This book is finally ending and you know what that means.
I regard it as one last sadistic gibe of whatever power had decided to make my life a living hell that the burn ward was full, and I was given a room to share with Charity Carpenter. She had recovered in spirit, if not in body, and she started in on me the moment I awoke. The woman’s tongue was sharper than any sword. Even Amoracchius. I smiled through most of it.
It’s time to cram as much remaining misogyny in as we can!
I really think a lot of this would read more coherently if you replaced women with, say, spaniels. Aw, the doggy’s yapping because they’re jealous you take their owner away sometimes, isn’t that just the sweetest thing? Who’s a good girl? Who’s a good girl?
“Okay maybe Harry personally feels that way but it’s not like everyone-”
Haha, you fool.
“We’ve decided,” Michael said, stretching a strong arm around Charity, “to name him Harry.”
Charity glowered at me, but remained silent.
Why would anyone lie about if the other human being had a say in naming? But it’s just a cutesy dog-owner thing to include your pet dog in a statement. I mean, it’s not like anyone actually thinks dogs name their puppies, so it’s not a lie to say “we”, now is it?
Also, the kid is better which Harry thinks is because the ghost ate a kid chunk and then he ate the kid chunk out of the ghost, “getting it back”, except he pretty clearly did nothing to give anything back. And Harry staggering half dead out of his hospital bed to actually return the energy to a dying baby would’ve been a welcome moment of actual heroics.
Instead, Harry whines about the possibility there could be consequences for his actions and is reassured that those are for other people.
I was worried about the repercussions of my workings, the harmful magic I had dished out. I worried that it was going to come back to haunt me.
“I’m not a philosopher, Harry,” he said. “But here’s something for you to think about, at least. What goes around comes around. And sometimes you get what’s coming around.” He paused for a moment, frowning faintly, pursing his lips. “And sometimes you are what’s coming around.
See, instead of a moral code discouraging harming others, it was actually supposed to be a statement about how whenever bad things happen, that person deserved it. Like Lydia! Remember how she was willing to pretend she wanted to have sex with Harry to not die, and then she got horribly violated over and over? Or remember how Susan didn’t obey Harry in staying away from vampires, and now she’s a vampire? What goes around comes around!
Thomas and Michael are of course fine. Murphy, less so.
“I couldn’t stop him,” she said, then. “I tried.”
“But we beat him. That’s why we’re here and he’s there.”
“You beat him,” Murphy said. “A lot of good I did you.”
“He sucker punched you. Even if you’d been a wizard, he’d have gotten to you – like he damn near did me.” I shivered, remembered agony making the muscles of my belly tight. “Karrin, you can’t blame yourself for that.”
“I know,” she said, but she didn’t sound like she meant it.
Murphy understands it’s not all about you. It’s not about having an excuse for why it isn’t your fault. It’s about the fact something horrible happened to other people and you couldn’t help. And Harry, even confronted with this, can’t understand it, and can only keep reassuring her that she has a get-out-of-responsibility-free card.
Lydia is…well, she’s alive, and the church dealt with it so Harry didn’t get anywhere near her again.
Apparently, the Church has some kind of equivalent of the Witness Protection Program, for getting people out of the reach of supernatural baddies.
I think this is really about the best that could’ve happened to her. She was already in a horrible position without anyone being interested in helping, so now at least they’ll be providing food and shelter and maybe even not asking questions they won’t believe the answers to if she says something supernatural is coming for her.
Forthill told me how the girl had fled the church because she’d been terrified that she would fall asleep, and gone out to find some uppers.
Also, this is so sad. She didn’t fall asleep and get possessed, she tried to leave before she did that and hurt everyone, and she couldn’t say what was going on to get help because no one believes her.
Though she blessedly does not interact with Harry again, and may that continue to be true, she leaves him a thank-you note for all that jack and shit he did for her.
Thomas sends one as well. He sent it on a little note card attached to a bow, which was all Justine was wearing. I’ll let you guess where the bow was. I took the note, but not the girl. There was too much of an ick factor in sharing girls with a sex vampire.
See what I mean about really packing in all that misogyny. I guess it was the strain of not having a ready-made excuse to just shout BITCH BITCH BITCH BITCH like last book.
And Susan, she’s also keeping her distance. She calls every day but doesn’t visit, so obviously Harry goes to her apartment but she’s left then tries to contact her at work and never managed to catch her ie she’s told people not to say she’s there, so he uses magic to supernaturally stalk her. Note at at no point are we told he just asks her why she’s avoiding him.
She takes his dogged disrespect for boundaries well and explains that during the day in the sun she’s semi-normal but it’s really bad at night. I’m going to assume that she’s not drinking blood because we’re still conflating that with murder and so assume that this is going to end badly for everyone involved. Harry…
I reached out and took her hand. “Oh, Hell’s bells, Susan. I’m no good at this.” I just fumbled the ring onto it, clumsy as you please. “I don’t want you far away. Marry me.”
Harry proposed by cramming a ring onto her finger, yes. That sure is a thing that happened.
She tells him no because she’s going crazy and will probably murder him by accident, which sadly she does not want to do. She then reiterates that he shouldn’t contact her but that she’ll stay in touch.
Harry spends a while having nightmares while working on a cure. Finally, Bob informs him/us that he’s out of money and the WC is showing up.
I shrugged. “I sent them my report. I only did what was right,” I said. “Or as close to it as I could manage. I couldn’t let them have her, Bob. I couldn’t.”
The skull sighed. “I don’t know if that will hold up with them, Harry.”
That one thing is really not the point, though. This didn’t happen because a vampire happened to target someone Harry cared about and he wouldn’t let them.
Also, he straight up ate the heart of a dark wizard to gain the guy’s evil blood-murder power. You’d think they’d have a few problems with that.
And we end with Harry having Michael and Murphy show up with groceries and then So, the vampires are out to get me, and every other wizard on the block. The little wizardlings of the city, the have-nots of magic, are making it a point not to go outside after dark.
And then Harry smugs a bit about how he doesn’t care if the WC is furious, and how he still doesn’t have Susan but she sent him a card saying she loves him, and we end, with Harry not giving half a damn about how many other people are going to suffer for this. I mean, they’re the have-nots! Why should he care any more than he cared when he heard about missing people halfway in, or when a sick homeless kid was begging him for help? As long as the vampires are politely not leaving the bodies on Harry’s doorstep, it’s not hurting him.
(…and god, they totally should. They should rub his face in every death.)
But who cares. Like I said, our actual ending is,
I got a card from her, on my birthday, Halloween. She only wrote three words.
I’ll let you guess what three.
And that’s all that matters!
So, in conclusion…
God, this is a mess. Back in April on the mid-book rewrite post, CrazyEd suggested what we’re looking at is a series of random ideas stuck into a line as Butcher got bored of them and moved on to the next and yeah, probably.
The “series” aspect of this was planned, but I think that’s manifested as him having full plots for two stories and then this is where the remaining bits that hadn’t gelled yet got used anyway. Even when we’re given a direct link between the ghosts and the vampires, it’s tossed in casually like it’s just there to justify why these two plots are coexisting. It’s much like the problem of the werewolf pileup but worse, because there’s only two factions and it shouldn’t have been hard to connect them properly.
So – what would fix this?
I do think we have enough here to just have a ghost plot. That section of the plot progresses relatively cleanly, Harry’s actually willing to pay attention to it, and the stakes are relatively clear. We’re given a lot of conflicting information about ghosts and it could probably be solved by spending more time on them and talking about there being different types of ghosts – the piles and piles of ghosts in cemetaries are clearly a different sort of thing than the obsessive ones attacking nurseries, and Kravos’ lucidity doesn’t fit either. Also, maybe Mort could get fridged for stakes instead. Kravos could be the one riling up the other ghosts in this case, or, we could have Lea and Kravos working together where it’s Lea, a Nevernever native, powerful magic user, and fae creature of boundary-messing, is the one messing up the Nevernever boundary with magic to make Kravos so dangerous. This would also smooth out the issue of her popping in to sometimes aid – they’re allies of convenience dancing around each other because they each want a very different resolution to the Harry issue. Lea wants to push him precisely far enough that he’ll run back to her to be her doggie, Kravos wants Harry confident and then Kravos can suddenly amp things up too fast for him to realize he should run, and neither wants him to actually get the upper hand. I think Harry as chew toy being fought over by two more powerful creatures is actually a relatively functional dynamic for these books as well – Harry only really seems to engage with his surroundings when other people are forcing his involvement, he’s completely self-interested so the storyline needs to revolve around him, and he likes to whine about how hard his life is.
(While people made some good arguments about Lea being a very binary threat where you know she won’t succeed, I think that still works in a setup like this where there’s other stuff going on. We know Harry won’t get turned into a dog, but if he avoids that by going the long way and then people die, she’s still impacting the plot. The reason she doesn’t work is Harry makes no effort to avoid her and just wins anyway.)
Really, the only problem with this is it doesn’t fit the whole building a plot around throwing related things together idea but as this is only the third book, it’s not like that’s actually been committed to. Plus this could be “the Nevernever book” given ghosts and fae are both part of that, and I realize that’s significantly more coherent and thoughtful than werewolf pileup but forcing the book to engage with these elements in the functional thematic way all normal writing does would be a plus.
If we insist on this being the vampire/undead book, though…
Bianca going on a murder spree because she’s so torn up about that murder she did does not particularly make sense. Bianca letting another faction’s vampire type in for a bout of self-destructive revenge? Maybe. Harry made it clear in the first book he doesn’t know anything about vampires. Vampires and ghosts start getting more active and he sees no connection because as far as he knows, Bianca has nothing to do with ghosts. But Bianca isn’t the active vampire. The Black Court is moving in, something they normally can’t do because they’re such bad news but Bianca is backing them and covering for them. It would also properly explain all those missing people when it makes no sense for Bianca to be making baby vampires that far outstrip the local food source. Remember Harry’s talk about a coven of thirteen and blah witches misogyny blah? Maybe a similar thing with the Black Court’s power being exponetial if the right criteria are met, like killing every night, or maybe they’re the very traditional everyone-I-bite-rises epidemic vampire. That gives us a timer as well, always nice.
The ghosts and the vampires are somewhat coincidental – the vampires are just killing people and generally fucking up the borders, so if you want to suicide your way into a vengeful ghost, now is the time. This means instead of the ghosts being intended to wear him down, the ghosts are the advance warning he didn’t pay enough attention to. And after two books of Harry being godawful at not alienating everyone in sight with his ALPHA MALE bullshit, it’s completely appropriate for two different enemies to be going after him for unrelated reasons – you get enough enemies, sooner or later you’ll get their revenge plans overlapping.
Going off vampires are dicks, I’m thinking maybe Mavra is the one getting RaPaula’s ghost active. If they’re the necromancy faction, then using a ghost to convince someone to ally with them would make sense, and if that’s a general tactic of theirs we have a nice temptation setup, where this illustrates what bad news they are and suggests they could return in the future. There’s been a real lack of temptation and devil’s bargains in this despite fae and demons both featuring, and maybe the corpse vampires can take up the slack there. I’m thinking the Black Court is extremely hard to kill but requires enormous energy to be active, so they’re mostly hibernating and waking up only for short periods. Perhaps they do this during their short periods, or perhaps they can mess with people in dreams – that’d fit nicely with the connection to dreams and the stirred-up jello boundaries, and give a potential mechanism for why these vampires disturb it so much when they’re around.
Kravos could be a connection to the council (or Lea, though I really don’t see the point in her entire subplot here and would just remove it myself – it should be either Kravos and Lea without Bianca or Kravos and Bianca without Lea). I think it makes a lot of sense that someone told him how to become a ghost given Harry insists a ghost isn’t you – someone who knows enough about ghosts to pull this trick off should be similarly educated about how it’s not actually that great an idea, but someone who has no clue but got handled detailed notes? It would also give some payoff to how every time he thinks about Kravos he rants about how much better he is than that uneducated idiot. And the fact the council hasn’t been active all book BUT we also have Harry supposedly on perfectly good terms with them at the moment is a real issue that needs to be addressed. Having proof they’re either straight up evil or they’ve been compromised by evil members who are willing to aid a proven dark wizard to take out Harry would be a much better use of them than just to end with FUCK RIGHT THOSE GUYS EXIST UHHHH THEY’LL DO SOMETHING NEXT BOOK??? Also what are they even going to do the way it just went down, Harry soloed a vampire nest while drugged and missing half his gut-power and now he’s eaten the guy who ate him so who cares even.
Also, there was never any reason for Lydia to be a kid (really, there wasn’t a reason for her to be in the book) and there’s no reason to have sex vampires – Harry even ends up raped by the regular vampires, and they run a brothel, and just – they completely had it covered already. And the fact we introduce sex vampires and sexy underage waif at the same time is why there should never ever have been sex vampires in this series. There’s already more than enough rape and fucked up thinking without them.
These books didn’t start terrible and get better. They’re just awful the whole way through. I’m going to grudgingly do Summer Knight but that’s it. I don’t care about no actually it takes ten books to get good. This is not redeemable.