Grave Peril

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Grave Peril (The Dresden Files #3) by Jim Butcher

So Harry Dresden has had a tough year. First a crazy wizard blowing people up from the inside out,

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To werewolves of all types ravaging the city:

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And now we have the spirit world going crazy!

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Yep, he’s had to team up with old pal, Michael Carpenter, Catholic and a Knight of the Cross.

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Spirits have been riled up all over, are acting out and no longer tethered to special spots, etc.

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As Harry goes back to the office the next day, he is approached by a young woman, Lydia, a practitioner who begs for protection. Harry offers to give her some help, as he knows she is hiding something from him. This seems to happen a lot Harry what with with Monica and the werewolf guy.

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That night Harry and Michael decide the only way to stop some of these things from happening, is for Harry to risk heading over the border from our world to the supernatural one. A very scary thing to do when most of them hate you or are after you.

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In fact he is trying to stay away from his fairy godmother (actual fairy) Lea who wants him as her slave. As she starts to spin her fairy magic, he just manages to overcome her spell and Michael luckily saves him before she takes his blood.

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However, the work they do doesn’t always fly with the police as they get arrested. Michael’s wife, Charity, comes for Michael and reads Harry the riot act. Susan also comes for Harry, in a slightly better mood as with her man she has another story for the newspaper she works for, The Arcane.

As the two head back to Harry’s place they encounter something they weren’t expecting, Vampires.

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But these vampires promise no attacks. They were sent by Madame Bianca to invite Harry to the Vampire Court, as Bianca is elevated to the rank of Margravine of the Vampire Court.

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Susan wants to go to the Vampire Ball, but Harry is not interested. Bianca is still angry about what happened in Storm Front, and has threatened to kill him. While the invitation protects him from any vampire harm such as sucking of blood or direct killing, they could use a loophole and find a way to destroy him. Better watch out Harry, non-magical people don’t always understand everything and Susan is tenacious. She’ll find a way to get into that party, even if it becomes the death of her.

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The two spend the night together, but are awoken early by Michael. Michael has heard from the priest of the church Harry placed Lydia. Something tried to attack her last night, but was kept out. She started freaking out going through withdrawal (from either a mortal or magical substance) and tried to go out to the creature. The priest was able to protect her during the night by reading the scriptures. But in the morning she disappeared.

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Harry decides the only thing to do next os to go to a psychic in Oldtown, Mortimer Lindquist. When Harry comes upon him packing, he knows Mortimer must know something he’s not telling. When Harry questions him further, Mortimer brings up an old book of his, They Shall Rise. He’s convinced the border between our world and the magical Nevernever is constantly eroding, new ghosts are coming over, and that there is something even eviler, a Nightmare.

Things go from bad to worse as he is called in by the Chicago Police Department for an old friend, Mickey Malone. Before Harry can enter a true “home, he has to be invited in by a family member. Mrs. Malone complies, he comes in to see Mickey chained up as he is a madman.

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When he uses his Sight, he sees that Mickey’s soul and mind have been torn apart as if he was attacked by a wild animal. To top it off he has “spiritual” barbed wire curled around him, just like he saw in the other ghosts he’d been fighting. Who is trying to control these ghosts and people? Why?

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Harry is able to destroy it, but through great pain. What is this Nightmare? And can Harry stop it?

There is only one thing left for Harry to do in order to get his answers. He must go to the Vampire ball, but will he manage to survive it?

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*Spoliers*

As always Butcher presents a powerful, thrilling, and suspenseful story.

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Burt let me worn you, this one is full of pain, angst, and was pretty harsh. I’m on a Jim Butcher break after reading this as it was heart wrenching.

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The hardest thing was what happened to Susan. Now I may never have been a fan of her and Harry together, but I never wanted her turned into a vampire. Super intense ending, totally heart crushing, yet powerful.

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For more Dresden Files, go to Fool Moon

For more private investigators, go to A is for Alibi

For more supernatural mysteries, go to Just Because You’re Paranoid, Doesn’t Mean a Demon’s Not After You: Storm Front

For more mystery reviews, go to The Midwife’s Tale

The Emperor’s Edge

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The Emperor’s Edge (The Emperor’s Edge #1) by Lindsay Buroker

So this mystery is a little different as it is a fantasy novel. Yep, it has wizards, mystical creatures, and magic.

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Sword fights, questing, overcoming obstacles!

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Plus a mystery to boot? What more could you want?

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Anyways so the book begins with our heroine, Amaranthe Lokdon. Amaranthe is a female police officer, which is highly unusual. The empire had just recently allowed women into those positions, but unfortunately for Amaranthe they aren’t promoting them any time soon.

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Just because she’s a woman they won’t let her move on, but her slovenly and always late partner gets bumped up.

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Anyways, Amaranthe is an amazing police woman. She may be small, but manages to hold her own against criminals; whether it is with her blade or subduing them by knocking a shelf of coffee canisters on them.

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One night Amaranthe notices a lot of smoke, which means fire. Her partner wants to just hang out and leave what isn’t their beat alone, but with Amaranthe’s urging they head down to the area. There they spot a merchant being robbed, of which Amaranthe single-handedly is able to stop.

It’s only after she has gotten everything sorted out that she realizes the emperor is there.

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It turns out he was in the area for an inspection of the troops, but took refuge in the shop because of the fire. The young emperor, a boy still really, thanks the police, most ardently Amaranthe.

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He has to continue on his way, while Amaranthe and her partner head over to the place of the fire. The area held a large kiln, the whole building was set on fire with people inside it. Amaranthe finds this strange as the bodies were outside the kiln instead of placed inside, which would make more sense for destroying bodies. In fact, Amaranthe finds the whole thing suspicious.

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Her partner believes that the killer was the assassin, Sicarius. Sicarius was almost a legend with the vast numbers of people he has killed. Except for the fact that he is very real, and currently in town.

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But while everyone is eager to believe that is true, that it is Sicarius’ work, Amaranthe finds it hard to believe. Why would a trained assassin choose that way to murder people? It doesn’t seem right.

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She also finds a lot of strange broken pieces of pottery.

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But before she can investigate further, she is sent on her way as the detective team comes in.

When she gets back to headquarters she finds out that the Commander of the Armies, Hollowcrest wants to see her. He is the highest ranking official in the empire, the man in charge until the Prince is old enough to be King. This is a BIG deal.

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She goes to see him and finds out that he has read everything in her file, and most likely knows more about her life than she does. She was attending the women’s business school, but didn’t finish as her father became sick and died. She didn’t have enough to continue her final year, so instead lied about her age and joined the police force.

After Hollowcrest’s sneering at her decisions, Amaranthe tells him that she wanted more than to make money, she wants to serve the empire. In fact her dream is to become the first female chief.

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Hollowcrest offers her an assignment, that if completed would grant her the promotion she desires.

Only one problem. She has to kill Sicarius.

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Yes the famed assassin. The assassin who has killed over 300 soldiers, over 200 police officers, half a dozen patriarchs from the warrior caste, etc…the list goes on and on.

And Amaranthe has to kill him.

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In fact, Hollowcrest wants Amaranthe to seduce Sicarius and kill him.

Now there are several problems with this. 1) HE’S AN ASSASSIN! I’m sure he has been trained to ignore the wiles of women. I mean come on, that’s the stupidest way I have ever heard someone suggest to take down an assassin!

2) Amaranthe doesn’t flirt. Amaranthe is always too busy and too much of a no-nonsense girl to do that. But what else can she do? Orders are orders.

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As she is heading out and contemplating what craphole her life has just been thrown into, who does she run in to but the emperor.

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The emperor is ecstatic to see her and asks her a ton of questions about what’s she’s up to. Amaranthe tells him that she was just placed on a mission, when she is interrupted by him. The emperor gives her a bracelet for luck and then shows her his designs and plans to include art and science wings at the university. He babbles on for a while and then asks more about her mission. Before Amaranthe call say anything else, the two are interrupted by Hollowcrest.

Hollowcrest sends the emperor on his way, as they have plenty of work, and then remarks to a guard to make sure the emperor receives his “tea” as he is too “perky”.

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Emperor Sespian returns to his rooms and spends a few minutes discussing his behavior with Amaranthe with his cat. He feels a bit foolish, but you know crushes can do that to people. His ramblings are interrupted by the coming of his daily cup of tea, the only thing stopping his intense headaches and seeming to keep him alive.

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Or is it?

Back with Amaranthe, she has decided to approach one of her acquaintances from school, Misty Masters. Now Misty was the leader of the gang Panthers, owns a very prosperous casino, and had underworld contacts. Amaranthe concocts a story about having a dark, illegal business and needing protection to smuggle goods. She asks Mitsy to pass along a message to Sicarius for her, requesting him as an employee. Mitsy agrees, for the price of a favor.

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That night Amaranthe heads to the meeting spot, where Amaranthe is supposed to offer employment, but in reality murder the assassin.

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He arrives as silent as a cat, with Amaranthe being scared witless. She tells him her concocted story, but Sicarius immediately knows she is lying. Sicarius then takes off. Before Sicarius is gone, she notices the mud on his boots is the same distinctive mud from the area where the fire was. Amaranthe decides that must be where he is staying and heads out there.

Amaranthe goes to the area and starts searching for Sicarius, all the while debating the issue of murdering him in her head. On one hand the emperor has a huge bounty on Sicarius’ head and has killed a lot of people. But on the other hand, he knew she was lying and let her live. Maybe he isn’t all bad? Kill him and be a murderer? Or kill him and have gained a position she rightfully earned?

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As she is setting up a crossbow and lying in wait to kill him, somebody grabs her neck from behind. Sicarius. Amaranthe knows there is nothing she can do, but still raises her arms to protect her. But to her surprise Sicarius stops.

What?

He dumps her on the ground and questions her instead. He grills her as to who sent her and why, asking what she did to anger Hollowcrest.

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What? Why would you ask me that,? Amaranthe asks only for Sicarius to tell her how easily he could have killed her a long time ago. Amaranthe asks him why he stopped, but Sicaris refuses to answer. Amaranthe runs through what could have happened to change his mind, remembering that he stopped when she put her arm up. The arm connected to the wrist that is wearing the emperor’s bracelet.

But the emperor? Doesn’t the emperor hate him? Doesn’t Sicarius want to assassinate the emperor?

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Amaranthe asks Sicarius but he tells her he has no intention of killing the emperor. She asks him how he found her and he tells her he has been following her after their previous encounter.

Sicarius is going to leave but Amaranthe stops him. Amaranthe finds the whole exchange the night before odd, especially the remarks about tea. Could it be used to dull the mind? Poison him? Make him more easily controlled? She shares her fears with Sicarius, and her hopes to investigate. Sicarius tells her that her days are numbered. Hollowcrest wants her dead if he sent her to see him, and its only a matter of time until he murders her some other way.

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Amaranthe then does the only thing she can. She asks Sicarius for help. Sicarius pulls out his famous black dagger and hands it to her. He tells her it will be the only way she’ll get in as Hollowcrest will be surprised she accomplished her mission. He warns her that she will most likely not make it back out, but the best thing to do is find the secret passages in the dungeons that will lead her out.

Amaranthe goes to see Hollowcrest, and under much scruntity by his guards is able to make it in. While Amaranthe is waiting for Hollowcrest to join her in his office, she decides to do a little straightening as her OCD is kicking in. While fixing a book she discovers a note:

Hollowcrest, you said the emperor was under your control. Your puppet has’t made any of the changes we-

But the sound of footsteps stopping Amaranthe from reading anymore.

Hollowcrest asks her for details, but Amaranthe counters with questions of her own, as why he would send her. When he refuses to answer, Amaranthe tells him the truth, that Sicarius agreed to hand over the knife.

Hollowcrest is furious that she seduced him too. The “too” bothering Amaranthe as she has no clue what he is talking about. Apparently the emperor was smitten with her, and Hollowcrest couldn’t allow Amaranthe to have a crack at the throne.

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Amaranthe denies it and tries to get Hollowcrest to understand how insane he sounds, but Hollowcrest continues, even going as far and yelling at how unfair it is that this boy is ruling instead of him.

They are both interrupted by the emperor, Hollowcrest yelling treason and trying to have Amaranthe murdered. Amaranthe jumps out the window trying to escape.

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Unfortunately, Hollowcrest’s men find her and throw her in the dungeon, telling the prince she died in the fall. There Amaranthe discovers that Hollowcrest has ordered that all prisoners be experimented on in order to find better vaccinations to combat diseases. The guards infect her with deadly venom and leave her in her cell. Amaranthe decides to finish the note she nicked earlier from Hollowcrest’s office.

Hollowcrest, you said the emperor was under your control. Your puppet has’t made any of the changes we discussed, primarily to exempt key businesses from taxes in order to foster growth. Forge also demands a voice in the government. The empire is a defunct warrior aristocracy out of touch with the modern world. Your recalcitrance forces us to make threats. If the emperor does not pass the laws we have requested, he will be eliminated during his birthday celebration. The people will not accept you as a ruler. Since Sespian is the only Savarsin left who claims royal blood through both paternal and maternal lines, he is the only legitimate heir. His death will create civil war, giving us the opportunity to back a more amenable project. How do we go forward? The choice is yours. -Forge

Amaranthe knows she must escape and warn Sicarius or else the emperor will die. She can’t get out of her cell, but she does manage to reach the cabinet with the deadly insects, releasing them when the guards return.

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After a very long process and her infection making her delirious, she is able to get out of the dungeon, via the hidden passages, and find her way to the meeting spot. Then the world goes black.

Amaranthe wakes up and discovers Sicarius. Apparently he couldn’t understand her so he brought her to shaman to heal her, and then a warehouse. Amaranthe is astounded he found a magical healer, as it is illegal to deal with magic in the empire. Amaranthe tells Sicarius everything, along with the fact that she has a plan.

Amaranthe has decided the best way to go, in rooting out the emperor’s enemies, is create counterfeit money. With that influx in the market, Forge’s fortunes would become meaningless and Hollowcrest will have to deal with panicked citizens. It was the best way to get both parties to meet with her.

Amaranthe, to Sicarius’ doubt, sets off to gather a team. She first recruits “Books”, an ex professor and currently an alcoholic, whose son was killed by Hollowcrest. She only went to him for advice, but is able to win him over for help.

When running away from enforcers, as she now is a fugitive with a price on her head, she ducks into the nearest shop, it being one for procuring male escorts.

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While waiting them out, she spots a very handsome man, Maldynado, and comes up with the idea that by having him, he’ll be able to get the supplies needed for free. She strikes a deal with him that if her man bests him in a duel, he’ll have to give her two weeks of free service. He agrees, and with Sicarius’ win they have a new recruit.

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Later she spots a boy reciving a public flogging for having been practicing magic. She offers him Sicarius’ protection for his employment.

With the crew in place Amaranthe sets off to put her plan into motion, but there is still so much she doesn’t know. Can she trust all these men? Will she be able to save the emperor? Will she ever find out Sicarius backstory? What is his connection to Sespian? And many more.

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Thoughts After Reading:

I got this book on BookBub for free and wasn’t sure how I’d like it, but when I read it I LOVED it!!

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The characters were great and the dialogue hilarious. It was a like a magical Oceans 11 or something. I say you should check it out.

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For more book reviews, go to Knit, Purl, Die.