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Back to Black Goodreads Giveaway!

Cover art by Marginean Anca of Brose Designz

It’s that time of year again! Please enter to win a paperback copy of my newest novella, Black to Black! Deadline is October 18, 2017. Don’t miss your chance to grab the thrilling adventures of Seers Jordan Amador and Myra Bennett, exclusive to the Creatures boxed set.

Want to read the first chapter? Go here and get crackin’! 

Back to Black Chapter 1 (Excerpt)

Cover art by Marginean Anca of Brose Designz

Guess what? The all-new Black Parade novella Back to Black is out in just one month! Time to get you all frothing at the mouth for it, so here’s Chapter One. Please remember: if you haven’t read The Black Parade, She Who Fights Monsters, and The Holy Dark, you will run into spoilers here. Back to Black takes place between She Who Fights Monsters and The Holy Dark: the second and third novels in the series. With that in mind, please enjoy. Purchase info below the cut.

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Pre-Order Back to Black!

Well, I’ve been saying I had news for months and here it is: I’ve written an all-new novella for the Black Parade series!

Cover art by Marginean Anca of Brose Designz

 

Seer and demon slayer Jordan Amador has had it rough lately: separated from her husband the archangel Michael, hated by the angels who think she betrayed them, hunted by demons who want her dead or enslaved, and rejected by her friends and family for lying to them. Disgraced and miserable, she’s all but ready to lay down and die until another Seer named Myra Bennett saves her life. Myra gives Jordan a new mission: to wipe out a nest of demons that are terrorizing her family as well as the innocent people of Houston, Texas. Jordan goes undercover to infiltrate the demons’ nest and figure out how to eliminate them. Meanwhile, she’s locked in a deadly game with the archdemon Belial, who constantly visits her night after night in her dreams to convince her to give him her soul. Between the insanely gorgeous, but dangerous archdemon poking around in her head and the vicious creatures surrounding her, she’s not sure how much longer she can survive.

Back to Black is the fifth book in the Black Parade series. It takes place between She Who Fights Monsters and The Holy Dark.

Back to Black is exclusively part of the Creatures boxed set, which features 21 other New York Times, USA Today, and Amazon bestselling authors. Pre-order it today and get your copy August 15, 2017.

The Black Parade Returns to Permafree!

TheBlackParade_Revised_2 copy

That’s right, my friends! After a long, profitable summer and autumn with the authors of Secret Worlds, my first novel is back at its free status again. I apologize if anyone has been confused by it staying at .99cents for so long, but it turns out our set was doing really well so we extended its duration through to the end of the year.

Please spread the word and share the link with friends, family, and new readers whenever you can. It would be a huge help. Thanks and I’ll have more news for you soon!

Kyoko M

The Predator: A Short Story from She Who Fights Monsters

Happy Halloween, my friends! In celebration of our spooky holiday, I’ve got an all-new, never-before-seen short story for you told from the perspective of everyone’s favorite archdemon, Belial. It takes place between Chapters 10 and 11 of She Who Fights Monsters (The Black Parade Book 2.)

WARNING: This is a horror story. Violence, adult language, minor gore, and sexual references abound. Plus, minor spoilers for She Who Fights Monsters. You have been warned.

Enjoy!


 

Commission by Sarah Elkins

Commission by Sarah Elkins

The list of people whom I have been unable to fuck, manipulate, or murder is very short.

In fact, there is only one person on that list.

One woman, rather.

God always did have a great sense of humor. No wonder I rebelled.

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The Dresden Files Reread and Review: Blood Rites

Welcome back to the Dresden Files Reread and Review! We’re back for another adventure with our gangly smartass Chicago wizard Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden. This time we’re tackling Book Six, Blood Rites. Naturally, spoilers for this book and minor spoilers for other events in the series.

Disclaimer: this novel is absolutely RIFE with Harry Dresden/Karrin Murphy moments. I apologize in advance, because I am going to be an insufferable shipper the whole time and there is nothing you can do about it and I am so sorry. This is also my longest review to date, so basically strap yourself down and prepare for the following:

The first thing to note about Blood Rites is that it actually has a reputation for one of the best opening and closing lines in the entire Dresden Files series. Look upon this opening line and enjoy:

“The building was on fire, and it wasn’t my fault.”

Yep. Are you ready for this book? I am so ready for this book. Let’s dive in.

Our wonderful hero, Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden (conjure at your own risk), Chicago wizard and private investigator, is currently fleeing—I shit you not—three demonic monkeys throwing supernatural flaming poo at him. Pun very intended. Read that sentence again and question the sanity of Jim Butcher.

It turns out he’s actually on a rescue mission, retrieving a litter of Foo puppies that were stolen by said beasties. Foo dogs are incredibly intelligent, borderline supernaturally strong and fast warrior dogs, and Harry’s been hired to get them back. He manages to escape the building he rescued them from and climbs into his ride with the one and only Thomas Raith, White Court vampire and occasional ally. And also my third favorite character in the series.

The demon monkeys form Monkey Voltron—and I’m not making this shit up, it says that in Harry’s narration—and continue chasing the boys, but they manage to kill it and head onward towards Brother Wang and the monks who hired him. In the meantime, it turns out Thomas tracked Harry down to ask him a favor, which is unusual since technically the wizards and vampires are still at war. Granted, Thomas is a White Court vampire, and they don’t have much of a beef with Harry, but the Red Court vampires still want Harry’s head on a plate cooked medium, and so Harry is understandably a bit tense about whatever made Thomas come looking for him.

Thomas wants Harry to help his friend, Arturo Genosa, who might be the subject of an entropy curse. Those are nasty long-distances curses that are committed by powerful, usually hateful individuals, and so Harry makes a deal that he’ll help as long as he gets paid his investigator’s fee and if Thomas will finally come clean about why he’s helped Harry several times with no real explanation.

Harry drops the puppies off and then he and Thomas head to go see Genosa, but just when they arrive, a Black Court vampire attacks the car. Luckily, it turns out one of the Foo puppies stowed away under the seat and it barks right before the vamp attacks, and Harry and Thomas manage to fight it off. They go see Genosa and Harry learns that he has three ex-wives as his starting list for potential killers. Thomas collects his girlfriend Justine and departs, while Harry is set to pretend to be Genosa’s production assistant on set so he can try to catch the killer and prevent the curse from killing anyone else.

Afterward, Harry and the puppy head home and he asks Bob, the air spirit of knowledge, to go out to search for the lair of Mavra, the head of the Black Court vampires who have him on their hit list. He intends to find where they are holed up and strike first rather than waiting for them to up the ante. It’s at this point that Harry finds out Genosa isn’t a regular movie producer.

He’s a porn movie producer.

Cue hysterical laughter.

Harry heads to the gym to see our residential Queen of Awesomeness, Lt. Karrin Murphy, head of the Special Investigations department of the Chicago Police. In between positively adorable dialogue, short jokes, and low-level flirting, Harry asks her to help him find Mavra’s lair and take the bitch out, since Murphy’s sharpshooting and incredible instincts have saved Harry’s life dozens of times.

Side note: if you’re not into audiobooks, I would urge you to reconsider. The Dresden Files entire series is narrated by the one and only James Marsters, who most recognize as Spike from Buffy: The Vampire Slayer, and his voice-work is nothing short of phenomenal. I actually did read Blood Rites first, but my friend lent me the audiobook for a long road trip and the audiobook might be yet another reason Blood Rites is one of my favorite books in the series. Marsters just nails Harry’s inflections and changes in mood, and one of the things I love most is how he reads lines about Karrin Murphy.

You see, up until this point in the series, Harry sees Murphy as a dear friend and ally. But that’s consciously. I honestly think he doesn’t notice that he has a crush on her until later on in this novel, which I will discuss when we get there, but Marsters does this amazing thing when he reads Harry’s narration and description of Murphy that just seals how he feels about her even though he doesn’t know he feels that way yet. There’s so much affection in his voice, as well as respect, and even a little bit of longing, and it adds to the experience of the novel tenfold. Even if you don’t purchase it, find some excerpts and listen. I guarantee you’ll love it that much more.

We also learn that Murphy’s family reunion is on Saturday and she’s dying for a reason to ditch it, so she agrees to help Harry out, and takes care of the puppy while he heads to the set of Genosa’s skin flick.

Not long after Harry arrives, he starts to meet new people, and we get this little gem of a scene:

Guy: Who the hell are you?

Harry: I the hell am Harry.

Guy: You always a wiseass?

Harry: No. Sometimes I’m asleep.

Marry me, Harry, you sarcastic little shit, you.

He meets the producer, Joan, and helps her get set up, but not long after that someone is attacked again by the entropy curse. One of the actresses is hit by the curse, but Harry manages to resuscitate her and then hand her over to the paramedics.

We also get a little more insight into one of Harry’s flaws, which is his chivalric streak. I’ve seen disgruntled fans complain about it before, and it still pisses me off to this very day because it’s an intentional personality defect. Harry doesn’t dote on women and he doesn’t treat them like they’re incompetent, or weak, or beneath him. He admits that his chivalry is just an old habit and a bad habit, and I think that’s why I can accept it. He doesn’t assert that he’s right or anything. He can be honest and just say that violence against women pisses him off, and I don’t see that as something profoundly sexist and insulting, especially when you consider how many amazing female characters surround him, good and bad. It might also be a personal bias. I am 5’8’’, which is three inches taller than the average height for women, and for some irrational reason, I feel intensely protective of all women shorter than me. Even perfect strangers. If I see a guy messing with a girl, my first instinct is to do something about it, even if it would just end with me getting my ass kicked. I can’t explain it, and I know it makes no sense, but it’s how I feel, and some of my actions are dictated by this weird personality quirk. Same with Harry.

The production is shut down for a few hours while they clean up the mess the curse left the studio in, so Harry heads to his office, only to find an assassin waiting for him. Whoopee.

The good news is this assassin is Jared Kincaid, whom Harry actually called in to help him take on Mavra and the Black Court. Kincaid is suspicious by nature, so he makes Harry sit in a circle that binds his magic and holds him at gunpoint, since he knows Harry’s reputation for being dangerous. That, and to be sure that no one is posing as Harry to lure Kincaid into a trap of some sort. Unfortunately, Kincaid’s fee is insanely huge and so Harry now has the added stress of finding a way to pay it or Kincaid’s going to blow his head off after they take care of the vampires. Harry also suspects Kincaid isn’t 100% human, and that’s even scarier.

Harry goes to see Murphy at her office in the police department. Again, we get a moment so funny that I simply have to share it with you.

Murphy: I’ve been fighting this computer all day long. I swear, if you blow out my hard drive again, I’m taking it out of your ass.

Harry: Why would your hard drive be in my ass?

Hilarious quote aside, Murphy is actually upset and stressed out, which Harry notices due to the death glare and lack of jokes (read: flirting) and so he gets her to talk it out with him. Turns out there is tension between her and her mother, and she doesn’t know how to resolve it, especially with the family reunion right around the corner. Like the scene I mentioned in my review of Summer Knight, it’s downright heartfelt and adorable to see Murphy opening up to Harry, and Harry just being there for her even though he doesn’t have a family and can’t quite understand her hesitation. Their friendship is pretty much forged by fire and is tougher than steel, so it’s really great to read moments like this where they can share and grow.

Shipping? What shipping? I’m not shipping anything. Shut up.

Harry returns to the movie set and meets Inari, another gopher assistant like him, then goes to see Arturo. While there he meets the resident brat of the film feature, Trixie Vixen, and Lara Raith. Trixie is ex-wife number three of Arturo’s, and Lara is a beautiful former actress Arturo asked to step in since one of the other leading ladies was hurt by the curse. I have to admit I love reading Harry’s reaction to Lara, if only because it’s comforting to read about a hero whose love life is about as barren as my own.

However, because of his strong reaction to Lara, Harry figures out she’s a White Court vampire, which complicates things a ton. He calls Murphy to figure out what she’s found, and we’re treated to more adorable flirting (“You’re cute when you’re embarrassed.”) but then Harry senses something going wrong and narrowly avoids an assassination attempt via a poisoned dart.

The movie continues shooting and nothing happens until Harry sees a dark figure skulking around, so he pursues him only to find out it’s Thomas. Harry confronts him, suspicious that he’s up to something, but Lara interrupts him at gun point, revealing that she’s Thomas’ older half-sister, and Inari’s as well. Lara and Thomas argue about Thomas’ plan to overthrow their father, Lord Raith, the King of the White Court, and Lara determines that he cannot win, so she plans to mercy-kill him, and Harry, instead.

She shoots Thomas twice, but Harry makes her back off before she can kill him, and they bump into Inari, who panics, thinking Harry shot Thomas. She hits Harry on the head and Lara convinces her to run off and call the police. Just before she can finish them, three Black Court vampires show up and Harry feels the entropy curse winding up yet again. Oh joy!

They take out the Black Court vampires, but everyone’s hurt so they retreat to one of the White Court’s safe houses. Lara gives Harry and Thomas a 24-hour truce, which he cautiously accepts, but just as they arrive, they bump into Lord Raith. It’s tense, but Lara convinces Lord Raith to let Harry stay and they bring Thomas to Justine. Unfortunately, Thomas is so near death that to feed on Justine would mean killing her, and while Harry tries to convince her not to do it, she still agrees to let him feed because she loves him.

That sound you’re hearing is me gross sobbing. Get used to it.

Harry wakes the next morning and Thomas has come around, but is naturally devastated that he was forced to feed on Justine. Harry storms out, but realizes he needs to stay until sunrise so that Mavra’s goons can’t come after him. After he cleans up, Inari comes to him to thank him, only she tries to feed on him. However, since Harry is still in love with Susan, he can’t be fed on by White Court vampires, so it burns her and knocks her out of the trance. Thomas intervenes and Harry apologizes for his harsh anger about Justine’s fate, mostly because he realizes the situation is similar to what happened between him and Susan. Thomas also tells him Lord Raith juiced Inari up and sent him to Harry’s room to kill him, since it could be blamed on her for losing control.

And then Thomas drops a f**king atom bomb.

It turns out he’s Harry’s older brother.

Bert can see forever

Sometime prior, Thomas discovered Lord Raith had portraits made of all of the women who bore his children, and he leads Harry to the portrait of Margaret Dresden, his mother. He also has the same silver pentacle that she left Harry. It’s the reason why he’s been helping Harry the last few years. Harry of course goes straight into angry denial, assuming that it’s another con, but concedes that they’ll look at each other with The Soulgaze to determine the truth. The Soulgaze is basically when a wizard meets eyes with anyone or anything for more than a few seconds, and so they are locked into a trance where they see the true makeup of the person’s soul. It’s permanently imprinted into a wizard’s memory, and he sees every detail that is the core of said person.

And when he gazes at Thomas, Harry is able to see an imprint of his mother, Margaret Dresden.

That sound you’re hearing is me gross sobbing even louder. Get used to it.

His mother’s imprint leaves him with a small token of knowledge, and the Soulgaze ends. Now Harry knows the truth, that he’s not totally without family and has an older brother. It’s by far one of the most beautiful scenes in the series, honestly, and it can get you choked up if you’re not careful.

Harry returns home only to find Bob’s useless self spent the night visiting strip clubs instead of finding Mavra, so he sends him back out again to do it right this time. He heads over to see Murphy and pick her up to meet with Kincaid about the raid on Mavra’s lair.

Naturally, since Kincaid is an ass, he picks a fight with Murphy in order to vet her skills. It’s another one of those scenes that’s so brilliantly written that I always read it twice or thrice because the second Kincaid starts insulting her, Harry just takes one step back and watches Murphy kick his ass. I LOVE that Harry knew better than to stand up for her, and just quietly watches her put Kincaid in his place. I like to imagine him like this watching his not-girlfriend bring the smackdown, personally:

Kincaid is rightfully impressed after Murphy feeds him his own dick (metaphorically speaking) and they get down to discussing business. They set a time to go after her once Harry’s got a location and then Harry figures out that the entropy curse is actually set to a timer, meaning he might be able to stop the next time it strikes.

He and Jake draw chalk lines all around the building and then centered around a mirror that hopefully would bounce the curse back on whoever cast it. He finds out Genosa is in love yet again but just as he and Murphy are on the phone discussing it, he gets jumped by Trixie Vixen. She’s on the phone with one of the perpetrators and has been instructed to stall Harry so that he can’t prevent the curse. However, Trixie is both inexperienced and not very bright, so Harry manages to keep from getting killed, but the gun goes off and the curse manipulates it into killing Emma, one of the women working on the set. Naturally, Trixie starts screaming that Harry did it and he’s forced to go on the run.

He returns to his apartment and by then Bob has found Mavra’s lair along with an estimation of how many bad guys are inside. His wheelman and mentor Ebenezar McCoy shows up and drives Harry to Murphy’s family reunion picnic.

It’s here that we get one of the Mack Daddy of all the Harry/Murphy shippy moments, which is Harry seeing Murphy in the dress for the first time ever. It’s. So. Freaking. Cute.

Harry: [Murphy] dressed functionally—never scruffy, mind you, but almost always very subdued and practical—and never ever wore a dress. This one was long, full, and yellow. And it had flowers. It looked quite lovely and utterly…wrong. Just wrong. Murphy in a dress. My world felt askew.

I consider this scene to be remarkably similar to the end of Inside Out where that pre-teen boy bumps into Riley and his emotions all freak out screaming, “GIRL!” Anyway, Murphy introduces Harry to Marion, aka Mama Murphy, and her baby sister Lisa. And it turns out Lisa got engaged…to Murphy’s second ex-husband Rich.

Without telling her.

Those bitches

Understandably, Murphy goes nuclear at this news and the girls have to be separated before a fight breaks out. Harry actually gets a moment alone with Marion Murphy and finds out a little bit about the tension between her and her daughter. Murphy’s father died when she was eleven and he’d been a cop as well, but he killed himself and Murphy never got over it. Harry makes a case to her that she’s shutting Murphy out by being so judgmental about her lifestyle, but Mama Murphy asserts that there are things Murphy simply can’t tell her out of protection and that she knows Murphy is too much like her father. It’s actually a really touching scene. Harry doesn’t have any family and so it’s important to him that Murphy straightens things out, and it’s really sweet to see him stand up for her here.

What really seals the deal is the way the chapter ends, if you’ll pardon me for quoting one more time.

Marion: Will you take care of my daughter?

Harry: Yes ma’am. Of course I will.

They drive to the site where Mavra and her clan are holed up, and Ebenezar hangs back while they go find Kincaid. Murphy is still upset they can’t call in the police, and worried that they’re in over their heads, but Harry reassures her in probably the sweetest little oblique moment by saying, “You look good in the dress.” I’m not crying, there’s just an OTP in my eye…

However, when Ebenezar shows up, he and Kincaid pull a gun on each other. It turns out they have a history, and it’s the seriously bad kind. Harry has to talk them both down from shooting each other, and he realizes that there is something Ebenezar hasn’t told him based on Kincaid’s reaction.

They enter the lair and are quickly attacked. I’d like to mention here that Harry was using The Sight on one of the potential threats and it attacks him, but then he sees Murphy as a literal guardian angel coming to defend him. MORE OTP IN MY EYE HOLD ON A SECOND.

They move down to the basement to try and find the hostages, and discover that they aren’t just hostages—they’re child hostages. And they’re in a closet wired to a mine that will go off if anyone else enters the room.

Fortunately, Murphy is small enough to fit inside and disarm the bomb. Delightfully, though, Murphy’s bulky pants get in the way and so Kincaid has to take them off before she can get to work.

And the darling precious cinnamon bun Harry Dresden finally realizes something very significant.

Harry: Get a grip, Harry. It isn’t like you and Murphy are an item. She isn’t something you own. She’s her own person. She does what she wants with who she wants. You’re not even involved with her. You’ve got no say in it. I ran through those thoughts a couple of times, found them impeccably logical, morally unassailable, and still wanted to slug Kincaid. Which implied all kinds of things I didn’t have time to think about.

Oh, Harry. You delicate flower of a man. Six books and you just now realized that consciously.

Naturally, that’s when the next waves of baddies attacks, this time darkhounds followed by Mavra. Oh, and two vampires with frickin’ flamethrowers. Harry manages to get his shield up, but the shield is built for kinetic energy, not heat, and so it literally cooks his entire hand. I wish I could describe how traumatizing it is to read about my favorite character in pure agony sacrificing literally life and limb to save innocent lives. There is a reason I call Jim Butcher ‘Satan’ on a regular basis.

Through sheer perseverance, they beat Mavra’s goons back and roast the lot of them with the bomb she had intended for them. Just as they gather the kids together, Mavra gets her second wind and jumps them, but Harry lays the smackdown on her with a specially prepared vampire paintball gun and Kincaid lops the bitch’s head off. Go Team Dresden.

They return home and Harry starts to form a theory about Genosa’s gaggle of murderers invoking the entropy curse and that it’s being spearheaded by Lord Raith as a power struggle and show of force, since he can’t control Genosa since the man is in love yet again. He also tells her about Thomas being his half-brother. While they’re feeling honest, Murphy admits that Kincaid taking her pants off kind of rustled her jimmies while Harry quietly thinks about how she’s seeing straight through him while talking about her lack of love life and it basically just feels like this:

 

But I digress. Murphy heads out to gear up for their next move, and in the meantime Harry forces Ebenezar to tell him the truth.

I’ve been thinking of a list of things that are less painful to experience than the contents of Harry’s conversation with his mentor. I came up with:

-burning hot needles jammed under your fingernails

-waterboarding

-stepping on a Lego

-perforated ear drums

-paper cuts

-getting sawdust in your eye

-watching the second season of Sleepy Hollow

We learn that Ebenezar is “Blackstaff” McCoy, the unofficial hitman for the White Council. We also find out Kincaid is a changeling who used to work for Vlad Tepes. Yes, Kincaid used to work for freaking Dracula. No wonder he’s so cutthroat.

Worse still, Ebenezar reveals he wasn’t just supposed to be Harry’s guardian when he adopted him as a teenager. He was also supposed to kill him if Harry showed signs of turning to black magic after he escaped Justin DuMorne’s custody. That feeling in your chest of being impaled? Yeah, that’s about right. Straight through the freaking heart, man.

It doesn’t stop there. Ebenezar apprenticed Harry’s mother, Margaret, and he knew that Lord Raith used an entropy curse to kill her for abandoning him and his allies. She even used her death curse on him, but it didn’t stick because he is protecting by some kind of old power that the wizards have yet to identify.

Rightfully so, Harry is angry and Ebenezar leaves. Once he calms down a bit, he calls for Thomas but finds out Thomas is M.I.A. Harry talks Lara into helping him in exchange for defeating Lord Raith so that she can assume command of the White Court. She agrees. Murphy comes to pick Harry up on her motorcycle and takes him back to Castle Raith.

Lara meets up with them along with Inari, and then another bomb is dropped.

Justine is still alive.

Ben Wyatt Aside Glance

Granted, she’s almost completely without any mental faculties and her hair is all grey, but she is alive enough to help them find him thanks to their psychic bond. Just after they do, someone from the manor opens fire on them but Murphy takes him out. Lara attends to the wounded party while Harry and Murphy go after Thomas in a cave called the Deeps.

The baddies come after them and they play chicken, which Harry and Murphy win. Unfortunately, not long after they come to a stop, Lord Raith has Murphy at knifepoint. Harry works out that his mother’s death curse wasn’t to kill Raith; she made it so that he can never feed again. Raith reveals that he thinks a ceremony sacrificing the two remaining sons of Margaret LeFay might end her curse so he drags them down with him into the Deeps.

Gulp.

They arrive to the cave where they’re holding Thomas and we see the ladies who helped Raith with the curse, Trixie and Madge, but Lucille had been sacrificed for the last curse because she made a decision on her own that backfired. However, Trixie has finally outlived her usefulness too so Madge and Raith kill her as well.

However, the bad guys hear sirens and Lord Raith goes to see if they took Inari with them. Harry uses this time to distract the bodyguard holding a gun on him and Murphy takes her out with extreme prejudice, and I love that they two of them have such perfect chemistry that she caught onto his plan without him saying a word to her about it. Plus, there’s this:

Harry: Took you long enough. I was going to run out of actual sentences and just start screaming incoherently.

Murphy: That’s what happens when your vocabulary count is lower than your bowling average.

Harry: Me not like woman with smart mouth. Woman shut smart mouth and get me free or no wild monkey love for you.

I can’t. Just…get married. Right this second. You stupid perfect babies.

Raith returns and Harry and Murphy jump him. They manage to wound him, but he blows out the lights, and then Harry hears that Madge is going to sacrifice Thomas to summon He Who Walks Behind, who is the Mack Daddy of all the demons and monsters and it almost punched Harry’s ticket not long after he broke ties with Justin DuMorne. Murphy and Harry intervene enough to stop the ritual and the power kills Madge.

Harry and Raith have a showdown, and just before Raith can take Harry out, Lara appears, having watched most of the fight and decided who she’s going to back up in the end. She chooses Harry. Phew.

We have a bit of a long denoument where everything is wrapped up. Harry and Lara agree to a truce, and in exchange for saving his life, Thomas pays off the debt to Kincaid and decides to stay with Harry since House Raith can’t keep him around since Lara took over and basically turned Lord Raith into a puppet with her vampire powers. Harry decides to keep the puppy and names him Mouse because he’s small, quiet, and grey.

And then we get the ending line that is just golden as Thomas returns from the grocery store:

“Hey. Why did you get large breed Puppy Chow?”

Blood Rites is the ultimate experience in a Dresden Files novel, if you ask me. Everything great about this series and this character is represented in full. It’s got the action, the sexy intrigue, the gumshoe detective work, the brutal noir-style murders, and of course relentless punches to the feels over and over again. This is by far the biggest emotional rollercoaster of the first six books because it’s not about Harry’s love life, but rather his character as a man. He is put through trials that echo throughout the rest of the books in this particular story. Important decisions that affect his future are made here, and it’s so wonderful to be right with him in the muck, watching him go through it all and praying that our beloved wizard can come out the other side alive and well. That’s why I love him. Harry is a survivor, and what’s more is that even though he struggles and makes mistakes, it’s so clear that he is a good man through all of it. He’s the permanent underdog trying to find a little slice of happiness in the shit-storm that is his life.

Overall Grade: 5 out of 5 stars

I can’t give this book enough stars, honestly. A million. A billion. It’s easily one of my favorites, if not my all-time favorite book of The Dresden Files. Do yourself a favor and get reading.

Join me next time for Dead Beat, which, like Blood Rites, has a reputation in the fandom for ridiculous amounts of awesomeness. Don’t miss it.

The Dresden Files Reread and Review: Grave Peril

Conjure at your own risk.

Conjure at your own risk.

Welcome back to the Dresden Files read and review! Yes, this one is a bit late, but once you see my review, you’ll know why. As always, major spoilers for The Dresden Files’ Book Three, Grave Peril.

First, a warning: I consider Grave Peril’s alternate title to be “The Novel in which I Want to Punch Susan Rodriguez in the Throat.” Just a heads up.

But the good news is that Book Three opens with one of the better supporting characters in the series: Michael Carpenter, a Knight of the Cross. The Knights are warriors entrusted with swords that draw their power from the nails of the Cross Jesus Christ was crucified on. They are stone cold badasses, and Michael is no exception, but the great thing about him is that he’s not what you’d expect from a warrior of God. He’s not only personable, but he’s so kind and wise and levelheaded that you almost wonder how he can balance slaying monsters and being a father and husband so well. He’s good people, and one of Harry’s closest friends. They are like night and day, and in a good way.

If you’ve been reading my reviews, or hell just the introduction to this review, then you know I’m not a fan of Susan Rodriguez. I don’t dislike her, per se, but I certainly don’t care for her all that much. Unfortunately, the book opens with Michael pressing Harry about admitting that he’s in love with Susan, and I admit this is one of my least favorite openings in the series because the foreshadowing is basically beating you over the head. I’m not talking about the series-long foreshadowing, either. Just for this book, it’s really too blatant that they are talking about Harry’s love life while rushing through the streets of Chicago to go beat up on a ghost. It doesn’t fit. It feels forced, and it’s strange because most of Butcher’s plot and character threads are more subtle. You rarely ever get a moment where it feels like he’s standing next to you shouting “THIS WILL BE IMPORTANT LATER” like in lazily written fiction. Not to mention this scene is rather exposition-y, and most of the Dresden Files don’t open that way either. Once I’m done with my full re-read and review, I intend to try to personally rank which books I liked the best, and I’m pretty sure this one will be in the bottom five.

That being said, Harry and Michael are in a hurry to protect a bushel of babies from a nasty ghost that is trying to feed on their life forces. It’s another one of those rare scenes where you feel creeped the hell out, and proof that Butcher can still write horror elements that make you want to burrow under the comforter just to be extra safe.

Side note: There is a fantastic little character nugget I want to address in this scene, which is the following narration by Harry: “But I’m a sucker for a lady in distress. I always have been. It’s a weak point in my character, a streak of chivalry a mile wide and twice as deep.” I’ve seen people on Tumblr bashing Harry Dresden for being sexist, and this makes me want to throat-punch them super hard. Yes, Harry does have sexism issues early in the books, but it’s fully acknowledged as a weakness, and he gets over it after a couple different villains exploit this quality in order to manipulate or destroy him. It’s on purpose, for God’s sake. Nothing makes me angrier than people flinging hate at something that is 100% intended as an issue for the character, and it’s not like Harry thinks he’s in the right. He knows the limitations of his personality and admits he’s at fault. What more do you want?

After resolving the mess with the first ghost, Harry meets a new client Lydia, a magic practitioner who’s looking for a talisman to protect her from a hostile spirit. He figures she’s trying to play him, but since he’s still a good person, he lends her the talisman he wears around his wrist. It’s actually a bit rare, too, that we get scenes out of chronological order, because Harry recaps how he got where they were. I suppose it’s because the opening scene had better momentum, but he could have started from that point, if you ask me. But again, keep in mind, this is Book Three and Jim Butcher was still a newbie author getting his feet wet, so he makes some mistakes like a human being.

We jump back to Nevernever, where Harry and Michael defeat the ghost, but don’t leave before Harry’s “faerie godmother” Lea catches up with them. She is a scary, scary lady, and that’s putting it mildly.

I do love the fact that after saving the babies in the nursery wing, Michael and Harry end up in jail. A lot of superheroes or characters in urban fantasy settings always seem to get away, but Harry’s been arrested more than once, and it’s realistic. For example, I used to hate the fact that Anita Blake used to murder indiscriminately and yet never set foot in a jail cell, so Michael and Harry ending up in jail is kind of great. Luckily, the boys are bailed out by Michael’s’wife, Charity, who is delightful because she’s eight months pregnant and hates Harry’s guts. Their relationship is just precious.

Susan bails Harry out and takes him home—after Harry deals with a stunning case of Cannot Spit It Out in terms of those three little words (Insert me rolling my eyes here)—and then they get jumped by vampires. Yep. Just another day in the life of Harry Dresden.

The vamps drop off an invitation to a promotion ceremony for Bianca, a vampire who really does not like Harry and would love the chance to eliminate him without getting herself killed in the process. It’s here that we enter one of my main problems with Susan, who insists that she should attend the ceremony with Harry. Look, I get it, she’s a reporter with Lois Lane levels of intensity, but it still pisses me off that she completely underestimates the monsters she’s willingly throwing herself to over a damn story. I know there are plenty of people who defend Susan’s actions, but to me, it’s just stupid and it ends up precisely the way you think it would. Susan is a Muggle. Sure, she’s smart, but she has zero skills in protecting herself against monsters, so her motivations are weak and it just irks me to no end that she endangered herself, and Harry, that way just for the scoop on a story no one will believe anyway.

The other thing that irks me is that this decision sticks Susan so firmly into the Damsel in Distress category, and it’s yet another sign of Butcher being a young writer at the time. Over the course of the Dresden Files, he goes on to write some of the absolute best, most three dimensional female characters I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. I love the way Butcher writes women. Love it. Susan’s nagging nonsense in this book is his weakest writing by far, since we all know what’s going to happen on foreshadowing alone and not because this is my second read-through of the book. She’ll get herself in trouble and Harry will have to bail her out, and that’s why it’s such a struggle for me to get through this novel. It would be different if Susan had proficiency with magic, self-defense, or a mix between the two like Harry, but she has neither, so all she can do is roll her neck and give him attitude without being able to back any of it up. No me gusta.

Moving on, Michael and Harry visit the church of St. Mary of the Angels. They notice that the parking lot is a mess, evidence that a very dangerous apparition of some sort is indeed after Lydia. It tried to get into the church after her, but couldn’t, and so Harry moves elsewhere to consult with Mortimer Lindquist, a “psychic” who is actually just a con artist, but he has connections to Nevernever, so Harry bullies some answers out of him. It turns out he’s trying to skip town because he’s noticed that the barrier between the human world and Nevernever has started leaking and a walking nightmare came through the other night. He leaves Harry his notes and bounces out of Chicago.

Harry returns home to find two detectives from the S.I. (Special Investigations) division of the police department waiting to take him somewhere on orders from Lt. Karrin Murphy. (*insert me cheering here because Murphy is my Queen*) When he gets there he finds one of the recently retired cops who helped him out, Micky Malone, has been mind-raped into attacking his wife and is tied down to prevent him from hurting anyone else. He finds out it was done to him by the same entity who set the ghost Agatha on the newborns at the hospital in the opening scene. Harry manages to get it off of him, but he knows shit is about to get real, and soon.

Minor note: this is also the first time Harry looks at Murphy with The Sight, and he sees her as a powerful, beautiful guardian angel.

Aggressive Shipper

 

He returns home to consult with Bob about what they’re dealing with and then after getting some theories he sends him out to look for Lydia. Harry himself goes out searching for her via a trace on the talisman he lent her and finds her in the clutches of the douchebag vampires who “invited” him to Bianca’s soiree. He manages to stay alive (humorously noting how he always seem to destroy buildings during these fights) but is too hurt to save Lydia from being kidnapped by the vamp siblings. Doped up with vampire saliva (no, really), he gets home and passes out, only for the ghost baddie to try and eat him in his sleep. He manages to make it down to a summoning circle in his lab and Bob gives him the skinny.

It is here that we are introduced to one of my favorite original concepts of the series. It turns out the thing chasing Harry and killing things is actually a ghost demon. As in the ghost of a demon Harry, Murphy, Michael, and the cops killed in the past. Is that not a boss freaking villain? That’s why it’s so powerful and hard to stop. I’m giddy with this idea because I previously had never thought about a demon being able to permanently die instead of just ceasing to exist or going back to the spirit world.

Harry and Bob theorize that Bianca stirred up trouble in Nevernever and basically indirectly got the demon’s ghost to come for Harry as her oblique way to get rid of him. Once they figure out what it is, Harry puts together that since this is about revenge, it’s going to go after those who are responsible for its death, meaning MY QUEEN MURPHY IS IN DANGER.

Ghost in the Stalls Guy screaming

Harry gets there and manages to invoke a spell to put poor mind-tortured Murphy to sleep and then runs off to warn Michael, but unfortunately, the demon ghost—still pretending to be Harry—has kidnapped Michael’s wife, Charity.

Harry tries to fight it off, but it’s too powerful, so of course his “godmother” Lea shows up and offers to help in exchange for his cooperation. She doesn’t give him power, the bitch, just a clue, and luckily Michael shows up to help fight it off. Y’know, just as Charity goes into labor. *facepalm*

And oh, it gets better. Lea’s cheating ass wants Harry to come to her now even though she didn’t give him any help, and when Harry tries to ward her off with Michael’s sword, she takes the bloody thing and disappears. And Charity’s baby is born with complications, implying that he possibly won’t survive the next 36 hours.

Remind me again why I was born with feelings?

Seriously, why? I don’t want to feel things. Because this shit hurts.

So after this horrific emotional crucifixion, Harry performs a spell that binds the demon directly to him, meaning it physically cannot go after any of his friends or loved ones, which is essentially like putting a hit out on himself, but honestly, who can blame the guy? The demon ghost just tried to kill a pregnant woman in labor. Fuck him upside down with a chainsaw.

In order to locate the Big Bad, Harry and Michael go to Bianca’s party. I must also bounce up and down like a stupid fangirl because this is the book where we are introduced to the incomparable Thomas Raith, a White Court vampire. If you’re a fan of the series, you too are probably giggling madly at his first appearance since you know how important Thomas is further into the series. If you’re new to the series, let me just say that Thomas is going to provide so much heart and entertainment to the rest of the books he’s in that you will immediately understand why I love him so much. I’m not trying to oversell him, but for real, Thomas is my third favorite character in the entire series.

To that end, I must also inform you that Harry “Smartass” Dresden attends a vampire masquerade ball dressed as a motherf@^king vampire, cheap plastic fangs and all. God, marry me, Harry.

They later come to find that since Bianca can’t openly attack Harry, she’s slipped vampire venom into all the drinks, which Harry unknowingly downs. Now he has to find the culprit behind the demon ghost while drugged out of his mind. Oh, and predictably, Susan’s stupid ass weaseled her way to the party.

Stephen Colbert Epic Facepalm

So Lea pops back up and reveals another layer to her plan. Since Harry reneged on his deal with her three times in a row, he’s sent into a fit of pain and Susan stupidly bargains a year of her memories in order to spare him the pain. This means Lea chooses the year Harry met Susan, so she has zero recollection of him at all.

Dean from Iron Giant judging you face

See? SEE? Do you get why I want to bitchslap Susan straight to the f@*king moon? None of this shit would’ve happened if she had listened to Harry and stopped trying to muck around in things she absolutely knows nothing about and has no stake in. She has caused him all this pain just for her own curiosity and her own ego. I really wish I could express my teeth-clenching fury at Susan’s actions.

Rage aneurysm aside, Harry finally narrows down the Big Bad to Mavra, the leader of the Black Court of vampires. So he’s got a Red Court vampire and a Black Court vampire breathing down his neck and looking to sink their fangs into it together. Ah, to be popular.

I hope your feels are still nice and loose because it’s time for more gut-punching! Harry, Michael, and Thomas make it out alive, but Justine (Thomas’ girlfriend) and Susan didn’t and Harry had to set things on fire to get them out, meaning he doesn’t know who or what survived. Thomas shows up with Michael’s sword and asks for their help to get the girls back, but before they can mount up, Lydia gets possessed by the Nightmare and attacks them, but Thomas manages to distract her and they banish the demon ghost temporarily, which they later find out is actually the ghost of the sorcerer Kravos. Not as cool as the ghost demon idea, but cool enough.

They plan to infiltrate Bianca’s stronghold via Nevernever, but of course, like the cockroach she is, Lea shows up once again. However, our delightful team knew she was coming so Harry promptly poisons himself (no, really) to weasel his way out of the deal with her.

Sadly, though, Bianca had a trap laid for them when they leave Nevernever. Womp, womp, womp.

I’m sure you’re wondering how it gets worse, and it does, because Harry wakes up in a prison cell to find —DRUM ROLL—Susan has been turned into a vampire.

God, I f@*king hate Susan in this book.

Long story short, Harry manages to save his idiot lover and escape the baddies. The good guys win at a very, very steep price. Susan disappears to figure out how to be a vampire and a colossal f@$king idiot, Murphy and Harry attend Kravos’ funeral just to make sure the piece of shit is really dead this time, and I breathe a sigh of relief in finally finishing this whopper.

It’s really hard for me to rate this book. On the one hand, plot-wise, it’s better than Fool Moon, which had way too much damsel!Harry and it had pacing issues. This one is much more straight forward and throws sucker punches left and right that make you feel like your soul has been turned into jello. However, this is a weaker show of Butcher’s writing for the fairer sex. Almost all the girls in this particular book get stuck in the damsel role aside from the villains Bianca and Mavra, who are smart and terrifying and so they almost balance it out. All the girls on the side of good are either kidnapped or out of commission, and that doesn’t fly with me since I know Butcher can and has done better.

Plus, Susan. God. I just want to bash her head in with a rock. I don’t know what Harry sees in her besides tits because she hasn’t got a brain in this novel. Not a brain cell, for that matter, but I’ve ranted enough.

Overall, Grave Peril has some fantastic action, sob-worthy emotional moments, and some really creative elements that get my motor going, but the weak female characterization prevents me from liking it as much as the previous two books.

Overall Grade: 3 out of 5 stars

We catch up with our beloved gangly wizard next time in Book 4, Summer Knight. Be there or be square.

The Holy Dark is Finally Here!

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That’s right! You can bring home the final installment to the Black Parade series right now for only $2.99!

Please share this post with others, and feel free to visit the other blogs listed here that are celebrating its release. Thanks for all your support and happy reading!

Kyoko

Pre-Order The Holy Dark!

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Ah, yes, that magical time is finally here. You can now pre-order The Holy Dark on Amazon for just $2.99. This price is only going on for a month. On May 9, 2015, it will increase to $3.99, so please go ahead and order yourself a copy by that date.

However, if your pockets are light, remember that you can enter the Goodreads giveaway by April 24, 2015 to win a free signed paperback copy or attend the Facebook party on April 24th and win a free eBook copy via contest questions.

Please spread the word. It’s the biggest thing you can possibly do to show your appreciation.

Kyoko M

The Holy Dark Excerpt

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We are but a few short weeks away from the final installment to The Black Parade series! If you aren’t caught up, here is an excerpt from Chapter 1 and half of Chapter 2. Below is the conclusion to Chapter 2. Enjoy!

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