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Literature / Grave Peril

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He's got spirit.

Warning! All spoilers for previous books are unmarked on this page!

The One With… super-spirits and vengeful vampires.

The ghosts are restless. More restless than usual, that is. For weeks, Harry and Michael Carpenter, the Fist of God, have been racing around the city pacifying or banishing ghosts who have gone wild, threatening the living. In addition, the local vampire with a grudge against Harry invites him to a masquerade ball. Oh, and the ghost of a demon is hunting people with connections to Harry.

Harry and his friends are heavily outnumbered on all sides, and Harry is having difficulty fending off the multiple supernatural enemies coming after him, specifically.

Grave Peril is book #3 in The Dresden Files.

Grave Peril provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Accidental Murder: Agatha Hagglethorn's baby died when Agatha, terrified that the child's crying would incite her husband to beat the little girl, suffocated their daughter in an attempt to silence her cries.
  • Action Prologue / How We Got Here: The first two chapters begin with Harry and Michael tracking down and fighting a ghost, then at a climatic moment the scene changes as Harry recounts how the events leading up to that point started a few days before.
  • Ax-Crazy: The late Agatha Hagglethorn killed her abusive husband and cut off her own hand with an ax.
  • Battle in the Center of the Mind: Harry versus The Nightmare/Leonid Kravos. Unusual in that the hero gets his butt kicked the first time seeing as he was in a drug-induced coma due to vampire spit. In the rematch, however, Harry turns into a fanged and clawed monster and Eats Kravos After letting it kill him for a moment so that he can get backup from his own ghost.
  • Being Good Sucks: At Bianca's party, Harry has a choice between keeping peace with the vampires and watching them not only destroy Amoracchius, a truly genuine holy sword, but kill an innocent woman with said holy sword, or intervene and draw the White Council into what would be a very bloody war. Harry looks to Michael who draws his own daggers and readies himself to fight along with Harry. It's no wonder Bianca had his tombstone read, "He died doing the right thing."
  • Big Bad Duumvirate: Bianca, with the undead Leonid Kravos doing most of the dirty work as The Nightmare.
  • Black-Tie Infiltration: Susan thinks this is possible with a fake invitation to Bianca's gala. As she is not a guest, though, Susan doesn't have any protections from the vampires except the few weapons she smuggled into it.
  • Blessed with Suck: Cassandra's Tears; see Cassandra Truth below.
  • Call-Back: One of Harry's nightmares starts out with him dangling from one handcuffed wrist over a smoky gulf filled with horrible things, which actually happened to him in Storm Front.
  • Cassandra Truth: Invoked literally. Lydia claims to have a curse called "Cassandra's Tears" which allows her to make accurate prophecies of the future which nobody will believe. As advertised, she makes several accurate calls but due to her past and associations, Harry is dubious about calling it actual prophecy.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • Within this novel:
      • The ingredient list for Harry's ghost powder becomes important when he dumps it on Lea and she's burned by its cold iron component.
      • The fact that Harry poisons himself ends up saving him from being fed on by vampires.
    • For future works:
      • Harry and Michael saving the children from Agatha's ghost would come back to help Harry in a later book.
      • Bianca's party introduces several of them, in addition to being a who's-who of Chekhov's Gunmen (see below). The gravestone (and the cemetery plot that goes along with it) become significant in Ghost Story, and the black athame is referenced again in Proven Guilty and Cold Days.
      • Harry's final interaction with Lea help shape how the Winter Court would end up treating Harry.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Pretty much everyone at Bianca's party. Particularly the pair of Black Cloaks with the athame, who later reappear in Dead Beat. Word of God is that everyone Harry met at that party would play a role later on in the series. So far this has been true for everyone except Ferrovax, the Dragon, who Butcher has stated will reappear in the final books.
  • Church Militant: Introducing an unusual benevolent variant in Michael Carpenter: Knight of the Crossnote .
  • Cold Iron: When Harry first meets Lea in the beginning of the book, he uses a powder with iron in it to get away from her. Later, when he is captured by her, he throws nails at her... aluminum nails. So no harm done but an excellent distraction.
  • Contrived Coincidence: A superpower for the Knights of the Cross. In this book, for instance, Harry and Michael need to go rescue Charity, but Harry does not want to leave Michael's kids alone. Michael simply opens the front door (without even looking) to show Father Forthill, just about to knock, standing on the steps because his car just happened to break down. He looks between them and says, "You need a babysitter again, don't you?"
  • Cool Sword: This book introduces the first of three holy swords, Amoracchius the sword of Love. It is such a powerful blade, it can actually kill a Demon dead and not just merely destroying its physical shell and sending it back to Nevernever.
  • Cowboy Cop: Ortega accuses Dresden of being one.
  • CPR: Clean, Pretty, Reliable:
  • Distracted by the Sexy: A rare in-combat example, as Thomas distracts the possessed Lydia from strangling Harry by snogging her. Justified because, hey, it's Thomas.
  • Deader than Dead: Amoracchius is such a powerful blade, it doesn't just destroy the physical shell of a demon, but kills it. Fully and genuinely kills it.
  • Deal with the Devil:
    • Harry's deals with Lea are seen as this. He tried to renege on his promise when he swore on his power and it cost him dearly.
    • When Lea holds Amoracchius, she offers it to Michael in exchange for his daughter Molly. Michael refuses the deal.
    • Harry warns Susan to not to try and help him by making a deal with Lea, despite him barely able to stand and his magic weak. Susan ignores him and makes a deal to help him. The terms are to end Harry's current pain in exchange for a year of memories. Lea alleviates Harry's pain but took Susan's memories of her dating Harry.
    • Later, this is inverted when Lea must make a deal with the genuinely good Michael. As Harry just consumed a deadly poison and Michael had a milk made of a thistle used to counteract it, but not completely cure Harry, Lea almost accepts the thistle as a gift, meaning she would be deeply indebted to Michael. Harry provides his own deal in exchange for the drink and Lea admits he played her well.
  • Did We Just Have Tea with Cthulhu?: Harry and Michael run into Ferrovax at Bianca's party. Ferrovax is a major power whose true form would damage, if not outright break, Reality (and Harry's mind). The dragon treats Michael with courtesy, despite the Knight's having killed one of his kind. Harry, not so much.
  • Did You Just Scam Cthulhu?: Harry spends much of the book with his godmother hounding after him. He finally realized his only chance to escape her was to get caught by her after ingesting a dangerous poison. He forces her into a deal which will get him the cure from Michael but she must release him and not pursue him for a year and a day. While she is upset about losing him this time, she is more than impressed with this overall scheme.
  • Doctor Jerk: A doctor sees Harry in Triage because he had a reported head injury, which made him a priority over a five-year-old girl with a broken arm. She doesn't see anything that resembles a head injury and chastises Harry for wasting her time. Justified because head injuries are serious issues for doctors and coming in with a reported one and not actually have one is a bit like Crying Wolf. Neither of them knew at the time that Harry's godmother had already healed his head injury prior to entering the hospital.
  • *Drool* Hello: In the last battle in Bianca's burning house, one of the vampires seems to try this on Harry deliberately. Given that Red Court Venom is an incredibly potent narcotic that is absorbed through the skin near-instantly, this is actually a viable tactic.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: Even though Rudolph is a Jerkass to Harry and skeptical of the supernatural in this book, he also shows genuine concern for Murphy, promising to kill Harry if he lets Murphy gets hurt, and Harry takes the threat seriously. This is in stark contrast to his appearances in later books, where he has become something of a Sit Com Arch Nemesis to Murphy within the police department. note 
    • In his first appearance, Michael comes off as more prudish and close-minded than he does in later appearances - though that could be a mixture of Character Development, and in the case of his pushing at Harry about Susan, perhaps trying to help him get over his Elaine related issues and admit his true feelings for Susan (which are a key plot point, as his repeating "I love you" is part of what breaks a memory block on a newly part turned Susan, which saves his life and in a roundabout way, hers).
  • Emissary from the Divine: Michael Carpenter, "Fist of God", can be considered an emissary acting on behalf of God.
  • Expecting Someone Taller: Mister Ferro says this about Michael, upon learning that he's the Knight who killed Siriothrax.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: At the climax, Bianca seems completely unable to understand why Dresden is willing to start a war with the Red Court just to save Susan, especially since the latter has been partially converted into a vampire.
  • Eye Scream: As a promise for throwing iron onto Fae land, Lea swears Mab will personally do this to Thomas and Michael.
  • False Reassurance: Harry assures a vampire that, despite his choice of costume for the party, Michael is not actually a Knight Templar. She then grabs his arm and is set on fire by his faith.
    Harry: Hands off the Fist of God.
  • Flatline Plotline: Seeing as ghosts are impressions of a person before death, and Harry needs assistance in fighting a particularly nasty ghost that took some of his power earlier in the book, Harry lets himself be attacked, then has his girlfriend revive him so he can team up with his own ghost.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • When Michael and Lea meet with her holding the sword Amoracchius, Lea offers to give it back if he would give her Molly. See Proven Guilty for a reason why this is relevant.
    • Ferrovax paralyzes Harry with an effort of will when the wizard annoys him. Many of the heavy-hitter entities Harry encounters later will display this same ability. It's like the signature party-trick of dragon-caliber beings in the Dresdenverse.
    • When Harry is captured in Bianca's mansion, he worries about Bob falling into evil hands, and as Bob has no moral compass, this could be a bad thing. Later on, we see just how bad things could be.
    • Bianca taunts Harry by telling him that it's because he crossed her that she found the determination to push herself to attain nobility and improve her magical skills. Which is essentially what the bad guys have been driving Harry to do, for the entire series!
    • Within the same book, the Nightmare's Ye Olde Butcherede Englishe counts as one (see below).
  • Full-Name Ultimatum: We learn Michael's full name when Charity calls him by it, chewing him out for getting tossed in jail.
  • Gilligan Cut: Michael tells Harry at the very end of a chapter to let him do the talking when the police arrive at the scene of their first ghost slaying. The first line of the next chapter:
    Michael: I can't believe we're in jail.
  • God's Hands Are Tied: Michael, Knight of the Cross, is a mortal agent of God. Stand before him committing some evil act and he has the authority and power to slay you. However, contracts formed by a mortal with no duress on the mortal cannot be undone by Amoracchius. This is because of Free Will and God's absolute refusal to interfere with it. So, not only can Michael do nothing to stop Lea from trying to claim Harry because of their formal contract, Harry wielding Amoracchius while trying to break said contract damages the sword to the point Lea can touch it.
  • Good Hurts Evil:
    • At the party, when Kelly, a Red Court Vampire tried touching Michael's cross-embroidered cloak, that hand is set on fire.
    • Amoracchius is protected from Evil's touch because of the Power of God. However, if a mortal wields Amoracchius in a manner against its nature, such as in an act of deceit or hatred, that protection goes away.
  • Good News, Bad News: The good news is, Agatha Hagglethorn isn't after the babies anymore... bad news is, she's after Harry and Michael.
  • Gosh Dang It to Heck!: Given a humorous jab:
    Harry: Holy shit. Hellhounds.
    Michael: Harry, you know I hate it when you swear.
    Harry: You're right, sorry. Holy shit. Heckhounds.
  • Goofy Print Underwear: Harry is in ducky print boxers during the last fight with the Red Court. He found it in a laundry room, and it's hard to picture who might have been wearing them before him.
  • Guilt Complex: Harry has a big one. It is lampshaded:
    Bob: (Scoffs). Harry, that's irrational.
    Harry: (Snaps at him). That doesn't make it any less true.
    Bob: (Meek). Okay. We now have left Reason and Sanity Junction. Next stop, Looneyville.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Upon seeing Harry in great pain and suffering for breaking his promise to Lea, Susan makes a deal with Lea to at least end the current pain Harry was suffering. After Lea gives some options which Susan refuses (like her eyes or name) they settle on one year of Susan's memories. As neither side said when this "one year" had to come from, Lea picked out all of Susan's memories of Harry since she first heard about a supposed "wizard" opening an office in Chicago two or three years ago, while leaving all of the surrounding non-Harry memories intact.
  • Hoist by Their Own Petard: The psychic turbulence that Bianca and Mavra have been stirring up is the very thing that allows Harry to create his own ghostly backup against Kravos and muster the ghosts of the Red Court's victims to take the vampires down.
  • Idiot Ball:
    • Susan grasps this pretty firmly by showing up at a party hosted by vampires, with a forged invitation, therefore unprotected by the Accords, and shortly loses part of her humanity.
    • Harry holds it by telling Susan why showing up with a forged invitation wouldn't have been smart. Later he tried reneging on his contract with Lea while having sworn on his power and holding Amorracchius.
    • Harry sticks to the "ghost of a demon" theory throughout most of the book, despite Bob's skepticism. If he'd considered other possibilities, like the Nightmare just being a normal ghost with some extra juice, the book would have been much shorter and there might not have been a war (yet).note 
    • Thomas grabs it when he fell for Bianca's lie that asks him to abandon Harry, Michael and Susan for Justine. Bianca immediately orders Thomas to be killed as well. And if one notices closely, she never actually promised, so she is in no trouble from that either.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: Mort Lindquist grumbles this when Harry questions him about the increase in ghost activity.
  • Innocuously Important Episode: Although this is the third book in the series, it has serious implications reaching all the way out until Changes. Even further than that. Chekhov's Gun's from this book are still being fired as far down as Cold Days. And some are still waiting to be fired!
  • It Was a Gift: Bianca gives gifts at her party. Many are Chekhov's Guns.
  • Knight Templar: Michael Carpenter averts this idea. He serves Him, but doesn't act as judge or jury. Learning Harry made a deal with Lea years ago, and sees him trying to break it doesn't provoke him to strike Harry for his sins or cry a Holier Than Thou doctrine. He is a good, kind soul.
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: Susan trades one year of her memories to Lea in return for releasing Harry from the aftereffects of breaking his bargain with her. It's so laser-guided, Lea is able to select just the memories of her choice ... namely, all Susan's memories of Harry, Michael, or the exchange itself. However, by Susan remembering her love for Harry helps her undo Lea's enchantment.
  • Loophole Abuse: Bianca plays it fast and loose with the rules of Sacred Hospitality, but technically stays within their boundaries. Harry ... doesn't.
  • Mage Tower: It's mentioned that most wizards live in towers in Europe.
  • Magically-Binding Contract: In the eyes of God, yes they are. And do not try to use one of His instruments to renege on a valid contract. It will cause the protection on the blade to wane.
  • Must Be Invited: Harry arrives at the Malones' home and insists that he must be formally invited in before he can come in. The threshold to your home is the first line of defense against spiritual dangers and any magical being that enters without an invitation leaves their powers at the door. And no, it can't be a guest or a friend who invites you in, it must be someone who lives in that home. Which is why the Nightmare that crossed the threshold of the Malone home is treated as very dangerous because they first think it crossed the threshold and still retained its power. Turns out it didn't cross the threshold, it just found a loophole.
  • Never My Fault: In Storm Front, when Harry visited Bianca in her brothel, she made some faulty assumptions, attacked him based on that, and he protected himself. Bloodlust set on her so much that she killed her partner/slave. Who does she blame? Harry.
  • Never Sleep Again: The Nightmare (aka Leonid Kravos), who kills by entering his victims' dreams.
  • No MacGuffin, No Winner: Harry's plot against Lea is essentially this. He threatens to let himself die from a deadly poison, rather than spend his life as one of Lea's hounds. Lea certainly wouldn't consider taking a dead Harry with her as a win. And Harry wouldn't because he couldn't go with Michael and Thomas to save Justine and Susan.
  • Non-Human Undead: Harry encounters an extremely strong ghost he calls the Nightmare, and suspects it's one of these. Specifically, the ghost of the demon serving the sorcerer Kravos. He later learns that the ghost is Kravos himself, whose death had been concealed from him.
  • The Nose Knows: Lea has a very good sense of smell. She can identify the Destroying Angel mushroom by scent alone.
  • The Oath-Breaker: As mentioned above, Harry has a deal he is trying to avoid fulfilling with his godmother. Harry ends up trying to renege on his deal after strengthening it while legally holding Amoracchius. Not only did this cost him a chunk of his magical power, and his freewill when Lea was nearby, but it also weakened Amoracchius enough that Lea could touch the blessed blade.
  • Oh, Crap!: Lea has one when she realized Harry played her with a well crafted distraction just so he could consume a poison that would kill him in a matter of hours.
  • Poison and Cure Gambit: Harry manages to play with this by poisoning himself in order to get Lea to cooperate.
  • Poor Communication Kills:
    • If Stallings had only told Harry about Kravos's suicide while in police custody, the Nightmare could've been defeated a lot sooner.
    • To a lesser degree, if Harry had laid out to Susan why going to Bianca's ball would be so dangerous and why being invited meant an attendee couldn't be harmed directly, but gatecrashing the party would be tantamount to suicide, she might not have brushed his concerns off with an "I can take care of myself."
  • Pregnant Hostage: The Nightmare abducts Michael's heavily pregnant wife Charity. The stress and trauma of her rescue causes her to go into labour.
  • The Power of Love:
    • Michaels' blade Amoracchius is called "the Sword of Love" and empowered by his familial love to his friends and children, romantic love to his wife, and blessed love to his Maker.
    • Harry saying "I love you" to Susan is the key to breaking Lea's memory-blocking spell, and also helps her resist her newly-acquired bloodthirst.
  • Rape as Drama: It is deeply implied that Harry (and likely Justine) was gang raped by Bianca's Red Court. Harry being, well, Harry, he never speaks about what happened to him explicitly, but several books later still mentions having nightmares about it. When he does refer to it he generally says they did "things".
  • Rape Discretion Shot: Harry very carefully does not explicitly say that the Red Court gang raped him while he was their prisoner but everything he does describe makes it seem that they did so. He continues to avoid saying just what they did to him even in later books despite describing other horrific tortures visited on him in detail.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: The eyes of those possessed by the Nightmare have their whites washed over with blood.
  • Remember the New Guy?: Michael, never once mentioned in the first two books despite his likely to be quite handy during those issues, is introduced as a long-time colleague of Harry's. Possibly justified if Michael was out of town during the events of the previous books, he wasn't there for Harry to call on for help, so no need to mention him. And it is mentioned that Harry met him five years ago, before almost any of the publications. Also, Michael's job isn't primarily to protect criminals, who were the main targets of the villains from the first two books.
  • Resurrected Murderer: In life, Leonid Kravos was a drug dealer, cult leader and multiple murderer. He was arrested by Harry Dresden and Michael Carpenter and sent to prison where he committed suicide. Kravos' evil spirit returned as "Nightmare" which started to target anyone involved in arresting him, eventualy culminating in him torturing Michael's pregnant wife.
  • Revenge by Proxy: Bianca is still angry about Harry "causing" the death of one her favorite lovers because Harry got her so stressed out when they last met she couldn't control herself. So she helps with Kravos' desire for revenge by attacking those close to Harry.
  • Rules Lawyer: The Red Court engages in this shamelessly to get at Harry, who is protected by the Accords' laws of hospitality. When he calls them out on violating the spirit of the law, they retort that the Accords have no spirit; the letter of the law is all there is.
  • Sacred Hospitality: At Bianca's party, this is in effect for the invited person and, if they brought one, a plus one. The protection of these persons is guaranteed. That said, if a hostile action, such as poisoning a drink, is done to everyone, it is technically not a violation. Persons are also permitted to the right to defend himself or herself from viable threats. Uninvited guests are not guaranteed any protection and are fair game for any hostile action. Bianca hopes to get Harry to violate this by forcing him into a no-win choice. See Being Good Sucks.
  • Saintly Church: This book introduces St. Mary's of the Angels and the Good Shepherd Father Forthill.
  • Salt the Earth: As iron is poisonous and deadly to the Fae Lea screams at Michael and Thomas for the act of spreading iron nails on Awnsidhe land, akin to spreading nuclear waste around in the human world, Mab would do an Eye Scream on both men. Subverted when the men reveal the nails are not iron but aluminum. And they were just a distraction.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: Harry faces a choice: allow Susan to be taken away by Bianca, likely to be turned into a full monster, and he can walk away in peace, staying in the safety of the laws of the supernatural world; or he can save his beloved and make one final act of violating Sacred Hospitality and set off a war. Harry takes the latter.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: At the climax, Bianca's mortal security get a taste of Harry's magic, and promptly flee the premises.
  • Seeking Sanctuary: Harry sends Lydia to St. Mary's to keep her safe from harm. But while the Nightmare couldn't enter, she feared not even the house of God could protect her and leftnote .
  • Spirit World: This book has Harry visit the realm Nevernever, where demons, Fairies, and many other nasty entities dwell.
  • Spiteful Suicide: Unknown to Harry, Kravos committed ritual suicide in prison in order to empower his own ghost as the Nightmare. Presumably, this trope was Kravos's motive, as the Nightmare could then take revenge on Harry.
  • Story Arc:
    • This book kicked off the war between the White Council and the Red Court that would blaze along merrily in the background for quite some time and set in motion most of the plots of the following books.
    • Even deeper is with Mavra and the above mentioned Black cloaks working to either cause war between the White Council and Red Court or kill Harry Dresden.
    • Even deeper than that is Bianca and the athame. Mab later notes that it was this gift that infected Lea with Nemesis, which leads to Maeve being infected and possibly Aurora, which kicks off a lot of the Fae plots in later books.
  • Stop, or I Shoot Myself!: Dresden swallows a poisonous mushroom to get Lea to back off—she can't have him if he's dead, but Michael here just happens to have a semi-antidote lying around, and he's willing to trade...
  • Sudden Name Change: Paula/Rachel, variously explained as either Harry just getting the name wrong the first time, or Paula being her stage name and Rachel her real name.
  • Tampering with Food and Drink: The Red Court spikes the drinks at Bianca's party with their own narcotic saliva, the better to render the human guests/snacks susceptible to their predation. This is also technically not a violation of the Accords because it is done to everyone, their own drinks included.
  • Trespassing to Talk: Dresden manages to pull this off on Mortimer by sheer timing. Mort opens the door to his house to lug a suitcase outside, and Harry sidles in unnoticed while he's coming out. Then he sits in a chair and waits for Mort to come back in.
  • Underestimating Badassery: When the Nightmare first attacks Harry in his dream, Harry is unable to defend himself. Nightmare/Kravos thinks he's tough shit for pulling it off, and taunts Harry about his power when he does it later on—only for Harry to point out it only worked because Harry was drugged up and disoriented the first time. If Kravos had done it to a fresh and prepared Harry, Kravos wouldn't have stood a chance—something Harry then proceeds to demonstrate.
  • Unstoppable Rage:
    • When Harry and Michael manage to focus Agatha's attention by reminding her of what she did in life and telling her to cross over, she goes completely and utterly Ax-Crazy, turning her attention from the babies to them.
    • When confronted by a horde of vampires holding Susan hostage, Harry unleashes Pyrofuego, to their thorough dismay.
    • Harry kicks off Kravos's fury by insulting his manhood, thus ensuring that Kravos will strangle him in the dream, rendering him dead just long enough to create a ghost ally before Susan's CPR revives him.
  • Villain Ball: Bianca tries to make Harry Susan's first kill, and fully turn her into a vampire. Harry was able to not only break Susan out of her Lea-induced amnesia, but able to win against the Nightmare and reclaim his stolen power.
  • Vorpal Pillow: The Nightmare only strangles Harry for a short time before becoming convinced the victim is dead. Probably justified, as it's in a dream, so would meet the dream-combatants' Reality Is Unrealistic expectations.
  • Would Hurt a Child:
    • Agatha is a tormented soul who ends up killing dozens of children over her ghostly existence. She sings them a lullaby that makes them sleep until death. All the children are considered to have died from SIDS.
      "Hush, little baby..."
  • Why Did You Make Me Hit You?: Or rather "Why did you make me kill my favorite thrall?" in Bianca's case. See Never My Fault.
  • A Year and a Day: Harry's forced deal with Lea leaves her unable to molest him for a year and a day. Importantly, the next book takes place less than a year later, and Lea is quite genuinely helpful to her godson then.
  • Ye Olde Butcherede Englishe: The Nightmare speaks in this, in keeping with its identity as an ancient demon. The fact that it incorrectly says "thy eyes" instead of "thine eyes" acts as a subtle hint that it isn't really familiar with the speech pattern, and foreshadows the discovery that it's actually a modern human putting on an act.