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Proven Guilty (Dresden Files Series #8)

Proven Guilty (Dresden Files Series #8)

4.7 431
by Jim Butcher

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Elevated "into the front rank of urban fantasy heroes" (SF Site), professional wizard Harry Dresden is pledged to fight crime, banish evil, and outwit the masters of dark arts in the shadowy corners of Chicago.

Harry, the only wizard in the Chicago phone book, is drafted to look into rumors of black magic in the Windy City. And if that wasn't enough, he must help


Elevated "into the front rank of urban fantasy heroes" (SF Site), professional wizard Harry Dresden is pledged to fight crime, banish evil, and outwit the masters of dark arts in the shadowy corners of Chicago.

Harry, the only wizard in the Chicago phone book, is drafted to look into rumors of black magic in the Windy City. And if that wasn't enough, he must help the daughter of an old friend, whose boyfriend was the only one in a room where an old man was attacked. He insists he didn't do it. And what looks like a supernatural assault straight out of a horror film turns out to be-well, something quite close to that, as Harry discovers that malevolent entities that feed on fear are loose in Chicago.

Editorial Reviews

The Barnes & Noble Review
Move over, Gandalf and Merlin, here comes Harry Dresden, a Chicago-based wizard with a decidedly twisted sense of humor who uses his extraordinary magical abilities to solve supernatural-related crimes in the Windy City. In the eighth installment of Jim Butcher's Dresden Files (Dead Beat, Blood Rites, et al.), the sardonic practitioner of magic has his hands full when infamous motion picture monstrosities start coming to life at a horror movie convention!

After years of being vilified by the White Council of Wizards, Dresden has reluctantly become part of the "establishment" -- he is now a Warden for the Council. The wizards' ongoing war with the vampiric Red Court isn't going well, and Dresden is dutifully doing his part in the conflict. When he's tasked to find out why the Sidhe haven't yet joined the wizards in their battle against the vampires, Dresden's investigation is complicated by a phone call from a friend's 17-year-old daughter, who, while working a horror convention aptly called Splattercon, witnesses brutal killings that Dresden suspects were committed by a phobophage (a spiritual entity that feeds on fear) -- but the gruesome clues lead him to some unlikely suspects….

Put Tolkien's staff-wielding Gandalf in a blender with Stuart M. Kaminsky's tenacious Chicago detective Abe Lieberman, and throw in a heaping helping of offbeat humor à la Paul Di Filippo or Cory Doctorow, and you've got yourself Harry Dresden, the hard-boiled, magic-slinging detective featured in Butcher's action-packed supernatural saga. Readers who enjoy a diversity of genres in their escapist literature should definitely check out this utterly readable amalgam of mystery, fantasy, and horror. Paul Goat Allen
"A great series-fast-paced, vividly realized with a hero/narrator who's excellent company."
The News-Star
"Butcher is definitely among the best."
Green Man Review
"Take Sam Spade and give him a deadly Faerie Godmother, then add Harry Potter and put him on the wrong side of town while you're at it. All you'll get is a pale shadow of Harry Dresden."
Publishers Weekly
Harry Dresden, Chicago's only consulting wizard, takes on phobophages, creatures that feed on fear who attack a horror film convention, in the diverting eighth installment of Butcher's increasingly complicated Dresden Files series (Dead Beat, etc.). Harry finds that fighting monsters is only the prelude to maneuvers amid the warring wizards of the White Council and the vampire Red Court. Less and less V.I. Warshawski with witchcraft, Harry aims his deductive powers at political intrigues rather than crime solving. The body count from the magical melees, however, would do any hard-boiled gumshoe proud. Butcher's believable, likable set of characters go for the jocular much more than the jugular. Deeper fears do run through the book, and Harry, taking on an apprentice, has to face up to the consequences of his all-too-human failings. Look for the series to really take off with the debut of a two-hour pilot on the Sci-Fi Channel this summer produced by Nicholas Cage. (May) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
When a wave of black magic threatens Chicago, private investigator Harry Dresden, the newest wizard appointed to the White Council of Wizards, receives the assignment to protect the city's mortal population. The difficulty of this task becomes apparent as the teenage daughter of an old friend, a horror convention that acts as a magnet for dark forces, a pair of mortal champions of the Summer Court of Faerie, and a Fallen angel determined to seduce Harry all conspire to complicate an already delicate situation. The latest addition to Butcher's modern fantasy crime series (after Dead Beat) maintains the high standards of previous entries while introducing new surprises and revisiting a host of memorable supporting characters. A TV pilot based on the series and produced by Nicholas Cage is due to air in the summer of 2006, so expect demand. Highly recommended for libraries of all sizes. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
From the Publisher
Praise for the Dresden Files

“Think Buffy the Vampire Slayer starring Philip Marlowe.”—Entertainment Weekly

“Fans of Laurell  K. Hamilton and Tanya Huff will love this series.”—Midwest Book Review
“Superlative.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“One of the most enjoyable marriages of the fantasy and mystery genres on the shelves.”—Cinescape
“Butcher...spins an excellent noirish detective yarn in a well-crafted, supernaturally-charged setting. The supporting cast is again fantastic, and Harry’s wit continues to fly in the face of a peril-fraught plot.”—Booklist (starred review)
“What’s not to like about this series?...It takes the best elements of urban fantasy, mixes it with some good old-fashioned noir mystery, tosses in a dash of romance and a lot of high-octane action, shakes, stirs, and serves.”—SF Site
“A tricky plot complete with against-the-clock pacing, firefights, explosions, and plenty of magic. Longtime series fans as well as newcomers drawn by the SciFi Channel’s TV series based on the novels should find this supernatural mystery a real winner.”—Library Journal
“What would you get if you crossed Spenser with Merlin? Probably you would come up with someone very like Harry Dresden, wizard, tough guy and star of [the Dresden Files].”—The Washington Times

Product Details

Penguin Group (USA)
Publication date:
Dresden Files Series
Product dimensions:
6.32(w) x 9.24(h) x 1.34(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Read an Excerpt


Blood leaves no stain on a Warden’s grey cloak.

I didn’t know that until the day I watched Morgan, second in command of the White Council’s Wardens, lift his sword over the kneel­ing form of a young man guilty of the practice of black magic. The boy, sixteen years old at the most, screamed and ranted in Korean underneath his black hood, his mouth spilling hatred and rage, convinced by his youth and power of his own immortality. He never knew it when the blade came down.

Which I guess was a small mercy. Microscopic, really.

His blood flew in a scarlet arc. I wasn’t ten feet away. I felt hot droplets strike one cheek, and more blood covered the left side of the cloak in blotches of angry red. The head fell to the ground, and I saw the cloth over it moving, as if the boy’s mouth were still screaming imprecations.

The body fell onto its side. One calf muscle twitched spasmodically and then stopped. After maybe five seconds, the head did too.
Morgan stood over the still form for a moment, the bright silver sword of the White Council of Wizards’ justice in his hands. Besides him and me, there were a dozen Wardens present, and two members of the Senior Council—the Merlin and my one-time mentor, Ebenezar McCoy.

The covered head stopped its feeble movements. Morgan glanced up at the Merlin and nodded once. The Merlin returned the nod. “May he find peace.”

“Peace,” the Wardens all replied together.

Except me. I turned my back on them, and made it two steps away be­fore I threw up on the warehouse floor.

I stood there shaking for a moment, until I was sure I was finished, then straightened slowly. I felt a presence draw near me and looked up to see Ebenezar standing there.

He was an old man, bald but for wisps of white hair, short, stocky, his face half covered in a ferocious-looking grey beard. His nose and cheeks and bald scalp were all ruddy, except for a recent, purplish scar on his pate. Though he was centuries old he carried himself with vibrant energy, and his eyes were alert and pensive behind gold-rimmed spectacles. He wore the formal black robes of a meeting of the Council, along with the deep purple stole of a member of the Senior Council.

“Harry,” he said quietly. “You all right?”

“After that?” I snarled, loudly enough to make sure everyone there heard me. “No one in this damned building should be all right.”
I felt a sudden tension in the air behind me.

“No they shouldn’t,” Ebenezar said. I saw him look back at the other wizards there, his jaw setting stubbornly.

The Merlin came over to us, also in his formal robes and stole. He looked like a wizard should look—tall, long white hair, long white beard, piercing blue eyes, his face seamed with age and wisdom.
Well. With age, anyway.

“Warden Dresden,” he said. He had the sonorous voice of a trained speaker, and spoke English with a high-class British accent. “If you had some evidence that you felt would prove the boy’s innocence, you should have presented it during the trial.”

“I didn’t have anything like that, and you know it,” I replied.

“He was proven guilty,” the Merlin said. “I soulgazed him myself. I ex­amined more than two dozen mortals whose minds he had altered. Three of them might eventually recover their sanity. He forced four others to commit suicide, and had hidden nine corpses from the local authorities, as well. And every one of them was a blood relation.” The Merlin stepped toward me, and the air in the room suddenly felt hot. His eyes flashed with azure anger and his voice rumbled with deep, unyielding power. “The pow­ers he had used had already broken his mind. We did what was necessary.”

I turned and faced the Merlin. I didn’t push out my jaw and try to stare him down. I didn’t put anything belligerent or challenging into my pos­ture. I didn’t show any anger on my face, or slur any disrespect into my tone when I spoke. The past several months had taught me that the Mer­lin hadn’t gotten his job through an ad on a matchbook. He was, quite simply, the strongest wizard on the planet. And he had talent, skill, and ex­perience to go along with that strength. If I ever came to magical blows with him, there wouldn’t be enough left of me to fill a lunch sack. I did not want a fight.

But I didn’t back down, either.

“He was a kid,” I said. “We all have been. He made a mistake. We’ve all done that too.”

The Merlin regarded me with an expression somewhere between irritation and contempt. “You know what the use of black magic can do to a person,” he said. Marvelously subtle shading and emphasis over his words added in a perfectly clear, unspoken thought: You know it because you’ve done it. Sooner or later, you’ll slip up, and then it will be your turn. “One use leads to another. And another.”
“That’s what I keep hearing, Merlin,” I answered. “Just say no to black magic. But that boy had no one to tell him the rules, to teach him. If some­one had known about his gift and done something in time—”

He lifted a hand, and the simple gesture had such absolute authority to it that I stopped to let him speak. “The point you are missing, Warden Dresden,” he said, “is that the boy who made that foolish mistake died long before we discovered the damage he’d done. What was left of him was nothing more nor less than a monster who would have spent his life in­flicting horror and death on anyone near him.”

“I know that,” I said, and I couldn’t keep the anger and frustration out of my voice. “And I know what had to be done. I know it was the only mea­sure that could stop him.” I thought I was going to throw up again, and I closed my eyes and leaned on the solid oak length of my carved staff. I got my stomach under control and opened my eyes to face the Merlin. “But it doesn’t change the fact that we’ve just murdered a boy who probably never knew enough to understand what was happening to him.”

“Accusing someone else of murder is hardly a stone you are in a posi­tion to cast, Warden Dresden.” The Merlin arched a silver brow at me. “Did you not discharge a firearm into the back of the head of a woman you merely believed to be the Corpsetaker from a distance of a few feet away, fa­tally wounding her?”

I swallowed. I sure as hell had, last year. It had been one of the bigger coin tosses of my life. Had I incorrectly judged that a body-transferring wizard known as the Corpsetaker had jumped into the original body of Warden Luccio, I would have murdered an innocent woman and a law-enforcing member of the White Council.

I hadn’t been wrong—but I’d never . . . never just killed anyone before. I’ve killed things in the heat of battle, yes. I’ve killed people by less direct means. But Corpsetaker’s death had been intimate and coldly calculated and not at all indirect. Just me, the gun, and the limp corpse. I could still vividly remember the decision to shoot, the feel of the cold metal in my hands, the stiff pull of my revolver’s trigger, the thunder of the gun’s re­port, and the way the body had settled into a limp bundle of limbs on the ground, the motion somehow too simple for the horrible significance of the event.

I’d killed. Deliberately, rationally ended another’s life.

And it still haunted my dreams at night.

I’d had little choice. Given the smallest amount of time, the Corpse-taker could have called up lethal magic, and the best I could have hoped for was a death curse that killed me as I struck down the necromancer. It had been a bad day or two, and I was pretty strung out. Even if I hadn’t been, I had a feeling that Corpsetaker could have taken me in a fair fight. So I hadn’t given Corpsetaker anything like a fair fight. I shot the necro­mancer in the back of the head because the Corpsetaker had to be stopped, and I’d had no other option.

I had executed her on suspicion.

No trial. No soulgaze. No judgment from a dispassionate arbiter. Hell, I hadn’t even taken the chance to get in a good insult. Bang. Thump. One live wizard, one dead bad guy.

I’d done it to prevent future harm to myself and others. It hadn’t been the best solution—but it had been the only solution. I hadn’t hesitated for a heartbeat. I’d done it, no questions, and gone on to face the further per­ils of that night.

Just like a Warden is supposed to do. Sorta took the wind out of my holier-than-thou sails.

Bottomless blue eyes watched my face and he nodded slowly. “You ex­ecuted her,” the Merlin said quietly. “Because it was necessary.”
“That was different,” I said.

“Indeed. Your action required far deeper commitment. It was dark, cold, and you were alone. The suspect was a great deal stronger than you. Had you struck and missed, you would have died. Yet you did what had to be done.”

“Necessary isn’t the same as right,” I said.

“Perhaps not,” he said. “But the Laws of Magic are all that prevent wizards from abusing their power over mortals. There is no room for com­promise. You are a Warden now, Dresden. You must focus on your duty to both mortals and the Council.”

“Which sometimes means killing children?” This time I didn’t hide the contempt, but there wasn’t much life to it.

“Which means always enforcing the Laws,” the Merlin said, and his eyes bored into mine, flickering with sparks of rigid anger. “It is your duty. Now more than ever.”

I broke the stare first, looking away before anything bad could happen. Ebenezar stood a couple of steps from me, studying my expression.

“Granted that you’ve seen much for a man your age,” the Merlin said, and there was a slight softening in his tone. “But you haven’t seen how hor­rible such things can become. Not nearly. The Laws exist for a reason. They must stand as written.”

I turned my head and stared at the small pool of scarlet on the ware­house floor beside the kid’s corpse. I hadn’t been told his name before they’d ended his life.

“Right,” I said tiredly, and wiped a clean corner of the grey cloak over my blood-sprinkled face. “I can see what they’re written in.”

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher
A fast and furious adventure. (Entertainment Weekly)

What would you get if you crossed Spencer with Merlin? Probably you would come up with someone very like Harry Dresden, wizard, tough guy and star of [The Dresden Files]. (Washington Times)

Meet the Author

A martial arts enthusiast whose résumé includes a long list of skills rendered obsolete at least two hundred years ago, #1 New York Times bestselling author Jim Butcher turned to writing as a career because anything else probably would have driven him insane. He lives mostly inside his own head so that he can write down the conversation of his imaginary friends, but his head can generally be found in Independence, Missouri. Jim is the author of the Dresden Files, the Codex Alera novels, and the Cinder Spires series, which began with The Aeronaut’s Windlass.

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Proven Guilty (Dresden Files Series #8) 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 431 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is the only series that I look forward to the next book, and it can never come fast enough.
vikingsbride More than 1 year ago
Just as fun, action and humour ridden as so many others in this series. If you love magic, suspense, underdogs, movie monsters, detectives or just a well written tale, this is a great series for you to read. Each book stands strong on its own, but as a series it shines!
onix7cv More than 1 year ago
This is the first and only book I have ever read by Jim Butcher to date and I loved it. The story was funny, dark yet positive, and overall very intelligently put together. One of the most captivating things about this book/author is that scenes, people, and objects are laid it in such smart detail that it felt as if I was watching a movie of the book in HD with special effects and all. I could literally visualize ever magical event with no difficulty as I read. Excellent story to match too! I really think this book should be made into movies for an adult "Harry Potter" like series; it would be much better. Bucher made a fan out of me.
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AVoraciousReadr More than 1 year ago
Another favorite in the Dresden Universe. *Book source ~ Local library Due to the War the ranks of the Wardens are stretched thin, so the White Council has been forced to hand Harry a grey cloak. Horror of horrors! Wait, that’s not all the horror in town. SplatterCon!!! is in Chicago and there’s trouble at the horror convention that seems to revolve around Michael Carpenter’s oldest daughter, Molly. Tasked by the Council to investigate dark magic in his town, Molly’s plea for help with her boyfriend’s arrest at SplatterCon!!! and imminent war between the fairy courts, Harry is feeling pulled in too many directions. Will he be able to fulfill his duties as Warden and friend without getting himself or anyone else killed? My Guest Reviewers: A ~ my 16-yr-old daughter T ~ my 14-yr-old son K ~ my 13-yr-old son Is it a surprise if I say that we still love this series? Probably not. :D This time the trouble revolves around black magic and its use in Chicago. One of the jobs a Warden must do is track down users of black magic called warlocks and execute them even if they are kids who didn’t know any better. Harry loathes this part of his job and we can understand why. We don’t like it either even though it’s usually something that needs done because the kids are too far gone to be saved. It still sucks. Anyway, the mystery kept us guessing and the phobophages were pretty cool. Everyone liked the description of Arctis Tor, Harry’s replica of Chicago that he calls Little Chicago and A wants to know why Molly doesn’t have the same problem with electronics that Harry does. Hmmm…good question! Everyone also agrees that Charity is one badass and they like her better after this book than they did before. And even though it was hot in this book, T said Harry should always wear his duster. He loves the duster. Favorite moments: Everyone liked the ending with the Council and Harry’s conversation afterwards with Michael.  Also, the entire scene in Arctis Tor. A said any scene with Michael in it is a good one. Hmmm…someone has a book crush. Each book it gets harder and harder to pick a favorite, so… Favorite quotes: “A bolt of warmth, fierce with joy and pride and gratitude, flashed through me like sudden lightning. I don’t care whose DNA has recombined with whose. When everything goes to hell, the people who stand by you without flinching-they are your family. And they were my heroes.” “Molly was arrested. Possession.” I blinked at him. “She was possessed?” “Murphy, you rock! Go Team Dresden!” “Hey, I’m the one who rocks…Go Team Murphy.”
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Kailua-Suzie More than 1 year ago
Great reading! Love his series. Once I finish one book, cannot wait to jump in to next one.
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It is a great book my only complaint was I wish it was longer much longer. But I dont think "Harry" could have lived thru it if it had been any longer.
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Liked the TV series --Loved the books!!!
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