I didn’t think the ghoul would be filing a police report, but I wiped down the shotgun anyway.
This is not, by itself, a problem. The statement “I didn’t think (assassin who tried to kill me) would be reporting I took (weapon they tried to kill me with) to the police who arrest people for assassination.” is very reasonable.
But he didn’t say the assassin, and on the heels of my questions last chapter about what, exactly, the ghouls had done and what, exactly, he had done to them, there’s a different way to take I didn’t think the ghoul would be filing a police report. He’s likely only referring to her as a ghoul because it’s urban fantasy and the author wants to remind you that ooh, ghouls, but normally, the epithet used in this kind of a sentence contains the reason why the person couldn’t go to the police.
Could a ghoul go to the police?
We know she has no standing under wizard law. Harry can kill her. He can also mind control her. I believe we haven’t had a full list of things wizard law bans, but we know there’s a whole bunch of things terrible enough that they’d sooner kill their own than let it happen to humans and we know they allow all those terrible things if it’s done to nonhumans. Indeed, assuming that ghouls are like vampires in that they’re transformed humans, Harry may be able to legally kill people by transforming them into another creature and then murdering that, and if that’s not allowed, it’d presumably be only because wizard law counts transforming as the same crime as killing since either way there’s one less human.
She can pass for human, but more and more humans are becoming aware of the supernatural, even if they don’t like that. If she goes to the police and someone realizes what she really is, or even just what she isn’t, what happens to her? And what happens if she goes to them about a supernatural crime? We know the police investigate those, but we’ve only seen them do so when humans are the victims. If Harry decided to kill ghouls just for being ghouls, would they have any legal recourse?
(…this may also just read differently two decades ago, when it wasn’t such an open secret how outright murderous the police can be.)
His girlfriend, Georgia, a willowy girl a foot taller than him, waited on the apartment’s balcony in dark shorts and a scarlet bikini top, displaying a generous amount of impressively sun-bronzed skin in a manner far more confident and appealing than I would have guessed from her a year before. My, how the kids had grown.
Beginning of the second chapter and he’s already back to this.
Also, once again: absolutely definitely the wolf pack were high schoolers originally, this is 100% “update: the girl I was leering at before just turned porn-legal and also is so into showing off her tits”.
I guess wanting women to be confident in displaying they’re hot is a step up from Harry finding it so hot when women don’t realize they’re attractive. When you’re starting at the center of the earth there’s a lot of things that are, technically, upward growth.
Georgia takes over the caring for Billy, because they may both be shapeshifting werewolves but one of them is in charge of fighting and the other is in charge of being worried about that.
At least she isn’t Mini-Charity and blaming Harry so he can manpain more.
Realizing a woman thinks he looks like shit makes Harry consider himself in the car’s mirror, him having somehow managed a great deal of driving without getting a glimpse and yeah that does seem to match well with the other tidbits we’ve heard about how Harry drives.
It came as a shock to me. I know, that sounds stupid, but I don’t keep mirrors in my home. Too many things can use mirrors as windows, even doors, and it was a risk I preferred to skip entirely.
Will the author forget this fact again? Who knows?
Also, this suggests that Harry could get attacked through his car mirrors and honestly, that seems like a much better idea than doing it in his house. Which is going to go better – attacking a wizard on literally his home turf, or jumping him while he’s in a rapidly moving pile of metal that requires his constant attention to keep from crashing? (Especially given parts could break at any time. Imagine not only getting jumped by a monster and trying to keep from crashing but also your brakes just failed.)
Now, there are a lot of reasons this might not work. If the tech/magic problems apply to more than just wizards, then mirrors in proximity to technology could well be unusable. And this would also fit well with the fact no one seems to be getting around the problem of Harry not having mirrors in his house by murdering his friends using the mirrors in their houses if these days nonwizards live in places packed with so much technology they’re safer than any wizard’s wards.
Harry gives us a poor-me description of how sad and worn down he is, including the actually interesting tidbit that his hair looks extra awful as a big chunk had been burned short in one spot when a small incendiary had been smuggled to me in a pizza delivery box, back when I could still afford to order pizza. That’s a good detail with the bonus of addressing the issue of if Harry forgot to pay bills or can’t pay bills!
it looked like maybe Billy and the werewolves (stars and stones, they sounded like a bad rock band) had a point.
The problem is less sounding like a rock band and more that you’re acting like Billy is the only relevant member.
He claims he’s been researching all the time in the basement so I’d pretty much dispensed with day and night. There was too much to think about to pay attention to such trivial details. except VAMPIRES WANT YOU DEAD AND WHETHER OR NOT THEY CAN JUMP YOU IS DETERMINED BY IF IT’S DAY OR NIGHT.
Harry then recaps that Susan, vampire, sad.
Interestingly, he not only doesn’t make it all her fault but actually removes the fault that should be there. He talks about how she wanted people to know about the supernatural and To that end, she’d followed me to a vampire shindig. And that’s kind of weird. I’m not sure if this is a casual retconning or if her responsibility for her actions isn’t relevant because what matters is Harry failed to protect something of his.
Though she was still human, technically, she’d been given their macabre thirst. If she ever sated it, she would turn all the way into one of them. Some part of her would die, and she would be one of the monsters, body and soul.
I’m pretty sure we never got real evidence for how Harry can be sure of this. I’ll guess we’re just to take it on faith that the main character is right because he’s right.
I’d asked her to marry me. She told me no. Then she left town. I read her syndicated column in the Arcane. She must have been mailing them in to her editor, so at least I knew she was alive. She’d asked me not to follow her and I hadn’t. I wouldn’t, until I could figure out a way to get her out of the mess I’d gotten her into.
Harry is glossing over that the reason she left town yet is still employed by the newspaper in town likely has a lot to do with how he kept trying to ambush her at her work, and with that in mind, the main reason he isn’t following her probably has more to do with the fact she did not tell him where she was going.
Harry then thinks about what a piece of shit he is, but it’s not for all the actual fuckups of the past few books but your standard martyr stuff about how he should’ve been even more awesome than he already was.
Then he cries a bit, which, okay I guess? That’s basically the one emotion he’s sort of doing right.
And then he rushes off to the appointment while telling us how he actually super needs this work and also he’s totally fucking up by looking awful and being late, etc etc.
I walked past the elevator on my way to the stairs. There was a sign on it that said it was under repair. The elevator hadn’t ever been quite the same since a giant scorpion had torn into one of the cars and someone had thrown the elevator up to the top of its chute with a torrent of wind in order to smash the big bug against the roof. The resulting fall sent the car plummeting all the way back to the ground floor and wreaked havoc with the building in general, raising everyone’s rents.
I feel like I remember this coming up before and Harry claiming the stuff was fixed up as a result?
I definitely know that in the first book he used stairs without needing to have no other choice due to the techbane breaking elevators with him in it.
Then there’s this bit of “cleverness”:Or that’s what I heard, anyway. Don’t look at me like that. It could have been someone else. Okay, maybe not the orthodontist on four, or the psychiatrist on six. Probably not the insurance office on seven, or the accountant on nine either. Maybe not the lawyers on the top floor. Maybe. But it isn’t always me when something goes catastrophically wrong.
God I hate Harry.
When he reaches his office there’s static electricity on the knob, which he finds suspicious.
I focused on my bracelet again, drawing on my apprehension to ready a shield should I need it.
Another tidbit of magic as emotion! Has Harry, in the process of preparing himself for a possible attack, also partly let down his guard as it consumes that same apprehension? Is managing this sort of delicate balance an important part of wizarding?
He discusses the fact his office is a wreck due to him being a wreck and then:
In the ruins of my office stood a woman with the kind of beauty that makes men murder friends and start wars.
Christ, Harry. Why are you like this.
She had white hair. Not white-blond, not platinum. White as snow, white as the finest marble, bound up like a captured cloud to bare the lines of her slender throat.
By his utter confusion at how a female person could possess white hair, I think Harry has forgotten old women exist, if he was ever noticed them in the first place.
And no, of course he’s not going to stop there.
I don’t know how her skin managed to look pale beside that hair, but it did. Her lips were the color of frozen mulberries, almost shocking in a smooth and lovely face, and her oblique eyes were a deep green that tinted to blue when she tilted her head and looked me over. She wasn’t old. Wasn’t young. Wasn’t anything but stunning.
I tried to keep my jaw from hitting the floor and forced my brain to start doing something by taking stock of her wardrobe. She wore a woman’s suit of charcoal grey, the cut immaculate. The skirt showed exactly enough leg to make it hard not to look, and her dark pumps had heels just high enough to give you ideas. She wore a bone-white V-neck beneath her jacket, the neckline dipping just low enough to make me want to be watching if she took a deep breath. Opals set in silver flashed on her ears, at her throat, glittering through an array of colors I wouldn’t have expected from opals—too many scarlets and violets and deep blues. Her nails had somehow been lacquered in the same opalescence.
I caught the scent of her perfume, something wild and rich, heavy and sweet, like orchids.
Her mouth quirked into a smile, and she arched one pale brow, saying nothing, letting me gawk.
That sure is a thing I had to read and now you’ve had to read.
Harry makes a desperate bid to pretend that was just proper noir detectiving by continuing One thing was certain—no woman like that would have anything less than money. Lots of money.
There’s ways of writing to say “she was extremely attractive in the manner of a person who could pay for things to make them that attractive” and holy fuck that was not it. Perhaps it has something to do with Harry’s weird relationship with fake/real beauty meaning he can’t directly acknowledge how much effort goes into appearing beautiful. It definitely mostly it has to do with Harry being awful.
I only hesitated for a heartbeat, wondering if it was proper for a full-fledged wizard of the White Council to be that interested in cash.
Also, where the fuck did that come from? Since when has that ever been any factor in any decision you’ve made?
We’re not even done with the description, by the way: Sommerset had a voice like her outfit—rich, suggestive,
cultured. Her English had an accent I couldn’t place. Maybe European. Definitely interesting.
But at least now that she’s talking Harry has to pay attention to her words and not just ranking everything on how hot it is. Those words are rich person disdain at the disaster around her and the bigger disaster in front of her.
if you lack the ability to take care of such minor matters, I doubt you will be of any use to me.”
“Wait,” I said, rising. “Please. At least let me hear you out. If it turns out that I think I can help you—”
This…it’s so discordant after the way Harry has treated people for the last two books. People Harry could’ve helped. People Harry could’ve saved. And now, when all he cares about is a payday, he has the gall to phrase it this way.
The woman does what no one else like her has been able to do, tell Harry this is her decision, not his:
“But that isn’t the question, is it?” she asked. “The question is whether or not I think you can help me.
She suggests a soulgaze to see if he’s more impressive than he appears. And Harry, after all his alpha fuckery, suddenly won’t.
“Too good to be true,” I repeated. I drew the .44-caliber revolver from the desk drawer, leveled it at her, and thumbed back the hammer.
Okay that’s the sort of thing you should have in these stories, it’s entirely reasonable that
Her eyebrows arched. Those gorgeous eyes widened enough to show the whites all the way around them.
jesus h christ Harry can you not even say she’s scared without focusing on how fuckable she is why do you have to be like this
“I don’t know what you are talking about, Mister Dresden, but I am certain—”
“Save it.” I rummaged in a drawer and found what I needed. A moment later I lifted a plain old nail of simple metal out of the drawer and put it on the desk.
“What’s that?” she all but whispered.
Now, it’s going to turn out that she’s not actually helpless, but counterpoint, she’s also not real because this is all fictional. There were decisions being made about how this scene would go down and those decisions were that it was important she act scared and submissive for a bit.
And, in fact, it’s so important that even with the reveal she’s acting, it doesn’t make sense this happens.
She’s actually another superpowerful fae. We can say that she wanted to test Harry by pretending to be human, but by this point, he’s figured it out. She’s not going to convince him not to check because if she was a human woman, or even a large number of other supernatural creatures, touching an iron nail wouldn’t hurt her, so there’s no chance of hitting someone he doesn’t intend to. This kind of behavior only makes sense if it was something that would kill a human but not her, so pretending harder that she’s just an ordinary person would be a way of seeing if he’s actually certain or just kind of paranoid and bluffing in the hopes she’ll admit to it without things going further. So this is only happening because there’s some other reason this scene really needed a confident rich lady start to whisper in fear.
(Mind you, apparently fairies can’t lie so you could also just say, “Hey, so, yes or no: are you a fairy?” and anyone who gives you a weird non-answer is a fairy.)
The expression drained from her face. One moment, there had been arrogant conceit, haughty superiority, blithe confidence. But that simply vanished, leaving her features cold and lovely and remote and empty of all emotion, of anything recognizably human.
More of Harry being weird about nonhumans. Also, wow, that list of emotions. Harry actually does look like absolute shit, and it actually is because he’s losing it and totally unreliable, and his office actually is a clusterfuck. But women aren’t allowed to judge themselves in relation to men like this. It’s conceited and the height of arrogance for a woman to think they’re better than him. (Even when Harry is admitting that actually she is, which is probably some subset of “the hottest thing is a woman not realizing she’s hot”. Women can be precious angels on pedestals so long as they don’t think being up there with wings and halos means they get to have opinions.)
“The bargain with my godmother has months yet to go,” I said. “A year and a day, she had to leave me alone. That was the deal. If she’s trying to weasel out of it, I’m going to be upset.”
I will say that I like how Harry actually has reason to be a dick to her. With the vampires, it seemed entirely too possible it was like shooting the messenger and also the messenger was only even there because of a different person holding a gun to their head. Here, she appears to be a relatively free agent – at the very least we don’t know enough of fairy dealings to know how much choice the average person has, while we knew vampires seemed to be extremely hierarchical, and she doesn’t seem like things going off-script is distressing in the way it would if she was there under orders and couldn’t decide to bail if it turns out this is a bad idea. Getting mad at someone who chose to involve themselves, even making a point that you’ll react violently if necessary, is entirely understandable.
But – can fae weasel out of a deal?
This gets into the problem of Harry being our only source of information about how anything works when he hates explaining things and does a terrible job when he does.
We know Harry weaseled his way out of the deal in a way that puts the metaphor to shame. He eeled his way out of it. Like some sort of extra-slippery eel who can also will itself out of existence if you do keep a hold on it. But Harry was a human and was also capable of just going fuck it and refusing to honor a deal. The shenanigans he got up to and the ones a fae has as options probably have minimal overlap.
We can assume that fae are probably better at figuring out their own limits and loopholes than humans are, so Harry might think he made a solid deal with no wiggle room but also that he has no way to be sure of this.
We have no idea how much Harry knows about how fairy law works. Given how much flailing went on last book as well as how Harry didn’t seem able to counter Lea in any legal way, it doesn’t seem like much (he was so completely blindsided by the idea breaking a deal would hurt him that after repeatedly getting hurt for breaking a deal he still needed it explained to him slowly), but it’s entirely possible the issue was that Harry does know and it’s just Lea made a pretty tight contract that didn’t have much to work with.
In conclusion, does it make sense that Harry’s response to a fae is to assume it’s sexy godmom related? Was he, perhaps, even expecting that there’d be weaseling?
She regarded me in that empty silence for long moments more. It was unsettling to see a face so lovely look so wholly alien, as though something lurked behind those features that had little in common with me and did not care to make the effort to understand.
…I think there’s something here about women being beautiful for the sake of men’s consumption of that beauty. She doesn’t care if he thinks she’s beautiful, it’s not for him.
Perhaps this explains the paradox of Harry wanting women to wear makeup without changing their appearance. The makeup isn’t about attractiveness, it’s a visible mark of submission. It’s a woman prioritizing how men see her, making an effort to understand what men want – to look at themselves from the point of view of what would please him and then put time and effort and resources into doing the best job they can at it.
and did not care to make the effort to understand.
Just, how perfect a criticism. Men can brag about how little they understand women, how they will actively refuse to put forth any effort. A major part in how good women are for doing it is that it’s something that won’t be reciprocated. And to not do this is to be inhuman.
Anyway, she continues to talk beautiful and cruel and alien at him to say she thinks he did a good job of that and ask how he worked it out.
He explains the static doorknob was because she phased through, and she answered questions weirdly, and “You don’t have a purse. Not many women go out in a three-thousand-dollar suit and no purse.”
All valid! And there’s not even the usual tone of smug viciousness – it’s entirely possible that is what he’s going for, given these books, but it’s not explicit, and the more reasonable reading is that this isn’t him outsmarting her because the whole point was she wanted to see how well he’d do, so there’s no reason to assume she intended to have a perfect disguise.
I saw her pupils change, slipping from round mortal orbs to slow feline lengths.
Is this going to be another cougar thing.
“I require your service. Something precious has been stolen. I wish you to recover it.”
“Let me get this straight,” I said. “You want me to recover stolen goods for you?”
“Not for me,” she murmured. “For the rightful owners. I wish you to discover and catch the thief and to vindicate me.”
So this is the book’s plot! And, from the general murmurings, a lot of other stuff that’ll happen across the series.
I laughed at her. That made something else come into those perfect, pale features—anger. Anger, cold and terrible, flashed in her eyes and all but froze the laugh in my throat.
This is not going down like it has with the other women. Harry’s tried saying she’s stuck up, but he’s still the disaster and she’s still put together. He threatened her and there was a brief moment when things started to go according to his script, but then she dropped the act when pushed. He tried hurting her, but she didn’t touch the iron. He tried negging her and she responded by being uncaring and terrifying.
And now when he’s made her angry, he flinches at it.
He tries to say he’s not going to make another fae bargain and she explains that’s irrelevant.
Her teeth showed, sharp and white. It wasn’t a smile. “Your mortgage, mortal child, has been sold. I have purchased it. You are mine. And you will assist me in this matter.”
Harry denies this despite the conversation repeatedly saying fae can’t lie.
He exchanges the gun for a letter opener. I’m assuming it’s because the letter opener contains more iron than a bullet, but he doesn’t say that. It’s really just happening to set up something wonderful:
She smiled, watching me, her eyes bright. “Then by all means, let me reassure you of the truth.”
My left palm slammed down onto the table. I watched, startled, as I gripped the letter opener in my right hand, slasher-movie style. In a panic, I tried to hold back my hand, to drop the opener, but my arms were running on automatic, like they were someone else’s.
“Wait!” I shouted.
She regarded me, cold and distant and interested.
I slammed the letter opener down onto the back of my own hand, hard. My desk is a cheap one. The steel bit cleanly through the meat between my thumb and forefinger and sank into the desk, pinning me there. Pain washed up my arm even as blood started oozing out of the wound. I tried to fight it down, but I was panicked, in no condition to exert a lot of control. A whimper slipped out of me. I tried to pull the steel away, to get it out of my hand, but my arm simply twisted, wrenching the letter opener counterclockwise.
The pain flattened me. I wasn’t even able to get enough breath to scream. The woman, the faerie, reached down and took my fingers away from the letter opener. She withdrew it with a sharp, decisive gesture and laid it flat on the desk, my blood gleaming all over it. “Wizard, you know as well as I. Were you not bound to me, I would have no such power over you.”
At that moment, most of what I knew was that my hand hurt, but some dim part of me realized she was telling the truth.
Part of what works here is just the brutality, but you know what else helps? How I just outlined that he’s failed to hurt her. Harry’s interactions with women are usually so awful. This time, he’s so thoroughly failed to dig his claws into her that it’s not even clear he ever intended to – he had no chance to glory in her pain or humiliation, so for all we know, he never wanted those things at all.
Harry is, for once, legitimately coming off as an unfairly suffering underdog.
Faeries don’t just get to ride in and play puppet master. You have to let them in.
I’d let my godmother, Lea, in years before, when I was younger, dumber.
This smacks of retcon given that if Lea could puppet him like this, she would’ve easily won their confrontations.
Anyway, Harry explains that Lea can apparently sell his soul to a new owner without including the year and day waiting period.
1) Wow, Lea, impatient much? You’ve been waiting years already and Harry’s only getting dumber. Plus, it’s been more than half a year since the last book. My best guess is she’s pretty sure he’s going to kill himself before she gets to turn him into a dog.
2) Wow, Harry, that’s not even a loophole. Christ. I guess this answers the question I asked earlier: you know jack shit about fairy law. Should’ve read up on it in like, what’s it been, a decade since you made this stupid deal? Then you’d have known to make any year-and-day deals tie to the object in question rather than an individual pursuing it.
And we end on a much better final line than last time!
I looked up at her, pain and sudden anger making my voice into a low, harsh growl. “Who are you?”
The woman ran an opalescent fingernail through the blood on my desk. She lifted it to her lips and idly touched it to her tongue. She smiled, slower, more sensual, and every bit as alien. “I have many names,” she murmured. “But you may call me Mab. Queen of Air and Darkness. Monarch of the Winter Court of the Sidhe.”
I also like the part where, while the previous book titles have been extremely direct, here we have a book called Summer Knight and he’s been hired/bought by Winter instead. Even if it’s going to turn out he’s going to marysue his way into simultaneously working for Summer and the title’s perfectly literal, it’s still more of a twist than him just getting a job from Summer from the start.