Publisher: Penguin Audio (Audiobook – 3 May 2005)
Series: Dresden Files – Book Seven
Length: 15 hours and 7 minutes
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Welcome back to my Throwback Thursday series, where I republish old reviews, review books I have read before or review older books I have only just had a chance to read. For this latest review I dive back into the epic Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher with the seventh entry, Dead Beat.
Over the last couple of years, I’ve had a ton of fun finally getting into the iconic Dresden Files books by legendary author Jim Butcher. Generally considered one of the very best urban fantasy series, the Dresden Files are a deeply captivating series that follows Chicago’s resident wizard, Harry Dresden, as he investigates a series of mystical cases throughout the city, often resulting in epic moments loaded with magic. I started this series with the latest book, Battle Ground (one of my favourite books and audiobooks of 2020), and then went back to the start to experience the series from the beginning. So far, I have managed to read Storm Front, Fool Moon, Grave Peril, Summer Knight, Death Masks and Blood Rites, as well as last year’s novella, The Law. All these books have been extremely good in their own way, and I have loved the elaborate stories each of them contained. As such, when I was in the mood for something I was guaranteed to love this week, listening to the next Dresden Files book on my to-read list was an easy choice for me, with the seventh book, Dead Beat.
Harry Dresden, private wizard detective and magical protector of Chicago is always willing to help a person in need no matter the cost. But even he is unprepared for how far he’ll have to go when an old and merciless enemy imperils one of the people closest to him. The ancient vampire Mavra has evidence that could destroy his best friend, Karrin Murphy, and threatens to unleash it unless Dresden recovers a powerful book of magic written by the legendary, long-dead necromancer Kemmler.
With no choice but to find the book, Dresden begins his search around Chicago, attempting to discover any trace of its location. However, his search soon leads him into conflict with a new dark power arriving in the city. Three of Kemmler’s students have their eyes on the book and the rituals it contains, and they are willing to destroy everyone and anyone to get it, including each other, especially when the prize at stake is godhood.
Caught between the three warring necromancers and their minions, Dresden needs to find the book first to stop their dark ultimate ritual before it can decimate Chicago. However, each of Kemmler’s students far outclasses him in terms of magical ability and ruthlessness, and with only limited allies to call upon, it looks like even Dresden will have trouble saving the day again. To survive, he might have to a make a dark deal with an even more malevolent evil, one that that has the potential to damn him forever.
I don’t know how he does it, but every single one of Jim Butcher’s novels that I read is so damn addictive and epic that I always struggle to put it down. Dead Beat was another outstanding entry in the Dresden Files series, and honestly it might be one of the best I have read so far. I absolutely powered through its clever and elaborate story as I tried to get to the end, and everything about it was highly enjoyable and fun. Dead Beat gets another easy five-star rating and I have so much love for how amazing this seventh entry in the series turned out.
Dead Beat has an amazing story to it that effortlessly drew me in with the cool combination of magic, character moments and investigative angles. Starting off quickly with Dresden drafted into the search for a powerful magic book, the protagonist begins his new investigation, only to discover the dangerous necromancers waiting for them. Dresden soon has deadly encounters with all three necromancers in Chicago searching for the book, as well as their various minions and associates, which results in some brilliant scenes. Dead Beat continues by setting Dresden and his allies on a dark course as they simultaneously attempt to find the book and the full extent of the warring necromancer’s plans, while also fending off their attacks. Dresden keeps getting confronted again and again by his foes, barely escaping each time while also learning more about what is to come. At the same time, he is forced to deal with certain personal issues, including trauma, complicated relationships, and a literal demon in his head, tempting him with power and knowledge. There are some great twists, dark moments and emotionally powerful scenes set up around the middle of the novel, and I loved how well Butcher laid out the storylines and hinted at some big moments to come. Everything leads up to an epic concluding final third of the book as Dresden makes some hard decisions and compromises to save the day. The final confrontation with the bad guys is pretty damn awesome, especially as the protagonist, utilising his usual restraint and good judgment, unleashes a very monstrous response to the antagonist’s minions. This entire narrative was enthralling from start to finish, and I cannot emphasise just how addictive and entertaining the entire story was.
Dead Beat featured Butcher’s usual excellent writing style which once again lent itself extremely well to the elaborate narrative he came up with. The pacing of this book was constantly fast and exciting, which guarantees that the reader is always paying attention, especially as every page has either action, some intriguing bit of lore or history, or some intense and compelling character development. Butcher also ensures that this latest novel has the right blend of great story elements to it, and I deeply enjoyed how the fantasy and mystery elements are well featured as the protagonist is forced to do detective work to get the answers. All this is overlayed by a great smattering of humour, mostly from the funny protagonist, who approaches the dark events and villains with his usual cockiness and disrespect. The use of a first-person perspective from Dresden is also quite effective, and I loved seeing events through his eyes, as it allows readers to fully grasp the mystery, while also showcasing the great character developments. While Dead Beat can be read as a standalone read, especially as Butcher is good at quickly recapping events, at this point in the series readers will benefit from going back and reading the earlier Dresden Files books first. Dead Beat proves to be a key entry in the larger series, with multiple major events occurring here, and there are a ton of references to the preceding books, including the return of several fantastic characters. I really got a lot more out of Dead Beat’s story for having read the previous novels, especially as you get to see how much Dresden has been through in the lead up to this book. Overall, this was a very well-written and impressive novel, and Butcher really ensured that his cool story came through perfectly.
As with the rest of the Dresden Files books, I was really impressed with the blend of fantasy and urban fiction elements in Dead Beat, especially as Butcher has come up with such an elaborate world to set his stories in. The author adds some cool new elements into his complex world throughout Dead Beat, as Dresden is forced to deal with a whole new branch of dark magic, necromancy. Necromancy, or the control over the dead, is always a great villainous power in fantasy fiction, and Butcher makes excellent use of it in this book, with three rival necromancers vying for power. Each uses a different form of necromantic magic in battle, and this results in some outstanding scenes where Dresden is forced to confront them. The resulting magical mayhem is pretty epic, and Butcher’s unique depiction of zombies was both fun and a little scary. This intriguing new form of magic ensured that Dead Beat really stood out, and I appreciated how Butcher turned it on its head towards the end when Dresden gets creative. These excellent portrayals of magic fit within the fantastic setting of modern-day Chicago and it is always fun to see the elaborate balance of magical and mundane features that Butcher has set up within the city. These great fantasy inclusions blend well with the character work and mystery elements of Dead Beat, and I look forward to seeing how Butcher further expands it in future books.
One thing that I felt Butcher did particularly well in Dead Beat was how he portrayed his brilliant cast of characters. The Dresden Files always contain great protagonists and villains, but this novel had some of the best portrayals of them to date. This is especially true for series protagonist and point-of-view character Harry Dresden, who had a great outing here. Dresden has always been a damaged and conflicted figure in the series, but recent traumas are really weighing him down in Dead Beat as he struggles with a terrible hand injury, as well as the malign influence of the fallen angel bound to him, Lasciel. The protagonist spends most of the book trying to deal with the influence of Lasciel who subtly manipulates him in many ways, tempting him with power or a solution to his many problems. Each damaging and desperate encounter that Dresden survives in Dead Beat forces him to reconsider the wisdom of refusing her help, and the subsequent internal battles produce some of the most intense and compelling scenes in the novel. This continued temptation and manipulation alters Dresden’s personality at times, and it was interesting to see how his allies and friends treat him, especially as Dresden begins to understand the different ways that members of the magical community view him. Of course, Dresden hides most of his internal pain with his usual hilarious wit and humour, and his irreverent opinions, funny observations, and sheer ability to annoy anyone he encounters, results in most of the book’s humour and over-the-top moments. Throw in other concerns, including complex relationships, unrequited love, and the character’s desire to prove himself and do the right thing, and this was some of the best character work that Butcher has ever done around his main protagonist.
On top of Dresden, Butcher also features a brilliant cast of support characters and villains that really help to enliven the book. Dead Beat features a mixture of established supporting characters, as well as several great new ones, each of whom get some excellent moments to show off throughout the book. I particularly enjoyed how well Butcher utilised the character of Waldo Butters in Dead Beat. Butters, a kooky and big-hearted mortal medical examiner who had minor roles in a previous novel, is thrust into the limelight during this book, becoming a major ally to Dresden. Butcher weaves some great storylines around him as he simultaneously finds his courage and begins to understand the magical world that keeps trying to kill him. Butters proves to be a great supporting figure to Dresden in this book, and I loved their amusing team-up and developing friendship. There is also a couple of great hints at some of the future storylines involving Butters, and I look forward to seeing more of him.
Aside from Butters, I also enjoyed the appearance of Dresden’s half-brother, the vampire Thomas Raith, who has been crashing at Dresden’s place. Butcher paints a fun brotherly relationship between the two in this novel, which was quite entertaining at times. However, the more humorous elements of their relationship are often overshadowed by the deep pain within Raith as he tries to overcome the emotional damage done to him in the previous novel. I also loved learning more about Dresden’s skull spirit companion, Bob, in Dead Beat, and his dark history proves to be quite fascinating, especially as his former nature contrasts substantially with his usually entertaining persona. The three necromantic villains, Grevane, the Corpsetaker and Cowl, each bring a certain level of sinisterness to the table, and they prove to be exceptional antagonists in their own way. Finally, I must highlight the inclusion of Dresden’s new dog, Mouse, who has an awesome outing in Dead Beat. A young and growing gentle giant, Mouse is a fun animal companion to Dresden and his allies, and I look forward to seeing more of his hijinks in the future. Honestly, the entire cast of Dead Beat was pretty damn exceptional, and their powerful interactions and internal issues, added so much to the impact and power of this awesome novel.
As with all the Dresden Files novels, I chose to listen to Dead Beat on audiobook, which was an exceptional experience as the audio format helps to enhance the great characters and magical action. Coming in at just over 15 hours, this is a substantial audiobook, however, I manage to knock it out in a few days, especially once I got caught up in fantastic story. Naturally, the best thing about the Dead Beat audiobook is the return of actor James Marsters as the narrator. Marsters, who is one of my favourite audiobook narrators thanks to his work on this series, did another brilliant job in Dead Beat and I have so much love for his outstanding performance. After lending his voice to all the previous Dresden Files novels, Marsters has all the characters down, and each figure is given a fitting and powerful voice that carries through from book to book. I particularly appreciated his portrayal of main character Harry Dresden, and Marsters perfectly captures the protagonist’s deep emotions and cocky demeaner, ensuring that you are both drawn to his pain and entertained by his antics. In addition to the excellent voices, Marsters also has some noticeable and contagious enthusiasm in his narration, especially when it comes to the magical battles, and you can really feel his passion and excitement in parts of the story, especially when he loudly shouts out Dresden’s magical spells. This narration from Marsters is so damn good, and it ensures that I had an exceptional time with Dead Beat’s audiobook, while is the absolute best way to enjoy a Dresden File novel.
In the seventh entry in his iconic Dresden Files series, Dead Beat, Jim Butcher has produced another exceptional read and one that I cannot recommended enough. Featuring a particularly impressive and captivating narration, cool magical inclusions, and some of the best character work Butcher has ever done, Dead Beat is one the best Dresden Files novels I have read so far, and I loved everything about it. This was such an amazing book, and I am very much intending to read several more entries in this outstanding series later this year.