These books just keep getting better: stronger writing, tighter plotting, more and more female characters kicking all kinds of ass.
Actually, what I liked most about this book is what a great variety of female characters it offered, without coming off as some sort of feminist UN experiment. The reason Butcher was able to have so many different kinds of women in this story is that he just plain has one heck of a lot of female characters; and it feels completely unforced because it turns out that (male writers who aren't named Terry Pratchett, take note) there are actually a lot of women in the world.
Srsly. We do all kinds of stuff. We have all kinds of different experiences.
And one writer who had me worried sick that he'd turn out to be kind of a sexist pig decided to – hey, why not! – have a lot of female characters. And it's awesome.
I don't mind if your story includes damsels in distress as long as that's not the only danged kind of woman I'm reading about. I don't mind having sinister female villains (heck, I kind of love them) as long as that's
not the only kind of grown-ass woman you have to offer. (Could somebody wake up C.S. Lewis and deliver this message? No? Well, keep poking him. You never know.)
And it turns out that I can forgive a male main character for griping in previous books about hating to be rescued by women if his author then sentences this guy to spend pretty much the whole story being rescued by women.
Okay, that's not quite true. I mean, it is
. Harry Dresden is rescued by women in this story at least three times I can think of, including once by a woman in active labor (yay!). But he does a lot of rescuing as well. After a while, you can just sit back and relax and stop keeping score, even if you're a screaming redhead feminist like me. It all evens out in the end.
I do think it was odd for Butcher to start this book off with a totally new character and then just never ever ever explain what the heck he's doing there. I guess he wanted it to seem as if Michael had always been there, but there are ways of doing that kind of thing, and Butcher didn't avail himself of any of them. He pretty much literally just said, "Oh, this guy? He's my best friend. He's always been my best friend. You didn't know? Funny you never noticed that." I actually consulted Google twice and my husband once to make sure I hadn't picked up the wrong title (I'm reading this series in order, and my husband's the one who introduced me to it).
I think it's a mistake to make your reader so worried she's in the wrong book that she's not paying proper attention to the story you're telling her. But the awesome in this book outweighs any such initial flaws. I was especially impressed by the ending, which would have been incredibly easy to fumble. Butcher handles it with great skill and delicacy.
I'm excited to continue my adventures with this series and see what happens next.