We open this chapter with Harry thinking about his dad again. We get a concrete age for his death, when Harry was six – forget if that detail’s come up before. If Harry was then raised by wizards, it doesn’t make much sense he’d have any familiarity with the modern world, so does he bop around in orphanages for a bit?
Anyway he talks a bit about his dad comforting him after nightmares saying the monsters can’t get him.
He’d been right.
Until now. Until tonight.
Weeeeeeeeell no. Quite a number of monsters have got the drop on him by now, and getting your guts ripped apart inside your own head which had the secondary effect of crippling the skill you built your sense of self around has got to be pretty violating.
I think this is just a matter of being too wordy – the beginning and end of it are “Dad used to be here for me, I wish Dad was here for me.” and it’s the squishy center that’s not lining up right.
No one came to hold me. No one came to make it all better. No one had, really, since my dad died.
Also the motivating reason for attacking the vampires was his supposedly intense love for Susan and having the focus switch to how Harry has always been completely alone and isolated really undermines that. I think you could make this work if the relationship had been enough at the forefront that we could see actual subtleties in it – we do open with Michael badgering Harry to admit he loves Susan, but we had a lot of hugging last book that suggested plenty of attachment and just an unwillingness to say the official words. If, instead, Harry has actually been presenting himself as the strong man who keeps his girlfriend at arm’s length and never shows any weakness (note this is different than just refusing to tell her about his work while expecting her to be there for him) then there’s a sensible narrative flow to him getting pushed past the point he can keep that up, then realizing he regrets that and needs other people after all.
He struggles for a bit to move and to want to move, but eventually gets his bearings and finds that Justine is there.
Gone was the glamorous girl I’d seen at the ball. Her hair hung lank and greasy. Her pale body looked lean, almost gaunt, and her limbs, what I could see of them, were stained and dirty, as was her face.
And we’re back in form. Amazing recovery, Harry.
Justine is crazy because bitches be crazy.
“I’m not crazy,” she said, her voice sharp, edged. “I know what you’re thinking.”
I had to cough before I could talk, and it made pains shoot through my belly again. “That wasn’t what I was thinking.”
“Of course it wasn’t,” the girl snarled. She rose, all lean grace and tension, and stalked toward me. “I know what you were thinking. That they’d shut you in here with that stupid little whore.”
“No,” I said. “I … that isn’t what – ”
She hissed like a cat, and raked her nails across my face, scoring my cheek in three lines of fire. I cried out and fell back, the wall interrupting my retreat.
“I can always tell, when I’m like this,” Justine said. She gave me an abruptly careless look, turned on the balls of her feet and walked several feet away before stretching and dropping to all fours, watching me with an absent, disinterested gaze.
Justine’s been nibbled by vampires but explains that she’s mentally ill and Thomas eats the illness. Control, they said. I don’t have the kind of control other people have. It’s hormones, but the drugs only made me sick.
1) There are many drugs and the fact they don’t work immediately doesn’t mean you should give up.
2) Yes, according to her description the thing wrong with her as she rambles madly is just that she doesn’t have control of her emotions, because all women imagine they can read minds and shit but normally they’re all passive-aggressive about it instead of coming out and saying it.
It might have been politically incorrect of me, but the word LOONY all but appeared in a giant neon sign over Justine’s head.
This is one of those sentences where you should really realize your mistake as soon as you say the first half and stop.
Justine, meanwhile, has a remarkably keen grasp of time and tells Harry it’s been about twelve hours.
She smiled again, and played with her hair, dropping the towel. “Almost everyone dies in a hospital. You’d get to be someplace different. Isn’t that better?”
Women being crazy children just keeps on merrily happening. I feel like this is a sister trope to the manic pixie dreamgirl. Dreamy goth maniacgirl?
Then a ghost shows up.
Abruptly, I recognized her, the girl Bianca had fed upon until she died.
“Rachel,” I whispered. “Rachel, is that you?”
Well, kudos to Harry and the series for remembering the name like she’s a person.
“No wonder Bianca got stuck on a vengeance kick. She literally was haunted by your death.”
Thing is, 90% of what Bianca’s done appears unrelated to Harry. I mean, there’s the idea she’s doing this to be powerful because Harry humiliated her, but it’s been mostly her throwing bodies into the meatgrinder and most of her master plan hinges on the fact he’s got multiple other enemies but those enemies are already doing the job for her. If she’s so torn up by the death of someone she cared about, why would she be busily killing? Meanwhile the ghost plan was working fine on its own – even when Harry figured out there was a patron, he had no clue who they were and the only reason he had even half a clue where they might be was because of the party. If Bianca had focused on directly harassing Harry just a tad more, he could easily have lost one of the previous encounters.
Rachel apparently can’t talk even though other ghosts have had no problem, but she mimes that she’s sad because she’s tired and wants to rest and it’s Bianca’s “fixation” on her that’s keeping her around, in defiance of how all other ghosts have worked, in conclusion make sure to have a healthy heterosexual relationship where the guy beats you until you kill your own kid instead of being all lesbian or your ghost will get fucked up.
Also, you probably know but Harry does indeed tell us he wants to fuck the ghost:
her ghostly, pretty face agonized.
If her unpretty face was agonized, Harry would be saying something about how ghosts don’t actually have feelings and he’s gonna light this one on fire.
Then she runs off because Justine just got possessed by our ghost, who promptly feels up the body because yes of course why wouldn’t this be an important detail to include.
Possessed Justine rambles about how great hot crazy chicks are and adds that Harry’s only alive because the mushrooms poisoned the vampires who tried to eat him. I would like this if Harry had done it on purpose but having it just coincidentally work out that way after he poisoned himself for as an unrelated tactic for an unrelated problem is less pleasing.
I am willing to take this as final confirmation that these guys are werebats, however. There’s no reason for poison to matter to a traditional vampire. At most, his blood might not be filling if he’s lacking in vitality due to imminent death, but deadly poison shouldn’t matter to something that’s already dead. Werecreatures also, I think, really fits with Harry’s insistence that these guys are totally definitely not humans yet they’re getting turned into vampires from humans like normal. Maybe they even go so far as to completely pop out the human soul in favor of a bat soul leading people to count it as “killing” the human – as highly social critters, I can actually see werebats getting weird because they need to be around compatriots but there isn’t enough food for a large group of werebats, so they end up using their food as companionship instead.
Anyway there’s a lot of chatter where Harry alpha males at the ghost and the ghost gets really upset and eventually attacks him, makes an elaborate threat, then leaves Justine.
She cried piteously, like a small child, mostly quiet.
After a while, something else starts moving in the room and Justine tells him not to go over. Harry immediately goes over. It’s Susan! Harry immediately swan-dives into the Nile until he gets a look at her and realizes her eyes are solid black.
“Dresden?” Susan whispered.
Dear God, I thought. This can’t be happening.
“Mister Dresden? I’m so thirsty.”
I’m going to cling to my werebats get resouled and also they’re babies when they wake up theory so anyone regardless of gender would start referring to adult men as Mister So-and-so under stress. It’s not that all adult women are just babies with hot bodies, it’s that these particular women happen to have just gotten their souls sucked out and surely we’ll be seeing some guys acting the same any time now.
Next chapter, Susan goes on to start crawling around on the floor because she smells Harry’s spilled blood, something I’m sure she’s only doing because bats have difficulty walking and the soul isn’t used to a human body.
Justine explains that She isn’t herself. but then goes on to the enormous cop out of, Once she kills, she’ll be gone. so actually she is herself still, just a bit loopy.
This isn’t even a proper retcon because we’re spent all book going on about their addictive saliva which has no purpose if they’re designed to kill their prey. Similarly, it undermines the idea Bianca killing her food by accident could possibly matter to her if killing your food is the foundation of what they are. On top of that, it doesn’t fit with the fact the Red Court appears to be intensely physical and need literal blood to survive rather than feeding off something spiritual.
And it just raises new questions.
“If I could talk to her, though. Get through to her. We could maybe snap her out of it?”
“I’ve never heard of it happening,” Justine said. She shivered. “They stay like that. It gets worse and worse. Then they lose control and kill. And it’s over.”
Namely, what happens if you just give her something to eat?
She’s very loopy and very hungry so it makes sense that if she tries to eat someone she’ll kill them. That doesn’t in any way prove that she needs to kill someone, though, and Justine’s very description of it is very much begging the question – so if she refuses to eat she’ll get hungrier until she eats, but that’s pretty much how everything works. The core problem isn’t if she should or shouldn’t eat, it’s finding an alternative food source when they’re trapped in an empty room.
Justine points out the correct solution is to kill her while she’s confused before she eats them. Harry, ever not a sucker for a damsel in distress, says he refuses to kill his girlfriend and the fact his girlfriend will then kill someone else’s property doesn’t matter to him. Justine, ever the perceptive, points out that he’ll only be sentencing his girlfriend to a horrible death by poisoning.
Anyway, remember how sexy godmom yoinked away Susan’s memories of Harry? More asspull time! They soulgazed once – Harry described her as fainting as a result, because Harry is very manly and his girlfriend is very weak – and soulgaze is now a subset of wizard sight where the sight autotriggers upon meeting another person’s gaze and so it’s permanently branded into your brain. Of course, if it’s just a matter of turning wizard sight on, then wizards shouldn’t need to soulgaze each other because they could manually flip on the sight to get a look without letting the other person see into them. Also, Harry’s previous statement about how you get soulgaze immunity after doing it suggests that if wizards look at anything with the sight, it gains immunity to any future wizard sight attempts. In conclusion this is way stupider than if the asspull was just “soulgazing is a special bond and that’ll still be there”.
Harry goes on to explain that he’ll still have to uncover the memories, but it’s okay because Susan and I had always been close, since we’d started dating. Intimate time together. The sharing of words, ideas, time, bodies. And that kind of intimacy creates a bond. A bond that I could perhaps use, to uncover fogged memories. To help bring Susan back to herself.
Now in a well-plotted story, Harry’s bit earlier about how his dad was the last person who’d really cared for him would still matter and this would actually be hard because he wouldn’t let a strong bond form and their relationship is really only intimate in the shallow physical sense. He was careful with his words rather than sharing them freely, even more careful with his ideas, and so often the both of them sacrificed their time together for other things – in part because, he admits now, he made sure to set himself in opposition to Susan’s job so that she always had to pick between one or the other. He knows she cares about him but does she actually love him? He can’t know because he never gave her any space for it.
In this, Harry just announces that he’s a fucking wizard and can do anything.
Of course, he is an idiot and he is currently dying and he has been through a lot, so for once, he actually doesn’t manage to just superpower his way through. The spell of connection he tries to do can’t get through the barrier sexy godmom put up and Susan starts to chew on him like a puppy.
“I love you.”
Why it worked right then, why the webbing of my godmother’s spell frayed as though the words had been an open flame, I don’t know. I haven’t found any explanation for it.
Harry keeps saying this bullshit for a while and being all ooooh there’s this special deep power that’s different than actual magic blah blah it’s inconceivable. No, words literally have magic, we’ve been through this so many damn times, how the fuck are you going on about how amazing it is an evil fairy’s anti-love spell was broken by you confessing your love? Like this wasn’t trite enough by itself!
It works and Susan is now lucid and back to having normal eyes, because beauty is goodness goodness beauty. Of course, they have no idea what to do now and Susan’s best plan is for Harry to rest so he can get back to being their magic autowin button, but the ghost gets people in dreams, so… I mean, I’d think the fact he’s currently vomiting blood from the poison is a bit more of a problem with Plan Wait Even Longer, but sure, the ghost is definitely also an issue.
Harry then flips through the script and realizes we’re almost done, which means it’s time for a twist plan that’s shocking and generally a bad idea but this particular time will work out. Time to go to sleep!