And who seems to have a new man in her life.
Some days, it just doesn’t pay to get out of bed. No matter how much you’re charging.
As always, and it's one of the highlights of the series, Death Masks features the first-person narrative of the endearing, if frequently inept, wizard Harry Dresden. More than ever in this book, Harry's heart heart is in the right place, and his flawed nature makes him one of the most likeable SFF characters out there. Doubtless, the novels wouldn't be as entertaining if we didn't witness events through Harry Dresden's eyes.
The supporting cast once again adds another dimension to this tale. The return of Susan Rodriguez was more than a little interesting. The three Knights of the Cross, Michael Carpenter, Shiro, and Sanya, played an important role throughout the book. Ortega, the Archive, Kincaid, Nicodemus, and Gentleman Marcone all bring something to this story.
In Summer Knight, the introduction of new concepts, he addition of new characters and developments hinted at the fact that this was a series that resounded with a lot more depth than met the eye. Well, Death Masks more than confirms it. Not only does the novel builds on aspects introduced in the first four volumes, but it also expends on several others. I was fascinated by everything that had to do with the Denarians and the Fellowship of St. Giles.
This fifth volume is another fast-paced urban fantasy offering. We see evidence of a bigger, more complex, and more ambitious overall story arc. Which bodes well for future installments!
Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files is fast becoming one of my favorite series on the market today. Urban fantasy it may be, yet it is as good and convoluted as can be!
Check out Pat's Fantasy Hotlist
on May 22, 2012
Book five of the Dresden Files has got to be the best one so far. The series just gets better as you continue to read. This book saw the return of numerous characters and introduction of some new favourites and bad guys.
The Dresden file books generally start out slow and pick up as you go. Once the plot is set and things start in motion you're on a wild ride with the supernatural and our hero, Wizard Harry Dresden.
Jim Butcher has a special way of captivating his audience and locking you into the book. I have loved this series so far. I also have noticed that the fourth and fifth book had no spelling errors or grammatical ones that I caught, unlike the previous three and their sloppy editing. So it's a welcome change as I hate correcting errors as I am trying to read a story. It's irritating and it's not very professional of the publishing company, in this case, Penguin Books.
This book is a definite 5/5 I can hardly wait to start book six today!
on June 15, 2004
I only recently noticed that I had missed the release of the latest in Jim Butcher's Harry Dresden series, and quickly moved to correct my error. Dresden is a wizard after my own heart - trying to make a living in modern Chicago, and a bit too honest to do anything but scrape by. Armed with a wand, a few special charms, and a flower covered ancient Volkswagen Beetle, Harry is always ready to take on a task completely beyond his capabilities.
This time he has his choice of menaces. Having triggered a war between the Wizard's Council and the vampire's Red Court in the last volume, Harry continues to be in desperate straights. Duke Ortega of the Red Court has proposed a way to end the war - a duel between him and Harry. Needless to say, Ortega has no intention of losing, and Harry will need more that a few incantations to survive.
More of a surprise, though, is the appearance of Father Vincent, a papal agent with an assignment for Harry. The Shroud of Turin has vanished - stolen and brought to the USA and, while they have more than an inkling of who the thief was, it will take Harry to track it down. The bad news is that the Shroud attracts all kind of attention, from everyone from mafia bosses to fallen angels. And they all want Harry's skin. The good news is that Harry will get paid for the work, and the rent is due. Or he will die in the attempt and won't need to pay rent ever again.
There is more. Harry's ex-girlfriend and recovering vampire snack Susan is back in town, the police are looking for a murderer who collects parts, and the Knights of the Cross are there to lend a hand. Total madness wherever you look, and Harry is in the middle of it, bad attitude and all.
Butcher has created a series that is a refreshing change from the usual pseudo-medieval magick tale. Harry is up to date, listens to good music, and, when he can afford it, even dresses fairly well. Or he would if people would stop stealing his clothes. He alternates between wisecracks, a love for money, and a set of ethics that keep getting in his way. And you can't help but like a guy whose closest friend lives in a skull.
Even though there is continuity between the five books in the series, each still can stand on its own. It you like fantasy but are tired of the usual enchanted princess genre try a dip in the Dresden files. You won't be disappointed.
on May 10, 2004
I consider myself quite lucky, in retrospect, that there were already five books available in this series by the time I started reading. I cannot remember the last time I devoured a series as quickly or with as much enjoyment as this one. Butcher has really done an exceptional job in creating this world and these characters. He started off with one of the best first novels I've read and has only gotten better with each installment. I have literally laughed, cried, and cheered while reading these books, and that is something that is not entirely common with me (though I'll admit to being a sap and something of an easy target for the tearjerk effect).
One reader commented that this installment left many things unresolved, and this is true to a point. Actually, the majority of the major plot points were dealt with quite nicely (far more neatly, in fact, than any writer so new to the craft has any right being able to accomplish). There were a number of threads left dangling, but only insomuch as was necessary in order to bring these elements into play in later episodes. Also, the reviewer who noted that there was a statement about the Jews being responsible for Jesus' death was not entirely accurate. There is a referrence to Barrabus who was freed by the Jews despite the fact that Pilate had wanted them to free Jesus. If Butcher deserves to have all but one star stripped from a rating for accurately reporting an event that was already written of in a much more widely published book (I don't have to explain that one, do I?), then we have a problem here. This was in no way intended as anti-semitic, and I thought it was actually rather neatly in keeping with the rest of the storyline. By the way, just for the record I am not Jewish but I am not Christian either. Frankly I think both sides of this particular debate ("The Jews killed Jesus!", "No they didn't!") are rather silly. But that's just me...
Anyway, as for this book I was more than pleased. Somehow Butcher keeps making each one better than the last, and I'm keen to see if he can keep up the trend. Only problem is that I've run out of books and now have to wait for him to publish the next one. Either I'll have to slow down my reading speed, or else Jim has to start typing a hell of a lot faster. In the meanwhile, get Peter Jackson on the phone. I've got an idea for his next big movie series... :)
on January 26, 2004
Harry Dresden's latest adventure builds upon the previous for books in Jim Butcher's series about Chicago's only practicing wizard.
In Death Masks, Harry must duel the vampire Ortega, find the missing Shroud of Turin, battle against foes both supernatural and mortal, and deal with the return of his girlfriend Susan. The fact that she's now a half-vampire and part of a secret Brotherhood makes things complicated. Butcher introduces some new nasties in the Denarians, associates of the Fallen, who gain power and corruption by possessing the thirty coins of Judas. The main thrust of the story is the search for the stolen Shroud of Turin, and trying to figure out the purpose of its theft. Butcher also throws in Gentleman John Marcone, Chicago's crime boss for good measure. Luckily Harry has help from the Holy Knights and his friend, Michael Carpenter, plus Susan with her newly suped up powers.
The story is well-paced, the action well-orchestrated, and the threads of the plot are laced together deftly. Butcher obviously takes time to piece together his stories, drawing on twists of religious history and the occult, and building on events from the previous books. Harry's world is increasingly complex, and he continues to grow as a character. I like the storyline remains interesting, and the author is having fun creating this universe.
I still find it tough to swallow when Harry always seems to be at the center of all things, as if the entire supernatural world revolves around him. Why do all of these creatures seek him out? Where the heck are all of the other wizards all of the time? There was an interesting moment toward the end with Marcone as less than adversary, but Harry seems to try to irritate people.
Finally, I didn't get a feeling of resolution with very many of the plot points. This was just a bridge to the next story in the series. But hey, I'm still hooked.
on September 2, 2003
Life has its up and downs for our hero, Harry, the down-on-his-luck wizard from modern-day Chicago. Susan, his almost-vampire lost love returns, but only to say goodbye. He's challenged to a duel by a vampire champion of the Red Court, but on the good side, if he loses, the wizard-vampire war will be over. The Shroud of Turin has been stolen and shows up in Chicago, and everyone wants it: the scary gangster lord of the city, the Fallen Angels and their demon agents, the White Knights, and the Vatican, which hires Harry to find it. Along the way there are shoot-outs aplenty, strange and twisted beasties to defeat (or run away from), and Harry gets asked some questions he has a hard time answering. All told in Butcher's typical fast-paced hard-to-put-down style, from Harry's charming and sardonic point of view. If you've read the other books, don't wait, just buy this and devour it. If you've picked it up as the first book of Butcher's, go ahead, read it first. Butcher will give you what you need to get up to speed. Then go out and get the other four.
on August 31, 2003
Harry's back on the case in the Dresden Files, Book Five. "Death Masks" brings back many familiar faces, too - good, bad, and indeterminate. Butcher has returned to a storytelling device he pulled off perfectly in "Grave Peril:" various, apparently-unrelated bits of action are tossed together early on, leaving Harry to sort them into some kind of sense throughout the rest of the book. Not so perfectly this time. And readers who especially enjoy the more arcane aspects of Harry's exploits may feel a little deprived; the magic is slow in coming and mostly low-key.
There's no lack of plot material. A stolen Shroud of Turin and a challenge to a duel are the biggest pieces. Cops, corpses, demons, Knights, lover, mentor, mob, thieves, vampires, and miscellaneous other friends and foes figure in somewhere. It ought to work better.
"Masks" may be the least successful Dresden File to date. Butcher continues to expand his exploration into darker, more adult themes. Ambitious, but he doesn't handle the grimmer stuff as expertly as he manages the fun. He pulls his punches in a few key places, and he can't seem to decide which way he wants certain characters to go. Serious themes aren't as forgiving of weak writing as humor is.
The problems aren't limited to the darker plot lines. Overall, the story is just plain uneven. It isn't as cleverly plotted as "Peril." Its pace is choppy. The title itself isn't as evocative as usual. Continuity errors are up again, too. The biggest involves major déjà vu over the shroud's buyer in Chapter 27; been there, Chapter 19. Most are niggling annoyances, like the two times Harry drops his blasted - er, blasting - rod and fails to reclaim it before exiting the scene.
Broken-record time. Yes, it's fantasy, but Butcher still puts too much gratuitous strain on the willing suspension of disbelief. Especially if he wants to be taken seriously. Several characters strike random false notes (Michael laughs at that?). Events don't always ring true, either. Many clinkers are minor (Harry dances in those shoes?), but a few - like the whole river-jump-from-speeding-train bit - are pretty substantial.
On the plus side, Butcher doles out more tantalizing tidbits about Harry's past. Harry's present is finally showing long-overdue signs of more control over his power and his pocketbook. There's the usual fun sprinkling of future plot hints. And while Butcher needs to work on his command of mature themes like passion, sacrifice, obsession, and damnation, his grasp of the worlds of magic and mayhem remains as robust as ever. His humor, where appropriate, is in top form.
Death Masks has some great moments. Its mysteries aren't as well-executed as in Peril, but they're entertaining and absorbing. Butcher writes well, when he chooses. And the series' emerging dark side is not unwelcome. Mixing humor and drama is much harder than writing in either vein alone, but lends far more dimension to stories and characters; once Butcher gets the hang of it, readers will follow Harry anywhere.
on August 14, 2003
The fifth in the Dresden Files pits our hero Harry Dresden, Chicago's only working Wizard - well, the only one in the Yellow Pages at any rate - against the demands of the other world, the underworld and those of his day job as a Private Investigator. The opening chapter sets up nicely the simultaneous conflicting pressures that Harry's supernatural friends and enemies place on him. And by the second chapter, there has been an attempt on his life and he's been given notice that the Red Court is threatening not only his own life, but that of those he cares about. Top that off with his human friends and their demands, and a bad day gets that much worse.
All in a days work for Harry, but that's all the better for those of us following his adventures. Here the central mystery is a couple of gruesome deaths and the theft of the Shroud (that covered Christ?s body until he was resurrected). As events move forward it becomes clear that both are linked. As usual there is much more to the book than just mystery - fantasy, adventure and an element of romance as Susan turns up in Chicago again also take precedence from time to time. This serves to heighten or slow the pace as required to drive the plot forward. There are no new threats here: it is essentially the Red Court as we have met in the previous 2 books of the series - and the mob has it?s influence too. However the danger Harry faces is very real, unrelenting as the story is told over just a few days, and from all sides. This makes for a fast paced, action packed style that any who have read the series will recognise and appreciate.
While the majority of the players are those known already to Dresden file followers, Butcher has not fallen into the trap of making his story inaccessible to potential new readers. Past events influencing the story are briefly described, but in enough detail that the book need not be read as part of the series, although as a Dresden junkie I do think that because events are so skilfully handled in the ups and downs of being Harry, the books would be best read in order.
I did find the ending of Death Masks left me feeling a bit down - the roller coaster ride of not only the dangers Harry faced but the various emotional storms carried me along and left me a little wrung out. Also, although the danger has receded for a time, like the tide it is inevitable it will resurge again - there is more to follow and the threat is still out there. Cool.
on August 5, 2003
Two extremely competent female cat burglars steal the Shroud of Turin with all signs pointing towards the icon being taken to Chicago. Evidence suggests that Chicago mobster John Marcone is the intended buyer, but the church hopes to intercept the sacred artifact before it changes hands. Father Vincent works with the Chicago police but he also hopes to obtain the assistance of local wizard Harry Dresden, a private investigator who specializes in supernatural crimes.
Harry agrees to take the case but it becomes more complicated when the Denarians also want the shroud. The Denarians are humans who chose to align themselves with the Fallen for immortality and innumerable power. They plan to use the artifact combined with some dark magic to create and spread a plague that will decimate much of the world's population. Harry and his allies, the Knights of the Cross, must stop the Denarians at all costs or Earth will undergo a tragedy more powerful than the Black Plague.
Jim Butcher has created a very powerful urban fantasy story set in modern day Chicago where the only "outed" wizard resides. Unlike many of his allies, who operate in a black and white world, Harry works in shades of pastels, never certain whether what he is doing is right or just expedient. It is that uncertainty that makes the hero a vulnerable lovable person. Fans of Laurell K. Hamilton and Mercedes Lackey will definitely want to read all five books in the Dresden Files.