I never actually wrote a review of this book the first time around, just a few quick sentences. I don’t remember why. I was probably just being lazy. This is what I wrote back in December 2010:
“I’m still waiting to be knocked off my feet by this series, but this book was still pretty fun. Also, Susan was way less annoying, ditto for Gentleman Johnny Marcone. The best part was when Thomas offered to high-five Ortega right before the duel. There needs to be more Thomas.”
I still hold to what I said about Thomas, but oh man, re-reading this was unexpectedly pleasurable. I knew going into this re-read of the whole series that I would most likely enjoy the first three books more (which did happen), but I didn’t really think about how I would feel about the ones after that. I guess I just assumed I would feel the same about them, maybe catch a few pieces of foreshadowing, that sort of thing. But there was just so much stuff in here that has later relevance, and I didn’t care about ANY OF IT the first time through.
Stuff that happens in this book:
- A priest hires Harry to find the Shroud of Turin, yes THE Shroud of Turin, after it was stolen by a group of thieves.
- A man is found dead with evidence showing he was killed by multiple fast-acting diseases at the same time, many of them (like the Black Death) long gone from the world.
- Susan shows back up to collect her things and quit her job, and to say goodbye to Harry in a more permanent fashion.
- One of Johnny Marcone’s thugs tries to kill Harry outside of a television studio.
- Harry is challenged to a duel by a Red Court vampire. Said vampire, Count Paolo Ortega, wishes to stop the war with the White Council (most likely to start it up again in the future when they have more resources), and killing Harry is the only way to do it.
- Demonic beings called the Denarians start showing up all over the place. They used to be human, but have been possessed by fallen angels (The Fallen, as the characters call them) through coin talismans. There are thirty silver coins, each a piece of the thirty silvers Judas received as payment for betraying Jesus. And they are after Harry. Not to kill him, but to turn him.
- Michael and his two fellow Knights of the Cross (Shiro and Sanya) are also faffing around, since killing Denarians (or, prefereably, saving the humans enslaved by the Denarians, is like, their main bag).
- Probably some other stuff, too. It’s a lot.
Spoilers for this book and for the rest of the series below, so proceed with caution.
First, let’s talk about Susan. What I was responding to in regards to Susan in that original review was that she takes a more active role here, and her character does something beyond being something Harry is obsessed with. Granted, she still largely fulfills that function, but she’s also marginally more interesting due to her constant battle against becoming a full Red Court vampire, and in her association with the newly introduced Fellowship of St. Giles, a society whose members are all humans fighting against becoming vampires who have dedicated their lives to taking down the Red Court. She is instrumental in helping Harry with both of his “cases” this book, saving him from himself and from others. What’s still frustrating about her is that all of this is seen through Harry’s POV, and he’s more interested in being sexually attracted to her, and being sad they can’t be together, which results in her still being a flat character I know almost nothing about.
Thankfully, we won’t hear from her again until Changes, and at that point, I’m much more favorably inclined towards her because of what’s going on. Which reminds me, the first time through this, I was really put off by the sex scene. It seemed random and weird, and because I didn’t care about Susan at all, seemed like Butcher just wanted Harry to get laid. Which, fine. But now knowing that their little tryst resulted in the birth of Maggie, I am more than fine with it. Harry’s daughter entering his life is one of my favorite plot points of this series. Oh my God, that scene in Skin Game. URGGG TEARS.
Here is a list of stuff that takes on way more significance now that I’ve read the whole series:
- I really didn’t like the Denarians the first time through. No idea why. Perhaps they’ve grown on me now that they show up every five books.
- I also wasn’t a huge fan of anything to do with the Red Court/White Council war, also no idea why. Maybe I only like it now because I know how it ends (and oh, does it end).
- Thomas. Initially he was just a spot of humor and brightness, supposedly offered as a second by the White Court as some sort of insult to the Red. But it’s clear, now that I know Thomas is Harry’s half-brother, that Thomas was there very much of his own free will, with an eye to protecting Harry.
- Hints about Harry’s mother (and other family, not Thomas) that totally flew over my head the first time.
- All the stuff with Harry and the Denarian coin, and Harry questioning who he is and why he does what he does. Why DOES he allow himself to live in near poverty, shunned by his peers and the public alike? Will he ever come to terms with those darker urges? (Answer still forthcoming.)
- We meet Mortimer Lindquist the medium, a throwaway character who turns out to play a large role in Ghost Story.
- Harry’s relationship with the Carpenters. He and Charity very much do not get along, at the moment, but the seeds are planted for his future master/apprentice relationship with Molly.
- Harry and the Knights of the Cross. Though he isn’t worthy to wield a sword himself, Harry will be tied to the Knights (and their swords) for the remainder of the series.
- Butters. (I mean, WHO KNEW WHERE THAT WOULD GO?)
I mentioned in my review of Summer Knight that a lot of the series mythology really go going there, but really it was only the faerie half. The other stuff comes in Death Masks. You just don’t know any of this will be important as you’re reading it. Butcher certainly has issues as a writer (WHY CAN’T HARRY JUST HAVE A “SAVING PEOPLE” THING INSTEAD OF A GROSS “SAVING WOMEN” THING. WHY. IT WOULD HAVE BEEN SO EASY) but worldbuilding and knowing how to effectively use continuity is not one of them.
In summation, this is one of those series that’s not only better as it goes along, but that’s better on re-read. I understand there are people who don’t want to waste time giving a series more than a couple (or one, or not even one) chances, or who don’t re-read (I don’t understand that one at all). But if I would have thought like that, I would have missed out so hard on a series that, for the most part, gives back way more than the effort I put in.