Death Masks by Jim Butcher
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
What really impresses me about this series is how it improves little by little with each book. Through five novels, that has held true, which is no small accomplishment considering how good Gravel Peril and Summer Knight were.
It also seems like the stakes get a little higher in each novel, and they are definitely pretty high in Death Masks as Harry finds himself smack in the middle of a sinister plot by some major demon-types to wreak havoc on the denizens of Chicago. Harry not only requires the help of resident Knight of the Cross, Michael Carpenter, but also two other Knights. Trust me, you’re talking about some big league baddies if you need three Knights of the Cross to deal with them.
There were a lot of things that I really liked about this novel in particular. It had a great plot, twisting and turning through mysteries and misdirection. It had a great cast: some characters that we know and love and some new characters on both sides of the coin. I was particularly amused by the character of The Archive. Beyond all that, like all Dresden novels, it had great pacing, action, and a little dark humor.
One of the biggest improvements, in my mind, that Butcher made came in Grave Peril when he took a deep breath and slowed things down a bit, gave Harry some breathing room, gave him some time to reflect rather than just react, and gave the reader a chance to keep up. Those reflective moments continue in Death Masks and tend to be some of the best passages in the novel.
Oh, and what an amazing ending. I won’t spoil anything, but it was delightful and definitely made me want to dig right into the next novel.
This review would not be complete if I didn’t mention the significantly improved narration by James Marsters. I really liked Marsters’ performance of Harry Dresden in the first four novels, but when Penguin Audio began producing the audio books (taking over from Buzzy Multimedia), they must have had a couple of suggestions. With Death Masks, Marsters now has a voice for each character, his speech is crisper, and the overall production quality is much improved. I’m definitely very happy with the change.
Overall, Death Masks was a great read. If you enjoyed the previous novels, don’t stop, you’ve got to read this one.