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This is (so far) absolutely the best book in the series. I wish I could have given it six stars!. Dresden action from beginning to end, life threatening decisions,demon fights...real demons,a return of Susan...kind of, death of a good guy....and on and on. Well worth the read. And what's going on with Susan? She's here, she there, she's gone! I wonder if Murphy will become a love interest as well as evil fighting companion. And who is the crime boss guys secret aquaintence. ( I am trying SO hard to not give anything away)
Anyways....great book. I have two more purchased already ( 6 and7) and am looking forward to them based on this one. God, don't you just love kindle? No more desperately trying to find the next book in a long series!
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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
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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!

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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.
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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.
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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.
Harriet Klausner
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on August 4, 2003
Harry Dresden is in for another series of events that will make you very glad that you aren't wearing his wizard shoes. Poor guy...when does he get to sleep?
This time around, Harry must face Ortega, a vampire noble, in a duel, find the stolen Shroud of Turin, and deal with "The Fallen" (as in angels). Luckily he gets some help from some special knights on that last one. Not to mention his ex is in town, and brings with her some stunning revelations and reminds Harry of his broken heart.
All this takes place at a breakneck pace, with lots of action and humor and physical punishement for Harry. In fact, maybe a bit too much physical punishment. After a while, it gets a bit over-the-top.
The humor is in top form though, with some many wonderful, subtle touches in the book. Butcher's characters (almost all) really come to life. My personal favorite is Michael Carpenter.
This book wasn't my favorite of the series, and I did have some minor quibbles. Its a bit of a letdown after the fabulous Summer Knight. But in a continuing series, there is bound to be a bit of variation from book to book. And for the most part, Butcher shows respect for his character and considerable writing ability. Most of all, he knows how to make us laugh, and have the characters laugh at themselves. Never underestimate the value of a sense of humor.
But hey Jim, where's Toot-toot? ;-)
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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.
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on August 3, 2003
Superb! Jim Butcher has brought Harry Dresden back with a vengeance. At the end of the fourth book, "Summer Knight," Harry's world was a tad askew. His girlfriend was half-way to becoming a vampire, he'd started a war between the Wizard's Council and one of the Vampire clans. Also, he'd been on the "list" with a Chicago mob-boss for quite a while now. He did, however, manage to play some fun D&D with a group of werewolf vigilantes. Hey, you take your victories where you can.

So, when a priest asks him to recover a stolen relic (sort of like a big white cloth, taken from Turin... uh... yeah, that one), and demons start popping up everywhere trying to pop Harry off, things are tense. Toss in a suprise visit from his Girlfriend, three holy knights with very holy swords (one of whom has a very bitter wife), and you see why Harry's day is just about as bad as any he's had.

The mystery in this one threw me for a loop (I thought I had it right, only to learn I had it way wrong), and the tone of the book was dark and fun in equal measure. The pithy one-liners are always well done, and there's enough insider-geek references to make you swell with geeky pride.

Enjoy it, enjoy 'em all, and if you've never read any of Butcher's work, you owe yourself a copy of 'Storm Front,' a hot cuppa tea, and some quiet time you'll soon fill with laughter.

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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.
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