Wizard for hire Harry Dresden has to track down the things that go bump in the night in this novel in Jim Butcher’s #1 New York Times bestselling series.
There’s no love lost between Harry Dresden, the only wizard in the Chicago phone book, and the White Council of Wizards, who find him brash and undisciplined. But war with the vampires has thinned their ranks, so the Council has drafted Harry as a Warden and assigned him to look into rumors of black magic in the Windy City.
As Harry adjusts to his new role, another problem arrives in the form of the tattooed and pierced daughter of an old friend—all grown up and already in trouble. Her boyfriend is the only suspect in what looks like a supernatural assault straight out of a horror film. Malevolent entities that feed on fear are loose in Chicago, but it’s all in a day’s work for a wizard, his faithful dog, and a talking skull named Bob…
“Translation,” I said. “We got around her fair and square. She won’t like it, but she’ll accept it.”
“Oh yeah,” Thomas muttered under his breath. “This isn’t coming back to bite anyone in the ass later.”
I have never liked Proven Guilty, and the reread did not change my opinion. My opinion has actually just become more substantial than “I didn’t like that”. Because Proven Guilty is just not a good book when compared to Dead Beat. In fact, Proven Guilty is even less good because it follows the amazing high that is Dead Beat.
Proven Guilty starts with a bang. The White Council is executing a dark wizard, a teenager who didn’t know any better. Just like they tried to do to Dresden when he was a teenager. At the end of this, Dresden was given a message that there is black magic afoot in Chicago, and he should deal with it. To which Dresden can only go “Oh no, not again.” and grumbles. But he does it anyway, and it turns out to be quite the surprise. Especially since it takes him to a horror convention with entities feeding off of people’s fear – and killing them.
I think that if this weren’t in a series that has shown so much greatness already, Proven Guilty wouldn’t be that bad. Yet we’re able to compare directly to something we had literally just read. And Proven Guilty just isn’t interesting. It is basically a return to Dresden just going off and being a PI, but with some personal attachments included. Also Murphy is helping instead of hindering.
That is, of course, only like the first two thirds of the book. What follows is some amazing stuff. None of which I can really talk about in a review. Which is really the story of the Dresden Files series. You can’t really talk about anything in isolation because it is always so interconnected. You can’t have the last 1/3rd without all the work set up in the first 2/3rds, no matter how much you don’t like those parts.
And you can’t skip the book entirely, either, because this dumps a hell of a lot of new bits to the story on your head. Very quickly and without warning. And if you hadn’t catched the hints leading up to you, you feel a bit silly. Because (almost) all of this was foreshadowed.
And as much as I don’t like Proven Guilty, the ending is fantastic and well worth sitting through the boring horror convention bits.
Sidenote: The US has changed a lot regarding some of the topics in this book, and I had a hard time believing in parts of it. I really don’t think a convention with mysterious deaths one night causing mass panic would be allowed to reopen the next day nowadays. Just one of those things. (This came out even before the Virginia Tech shooting.)