Well, it was a fun trip, but I’m back in Canada and resting up before I have to house/dog-sit for my aunt. Before I left, my fiance gave me the rest of the Dresden series (including “Side Jobs”) to read and review, hopefully before either he or I travel again to see one another. Luckily, I managed to finish “Proven Guilty” before my trip was over, so let’s not delay and jump right into it.
A year after the last book, Harry is still adjusting to his new-found responsibilities. When Michael’s daughter, Molly, comes to him for help, he finds himself caught up in a strange case involving a horror convention and movie monsters seemingly coming to life. He also has to contend with the faerie Summer and Winter Courts as the war with the vampires wages on. Will Harry be able to solve the case and keep the peace between the faeries as well?
I’m not gonna lie – I had some issues with this one. But to start with the positive, I enjoyed the use of the horror convention as a setting here. Part of that is because I’d recently gone to Megacon, but the other was that I could easily picture it and that was partly due to the use of movie monsters. The monsters in this book are fictional expies of ones from movies you might recognize, like “Child’s Play”, “Friday the 13th”, and “Pumpkinhead” to name a few. Bizarrely, there’s a blatant reference to the Xenomorph from “Alien” that isn’t mentioned by name but has dialogue references to the movie. This jumped out at me since the others have fictional names to (I assume) avoid copyright issues. Still, I really liked this idea and had a blast guessing who each monster was meant to represent.
A few characters make their return, most notably Thomas and Michael’s family. Thomas gets a bit of a change in that he finally moves out of Harry’s apartment, but we don’t get to see much of what he’s up to beyond his role in helping Harry during the plot. However, there are hints that more is going on with him and I’m interested to see how this plays out in later books. Michael also makes a brief return later in the story, and while it’s a good moment, this book was more focused on giving Molly and Charity some much-needed development. Over the course of it, I grew to like Charity more and more, and by the end I loved the direction her and Harry’s relationship had taken. I did take issue with one thing about her, but I’ll get to that in a bit. Molly also gets more to do here, though I’d be hard-pressed to say that I like her more than before. She’s a character that kinda annoys me and this didn’t really help with that, though hopefully that’ll change in later books. As far as the faerie stuff goes, a lot of focus goes toward the Summer Court’s lack of involvement in the war and allows us to see Fix, the Summer Knight, and Lily, the Summer Lady, again. I liked their roles in the plot and felt they came out stronger than those on the Winter Court side. Their role in the plot is pretty much concluded once the movie monster one is taken care of.
This book had more blatant teasing of the possibility of Harry and Murphy being romantically involved. While I liked that it was directly addressed here, it drove me nuts from a shipper standpoint. I understand the arguments for and against it, but I hope this is something that isn’t completely dropped from here on out. There is at least one big change for Murphy that I hope will be eventually resolved, though in the meantime it’s sure to be problematic for her. I also found that some speculation raised by Harry by the end of the book really got me curious as to if there’s something bigger happening than the previous books lead me to believe. I like that kind of mystery and intrigue, and I’m interested to see what actually comes into play from it.
Now, onto the stuff I didn’t like. There are really two major gripes I have with this one. The first is finding out who is responsible for the “movie monsters come to life” thing. While I liked the reasoning behind their attacks, I didn’t like who was behind THEM. I felt that there was room to have something new be the culprit instead of falling back on the usual selection of baddies. That said, both the reasoning behind it and who sends them out plays a part in tying together plot threads, so I can see why it was done. I just wish this idea had been the basis for the book.
But my biggest gripe has to do with Charity. There’s a HUGE revelation involving her that I felt came completely out of nowhere. Part of this is because I couldn’t recall any previous hints leading up to it, and the other part is that Harry immediately figures out who’s behind the book’s events up to that point and beyond before the reader. It irritated me because while I don’t expect to know things before the characters all the time (and in fact find that annoying if done badly), it would’ve been nice to have had build-up to that moment instead of it being thrown at me like some kind of shock factor. It just felt incredibly jarring and was one of the only things in this to leave a slightly bad taste in my mouth (the other being the events after the main plots are resolved).
Overall, this book left me feeling a little mixed. On the one hand, there are some great character developments and more interesting setup for future books to explore. The horror theme was really cool, and I liked most of the supporting characters’ (both old and new) roles here. But on the other hand, the twist involving Charity, the climax to the movie monster plot (the faerie one fared slightly better), and Molly having a big part as well kinda dampened the fun for me. It’s definitely not a bad book by any stretch, but it’s definitely not one of my favorite Dresden titles.