Ghost Story by Jim Butcher is the first in the Harry Dresden series that has left me a bit flat. Don’t get me wrong. I love love LOVE the Dresden novels. They’re full of engaging characters and gallows humor. I grabbed Ghost Story and devoured it like I do every one of the Dresden books.
Usually that leaves me feeling like I’ve pushed back from a table loaded with my favorite things to eat. The flavors of his writing are complex, and they take time to savor. I gobbled Ghost Story down in two days–no surprise there. But it left me feeling like I hadn’t had enough. And not in a good way.
Ghost Story picks up where the previous novel, Changes, left off. The book opens with Harry as a ghost, heading back to the real world to hopefully save his friends from a deadly danger. Of course, the reader figures that Dresden will return to the mortal coil by the end of the book, and that doesn’t disappoint. But Ghost Story isn’t for first-timers. There’s too much backstory wedged in as Harry revisits old haunts (no pun intended) and old friends. It’s the first novel in the Dresden series that feels a bit like a retread.
Changes was a stronger book because it had more things actually happen [SPOILER ALERT]: the death of the Red Court, the reveal of Harry’s daughter, the death of Susan Rodriguez … and, of course, Harry’s death.
In other words, it’s a hard act to follow. With all of the anticipation for the newest book, I’m not sure Butcher (or any author) could live up to expectations.
With no spoilers, I will tell you one thing: I was in tears near the end of the book when Harry goes to visit two very special characters. It was so powerful, and that particular piece of writing is Butcher at his best.
If you’re a fan of the series, buy Ghost Story and read it–NOW! If you’re not a fan of the series, you are missing out on some great storytelling. Even in a book where the story seems more like a placeholder in the series, Butcher and Harry Dresden shine more than 99 percent of other series fiction.