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The Curious Case of Monica Sells and Linda Randall

The Curious Case of Monica Sells and Linda Randall published on 7 Comments on The Curious Case of Monica Sells and Linda Randall

I have mentioned this before in my Why-I-Love-Dresden post. Whenever I recommend the series to anyone, whether they are close family members, people who have friended me on facebook, or people I meet on the street, I always mention one thing: The first two and a half books are not representative of the writing in the rest of the series. Fool Moon is especially hard to get through, but it is so worth it. So, so worth it.

Two problems in Storm Front (which is still a very engaging and fun read) are the arcs of the characters Monica Sells and Linda Randall. There is nothing wrong with them in description or deed. The characters in and of themselves make sense. The problem? They’re cliché.

When Harry is initially brain-storming with Murphy and Carmichael as to who could possibly do this, he is pretty confident that the person involved would be a witch:

“’Yes. The killer knew the victims. And I’m thinking it was a woman.’…’Because you can’t do something that bad without a whole lot of hate,’ I said. ‘Women are better at hating than men. They can focus it better, let it go better. Hell, witches are just plain meaner than wizards. This feels like feminine vengeance of some kind to me.'”

This supposition is later discarded, caught up as Harry is in discovering that Victor Sells very much wants to kill him for getting in his way, for investigating him. The set-up in Storm Front thus remains no different than in a lot of crime fiction: a victim comes to the hero, a mystery is introduced, there is an alternate mystery that turns out to be connected to the first, etc. It’s a formula, and it’s one that works. So why don’t I quite believe that Monica Sells is exactly as she appears to be: a damsel in distress, a total victim of her husband’s quest for power?

For one, Butcher eats clichés for breakfast. The story of how Storm Front came to be is a story oft-repeated:

“ In 1996 he enrolled in a writing class where he was encouraged to write a novel similar to the Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter series by Laurell K. Hamilton, rather than the more traditional high fantasy that had been his focus in the past, as Butcher had previously stated that he enjoyed the Anita Blake series. Despite initial resistance, he wrote the first book that semester, closely following the instructions of his teacher, author Deborah Chester: ‘When I finally got tired of arguing with her and decided to write a novel as if I was some kind of formulaic, genre writing drone, just to prove to her how awful it would be, I wrote the first book of the Dresden Files.’ ”.

After that first chapter was written, he envisioned the entire series (well, the big huge plot points, anyway). Butcher has always maintained – always – that he likes to subvert tropes, and make clichés his bitch.

For another, if one follows the story with a suspicious eye pointed at Monica Sells, it reads like Monica is setting Harry Dresden up to take the fall for her husband. She gets Harry involved in the background to a major SI investigation. She gives him just enough information to get him to suspicious places at suspicious times, she dangles her own distress like a carrot, and chivalrous Harry Dresden is none the wiser.

But what about the soulgaze? Harry saw that she was mama bear protecting her children. If Monica was setting Harry up for a fall, and hoping he’d take out her husband while doing it, that technically counts as protecting her kids from being known children of a warlock, of a legal mess, or undue scrutiny. I think when Harry found innocence, it was nothing more than a mask. My bet is that Monica Sells will show up again, and some of the aspects of Harry’s first case up against the series-wide threat will be made clear.

Linda Randall is another case entirely.

The White Court is introduced—spectacularly so—in Grave Peril. Thomas Raith attends the utterly important masquerade, and though we don’t yet know he and Harry are brothers, his scenes pop from the page. The White Court is an entirely different breed of vampire than the Reds and the Blacks—they feed off strong emotions. They are inhumanly beautiful, physically powerful beings that can also manipulate pretty much anyone they want to into doing pretty much anything they want. I have a theory that the White King was responsible for a lot of the earlier events in the series, like Sells being taught magic, the FBI guys getting the wolf belts, etc. But that is for another essay, now we are focusing specifically on certain oddities in a character from Storm Front: Linda Randall. One of my favorite moments in the series comes from Blood Rites, and in it one of Harry’s favorite enemies is introduced:

“The newcomer was the real thing. She was grace. Beauty. Art. As such, she was not so easily quantified.
She would have been tall, even without the heeled faux-Victorian boots of Italian leather. Her hair was so dark that its highlights were nearly blue, a torrent of glossy curls held partially in check with a pair of milky ivory combs. She had eyes of dark grey with hints of violet twilight at their centers. Her clothes were all effortless style: natural fabrics, black skirt and jacket embroidered with abstract dark crimson roses with a white blouse.
Thinking back later, I couldn’t clearly remember her facial features or her body, beyond a notion that they were superb. Her looks were almost extraneous. They weren’t any more important to her appeal than a glass was to wine. It was at its best when invisible and showing the spirit contained within. Beyond mere physical presence, I could sense the nature of the woman—strength of will, intelligence, blended with a sardonic wit and edged with a lazy, sensuous hunger.”

Lara Raith (married name Lara Romany) is one of Harry’s favorite enemies. In fact, he reveals to Thomas that when he was deciding on how to kill himself, it crossed his mind that he could do worse than allowing Lara to eat him all up. He may not trust her, he may not like her, he may regard her as one of the scariest beings he has ever come across, but he (and we, the readers) can’t deny the attraction he feels whenever he is in her presence. She is beauty, grace, and dangerous sexuality all in one.

Compare this description to Linda Randall, another dark-haired, grey-eyed beauty to whom Dresden was drawn to intensely.

“It buzzed down, and a woman in her mid-twenties arched an eyebrow at me. She had beautiful eyes the color of rain clouds, a little too much eye shadow, and brilliant scarlet lipstick on her cupid’s-bow lips. Her hair was a medium brown, drawn back into a tight braid that made her cheeks look almost sharp, severe, except for her forelocks, which hung down close to her eyes in insolent disarray. She had a predatory look to her, harsh, sharp. She wore a crisp white shirt, grey slacks, and held a lit cigarette in one hand.[…] She was nervous. Nervous enough to be shaking, and now I could see what she was up to. She was wearing the alley-cat mask, appealing to my glands instead of my brain, and trying to distract me with it, trying to keep me from finding something out.”

We’ve got a working theory here at the Wampus that one of the main Big Bads of the series (and, in fact, the cause of Harry’s first few cases) is the White King. We will delve into that next week, but for now we will just say that it’s possible Monica Sells was influenced by the White King in the attempt to neutralize Dresden, and that Linda Randall was a plant from the White Court who met a bad, bad end.

Was Monica Sells totally level with Harry in Storm Front?

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Any chance Linda Randall is either a plant from the White Court, or actually part of the White Court?

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The Duck Quacks Some More

The Duck Quacks Some More published on 3 Comments on The Duck Quacks Some More

Mab, Little Chicago, and Demon Reach, Aka the get out of dead free plan
by Ms DucK

Ok, let’s go back a bit:

Grave Peril:
________________________________________
Here is where we first meet the winter Sidhe. And here is where it is established that Harry traded Lea his ‘life, fortune, and future’ in exchange for the power to beat Justin. (power he already had, and only needed to believe in himself, but hey.) It is also established that by breaking his word three times, his own power turns against him, his very magic now trying to force him to keep his vow. Harry later bluffs Lea (or so he believes) into an extension, but the debt- life, fortune, and future- remains in force. And then, of course, Mab buys that debt from Lea, in order to balance the scales between them. (This btw means that Harry is worth as much to Mab as the original Morgan lefay’s dagger, or fricking Excalibur) Also in this book we see Harry exit the NN near his apartment, and describe the area of his apt as a shadow version of itself. This is important later, as neither Bob or Harry remember these events in Changes. At some point soon after this book Lea builds her secret entrance into Harry’s lab; she can now enter or leave his place at will (as well as protect the NN side) since Harry’s magic and thresholds are no longer an impediment to her- since she owns them.

Summer Knight:
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Enter Mab. Cue rock and roll music, with extra rocks in. Mab demonstrates that the clause is still in full effect, by making Harry stab himself. They renegotiate; Mab allows Harry a chance to buy himself free, in return for three tasks. The limits are Harry can say No, with no reprisals; the deal remains solely between them; she cannot send lackey’s to chastise or force him by proxy. When Mab leaves, she hurts him, both out of spite and to let the reader know the original clause is still in effect- she still owns his life, future, and fortune; he only has a chance to earn his freedom. At the end she offers him the knighthood, and agrees that all debts between them will be canceled if he accepts.

Proven Guilty:
________________________________________

Now here is our famous mystery. Who entered Harry’s lab, without his or Bob’s knowledge, and fixed Little Chicago? And why? Who would know about it at all?

Back In 2006 JenniH posted that she didn’t think Mab was responsible for Proven Guilty, as she would not sacrifice a main servitor. Jim replied:

Quote from: jimbutcher on January 13, 2008, 05:11:45 AM

Quote from: JenniH on June 19, 2006, 02:09:18 PM

Mab as orchestrator of all is just a little much for me to swallow. Seems like she loses a lot more than she gains, and I don’t think Mab is big on coming out behind in her negotiations.

Yeah. It sure looks that way from here, don’t it.

But to correct some minor stuff: the fetches aren’t even /close/ to her strongest servitors. They’re her couriers, harassers, spies and occasional assassins. Captain Kudzu was a being that was deemed more-or-less sufficient on the badassometer, but nothing to write home about. The fetches main use, to Mab, isn’t as battlefield thugs. She’s got /plenty/ of other things for that. Another mild correction: who says Mab /lost/ the battle at Arctis Tor, before Harry and Company arrived? At the end of the day, the Winter Queen was still in her fortress–but you didn’t see anyone standing around assaulting the place, did ya. Also, it has probably occurred to more than one of you that if Mab was /really/ in trouble, she could have had the entire military might of Faerie back at the fortress in moments–exactly the way they *did* come back when Harry smacked the Winter Well with the fires of Summer.

(Which goes to show that while Mab may be canny to an inhuman degree, she isn’t infallible. Just way closer to infallible than us.)

See above regarding “the question is *why*?”

Ask yourself why Mab had Molly brought in. What chain of events did that set in motion? What secondary effects came about because of it? Ultimately, Mab can always go to the Wyld and draw in more muscle to replace fallen thugs. If worst comes to worst, with just a few “seed” fae, she could rear up enough Changelings to repopulate her cadre within a human generation or two–nothing, to a being thousands of years old.

As far as she’s concerned, everyone and everything is expendable, including herself, when it comes to adhering to her (seemingly irrational and inexplicable) priorities.

(And by the way–don’t think Titania is much better. When push came to shove, she let her own daughter be murdered rather than upset the balance of the Faerie Courts. At least Mab is up front about it. Usually.)

Sacrifice her best troops? Mab would sacrifice every creature *in* Winter, every one she could bring from Summer, and every single mortal on planet Earth if that’s what she thought was appropriate. And she wouldn’t even need to add extra sugar to her cup of tea afterwards, much less lose sleep over it.

But no one does cold-blooded like the Queen of Winter. Mab’s been in the business a long time, she’s got a balance sheet, and she is *not* going to come out in the red–

–unless, of course, she really *has* stripped a gear, as Lily and Maeve believe. In which case there’s a stark raving bonkers demigoddess whose powers are no longer being held in check by the Escher-esque code of Sidhe behavior. And that’s all kinds of bad.

But hey. It’s probably not that. I mean, not *everything* that happens can be the absolute worst possible possibility, right?

Jim

The part about Mab being mad (with evil smiley face) was later contradicted by Jim when someone else guessed that Mab was not insane, but wounded.Note that this post confirms two things, long suspected: That Mab had Molly brought in, and that Mab and Titania worked together to kill Aurora. And he specifically addressed the chain of events that this caused. Said chain could not have occurred unless Harry and co could reach actris tor, thus for the Plan to work Mab is required to fix it; which she could easily do; just walk thru the bottom door, fix things, and tell Bob to forget it happened.

White Night

Only a small maybe cameo here: The base was built by the Sidhe (think Mab left a hidey hole?)( confirmed in TC, how Did Titania get Morgan out?) and Anastasia complains of headaches, sex drives, and a strange female voice whispering to her in her dreams.

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Stay tuned next week for more from Ms. Duck.

Lieutenant Karrin Murphy, Awesome

Lieutenant Karrin Murphy, Awesome published on 3 Comments on Lieutenant Karrin Murphy, Awesome

So, background.

Janelle and I met through a mutual friend on FB (whom neither of us are friends with anymore, natch) and discovered a mutual love of the Dresden Files. We talked. We conjectured. We bonded. When Skin Games came out, we conceived a plan to go to Redondo Beach for a book signing on opening day. I would drive to Pismo to her place, she would drive us down south, we would get a hotel the night before so we could get the books on our Kindle Apps the second it was released (9:00 Pacific Standard Time!), then we would buy copies and get them signed and basically have a Dresden geek fest for two days.

All was well until we climbed into the car and she told me that she didn’t like the character of Lieutenant Karrin Murphy.

What. WHAT?? That was almost the end right there, I have to tell you. How could she hate someone so beloved, someone so important, someone so faithful and true. We argued, debated, muttered, and passionately orated on the subject for the entire drive between Pismo and Redondo. As we hit the naturally hideous traffic in Southern CA, this took maybe 7 hours, thoroughly enjoying ourselves the whole time.

It is incumbent on me to give credit where it is due, Janelle is smart and knows Dresden better than most anyone, she is erudite, and she lays out a good argument. But she she isn’t correct this time. I’ll tell you why.

First…she is basing this on the evidence of the first three Books—Storm Front, Fool Moon, and Grave Peril. And if it were just those three books, I might agree with her. But character development matters, and Jim Butcher has certainly developed her character through the series. More cogent to this argument, he has developed Harry’s character.

I am not going to rehash Janelle’s arguments as you can and should read them for yourselves. Instead, I am going to lay out the defense.

Murphy is at the core, a cop. And a cop who knows very little of the Supernatural world. She knows it exists, that is why she is smart enough to ask Harry for help. But her primary drive is the protection of the people of Chicago and taking down the perpetrators. So in Storm Front when people are killed by gruesome magic, and Harry is the only Wizard around, what is she to think? Especially when she is being stonewalled, as I will discuss shortly.

And yet, she still cared for Harry. Remember the scene in Storm Front when she took him home, tucked him into bed, left him money? All the times she brought him coffee? There are many tiny scenes where she shows her care. In fact, once you move beyond the first three, those scenes come up with regularity and in more profound ways. Remember how Murphy willingly helped Harry in Proven Guilty, KNOWING she was going to face serious consequences at work, and did it anyway? We see more of that, and it will come up again in future posts as we move through the series.

Harry didn’t, or couldn’t, tell her enough of what was going on. She didn’t know about the White Council. Or the laws of Magic. She didn’t know about the Doom of Damocles over his head. Harry might have had reasons he couldn’t tell her, but it means that the information she was working from and basing decisions on was very limited. And because of that, because he lied to her (and admitted as such, not hiding it from her), what was she to do? You can only make the best decisions you have based on the information you have, and Murphy was being left in the dark. And when someone lies to you…why should you trust that person? I sure wouldn’t. It is especially difficult because she considered Harry to be an ally and a friend, so this betrayal cut even deeper. And it WAS a betrayal. Dresden made his choices with the best of intentions, but he absolutely betrayed their friendship. I don’t know about you, but I don’t react well when a friend lies to my face and betrays our confidence.

This is actually a major factor in the early books, and not just with Murphy. You see it with Butters and Billy Borden as well. Harry is forever conflicted between not wanting to lie to his friends, but not wanting to tell them the big, scary information that could get them killed. And it never turns out well. Things run much smoother when he just tells people everything. This is another area where Harry’s character develops through the series.

She had very good reasons for not being in a romantic relationship with Harry. I think of that elevator conversation in Proven Guilty. The fact that she will age normally and he will not? Very good reason not to get involved. Life isn’t as simple as I want this guy, let’s go for it. And Murphy is practical. We also get to see this slowly develop and change over the books, where both of them start to be willing to take the risk of getting romantically involved, even knowing the cost. I find it sweet, really, in my deep dark secret romantic heart.

Notice how Murphy appears to Dresden when he is using his sight

“The door burst open. Murphy came through it, her eyes living flames of azure blue, her hair a golden coronet around her. She held a blazing sword in her hand and she shone so bright and beautiful and terrifying in her anger that it was hard to see. The Sight, I realized, dimly. I was seeing her for who she was.”

Grave Peril by Jim Butcher. Page number varies by format.

Does that seem like someone who has ill intent or is going to betray him? The sight reveals truth. And Murphy is a warrior, an Avenging Angel, a protector. If she had ill intent towards Harry, the sight would have shown that.

I am going to stop here because so far, we are focused on the first three books of the series. I have much to say (Arctis Tor, Chichen Itza, AHEM), about their relationship and connections in future posts, but all in good time.

In your opinion, will Murphy remain the best friend, partner, and comrade as she has been throughout most of the series?

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Elizabeth McKeighen loves Murphy more than almost any other character ever.

The Duck Quacks Again

The Duck Quacks Again published on 3 Comments on The Duck Quacks Again

Following on from last weeks Quack:


Statement: Mab knows what the future holds.

“One day, wizard, you will kneel at my feet and ask me to bestow the rank of knight upon you.”

That Mab has foresight I consider a given. Considering she cannot lie, too many of her statements are made in the future tense for it And she is not bound by the white council’s laws of magic, but only by the laws of her own nature. But the manipulations Mab makes are more than just the machinations of someone with a gift of prophecy, she is too accurate at that, and at the same time, too bound.

There is another possibility. Mab might be a time traveler. Assume someone traveled back in time, and that the laws of this world have some sort of limit on ‘paradox’; much like the classic sci fi stories such as ‘all you zombies’. The traveler would know, or remember, in some general sense what happens, but as they come closer and closer to their original moment of leaving they become more and more bound by paradox. .less and less free to take action.

This would explain much. At the start of her time travel, she would be largely free to act, but would have to become more and more circumspect in her actions as she approached the event, and frankly, after being a god for who knows how long, this would tick you off. Quite a few people have speculated bought Lea’s statement “ the doom that confronts us all” and what deal the Black Council had made with Mab to tie her hands in such a manner she had to arrange PG just to be partly free of it. The answer, if I am correct, is it does not matter. Mab had to agree to such a deal, because she remembered she had agreed to this deal.

Statement: Mab may be a time traveler.

“Well there is a whole law of magic about messing with time, and given it’s a law of magic, Dresden is going to have to break it eventually. “-JB

Well then who is she?

Well, we have some clues.

First, JB has been planning something important between Molly and Winter since before the series was even published.

Quote

“If so, that would imply that I was thinking about seven years ahead. I mean, I would have to be, to have written something like that back when I did Grave Peril, which was way before the books actually *sold*. It would mean that I’m doing a lot of stuff on purpose, given that, you know, Molly actually wound up /in/ the Winter Queen’s fortress, with Lea (Mab’s chief advisor) actually /right there/”.

“Ask yourself why Mab had Molly brought in. What chain of events did that set in motion? What secondary effects came about because of it? Ultimately, Mab can always go to the Wyld and draw in more muscle to replace fallen thugs. If worst comes to worst, with just a few “seed” fae, she could rear up enough Changelings to repopulate her cadre within a human generation or two–nothing, to a being thousands of years old. “

So let us consider secondary effects for a moment, not just In PG, but in TC. Assuming that Mab was the one who messed with LC, what did she gain? Well, it wasn’t the rescue of Thomas for one. And as to Peabody, by now I’m certain she could have just sent Harry a dang note. Or offered him power, to save Thomas he might have taken it.

What happened in TC? Harry made a pact with Demonreach, that’s what happened.

Statement: Demonreach is important to Harry’s future, and Mab intended him to have it.

Now we wander off completely into happy thought medication lands. There just isn’t enough evidence to say why Mab wants harry to be part of Demonreach. We know too little. What we do know:

The fey have an important sacrificial table, and when it formed into the real world, it formed over Lake Michigan. We have an ancient source of magical power, quite dark, on an island in.. Lake Michigan. And the island is old, damn old.

“They were not put there by Demonreach; they have been there a very long time. They are pre-Council. They’re a prehistoric script, actually. Harry could have figured out the script if he’d had the comic book. NOTE: I think this has something to do with runes on a wall in Under City seen in Welcome to the Jungle

Also, people have a few things wrong about the Gatekeeper and the island. The Gatekeeper did not hurt Demonreach. Gatekeeper has been on the island a couple of times, and it’s never gone well, but he didn’t cause Demonreach’s limp. That’s the work of the glacier that carved out Lake Michigan.”-Jb

Statement: Mab is a mortal wizard who did an ascension ritual

Quote

“If (cowl) succeeded, he’d have had the collective power of all of those supernatural beings and then some. He’d have been clearly stronger than the Ladies, and a full-on equal to Mab. I mean, why do you think the Erlking was summoned as part of that ritual? Because that’s how the big E got so boss in the first place.

For that matter, how do you think the Mothers and Queens and Ladies established their original base of power? That big old sacrificial, power-sucking stone table in Tir na noth isn’t there for its primitive decorative aesthetic.”-JB

“I am Mab. I am Sidhe”-Mab

“all the fae are a little bit mortal.”

“ Depends on how much influence he has in the world. That’s how the Sidhe gain their size and power. Mab wasn’t always as big as she is now. ”

Now there are some other facts. :

“The thing is that Mab never really figures Dresden quite right. She never gets it right when she tries to predict what he will do. But Small Favor turned out really well for her.”

Whom else do we know that is in love with Harry and could be described just the same? And not, JB said Harry will break the laws of time, not Molly. Mab herself refers to it in SF, with “Whatever your past, whatever your future..” I thought at first she meant his personal past, but what if in the past, he did something?

“ But Harry will regret every having set foot on that island. Of course, Harry regrets just about anything he’s ever done.”-JB

“Mab is one of her true names.”- JB

Margaret Katherine Amanda Carpenter.. Mab, or more properly Meab, is old English short for Margaret. And then there is her looks, and the hair ( started many colors, is now tinged with white and blue at the ends.) and how her powers are in enchantment, illusion, glamour and mental magic’s..

The Theory:

At some time in the future, Harry and Molly will be forced to experiment with time travel, quite probably involving demon reach. Harry will screw something up, and leave Molly behind, or lost in time, 100,000 years ago.. she becomes Sidhe, and ascends, to come back to him..

Mine ! Mine ! Mine !
– Nuff said.

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Edit and Update:

The idea came to me in a game we played sometime between the publishing of SmF and TC. It was then later updated for TC. Since the publication of Changes and Aftermath, I think we can add some more into it:

Why Demonreach?

Because Mab knew Harry was going to be shot. Demonreach is a source of magic; dark and dangerous magic. By the statement of the gatekeeper, it is not on a ley line, it is the well from which the line comes. Now there may be several types of dark magic, and it is true that there are four dark ley lines in Chicago. But outside of Demonreach, one we know for certain is the intersection beneath the field museum, which is a very potent source of necromancy. The magic for raising or bringing back the dead.

It is my belief that while Mab may have rid Harry like a pony for personal reasons, she broadcast it to every place and water in faerie to let her enemies know she was preparing for war. She has enemies, but is still uncertain who they all are; they are hidden from her sight. Therefore she has to lure them into the open; and then smite them.

In the end of Changes, and Aftermath, and in Ghost Story I believe that this exactly what is happening. Her enemies, believing she has lost her knight ( and hence her ability to wage war on the mortal plane) ( They killed him) and that the other powers that might stop them ( The White Council, The White Court, The Red Court) have all been placed out of play have stepped out into the open and are openly perusing their own real objectives, at last.

They don’t know that Mab has made her knight a ‘get out of death free’ card.

And there shall be smiting
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Predictions
• Harry was killed by the Black Court, or their agents. They had their people standing by to take advantage within hours of his death.(uncertain as of GS, are the fallen agents/allies/ ?)
• The Black Court, or their agents, are the enemies of Ghost Story(ditto)(Jim said after Cold Days)
• Demonreach will be involved in Harry’s return. (Correct as of GS!)
• Mab planned this in advance. (Correct as of GS!)

________________________________________
Notes on Cold Days
– We now know Mab can simply walk right in to Dresden’s Lab at any time; the threshold only limits her if she means to do harm. Apparently Harry always knew this but ‘forgot’ for the last six years.. Probably because Mab wanted him too.
– Molly of course, did not become Mab in this book. She became the winter lady, Mab’s heir. But, the series is not over yet.
– It is confirmed that Mab has been preparing Molly for this, likely since Proven Guilty. Her answer, that she did so because of Harry’s faith in Molly, only makes sense if you assume some level of foreknowledge.
– We now know that Demon reach is very important to Mab, and in a purely personal sense.
– Mab does indeed have a plan about luring her enemies in
– Mab was mortal once
– The headaches may have been caused by Lash; this is implied by demon reach. But the timing is off for her to be the cause of all of them; we know for a fact Mab caused one in Small favor and the timing of the rest is still very coincidental.
– We also know Mab, Demon Reach, and lash have some sort of arrangement
– Mab at the end of Ghost Story swore not to mess with Harry’s head anymore. This is likely why Harry remembers about the Sidhe and thresholds. I predict Mab made a deal with Lash, to mess with Harry’s head for her from now on.
– It’s likely that the missing Black Court elders are in demon reach prison, explaining their interest in the place
– The existence of the mantle, and its ability to move information thru time, may be a much better explanation for the Mab/Molly relationship then time travel. It still solves the essential questions and does so more neatly; my only excuse is Jim never mentioned such a thing prior to Cold Days
– Imagine a line. Point A is Mab in the past, point B is Molly/Mab in the future. Now from each point, draw radials; this is the light cone of potential pasts and futures. At a distance, the two points can perceive each other clearly, but as they approach a unified present more and more possible lines intersect, leading to more random events and a harder time making predictions. It’s a feedback system; each foreknowledge defines and curtails future information; as its gets closer and closer to a present now, Mab’s precognition gets less and less accurate.
– Or in plane language, it will fail her when she needs it most.
– And it will be Harry’s fault

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Ms. Duck is not only a theoretician of the finest caliber, but she is also a writer. Check out some of her work!

Lieutenant Karrin Murphy, Antagonist

Lieutenant Karrin Murphy, Antagonist published on 8 Comments on Lieutenant Karrin Murphy, Antagonist

fallen murphy

Part I (of MANY)

Judging by the various threads, comments, and pot-stirring in the Jim Butcher Appreciation Society, the topic of Karrin Murphy is a polarizing one. Some express mild shock and genuine bafflement when it’s suggested that Murphy is not the paragon she appears to be from Summer Knight to Changes. But a reread of Storm Front and Fool Moon reminds us that while she’s never been the boss fight, she was an antagonist more surely than Donald Morgan. Hear me out. An antagonist is someone who “actively opposes or is hostile to someone or something”. In this case, Murphy actively opposes and is hostile to Harry Dresden. An old, old interview with Jim Butcher that was published back when Death Masks just came out and Furies of Calderon was still Shepherdboy’s Fury, reveals his motivation in creating the characters of John Marcone and Karrin Murphy:

“I needed someone to provide both threat and distraction for Harry in Storm Front, for example, and got two characters who could do those jobs. John Marcone got to show up as the negative criminal element of the story, the human face of lawlessness and crime. Karrin Murphy is his opposite in number, representative of the law, society, and order. Neither one of them seems to do much for Harry that doesn’t make his day worse and worse, nine times out of ten, but no one’s perfect.”

Murphy is hostile to Harry from the beginning. While Dresden is a police consultant that Murphy has worked with time and again, she treats him more like a confidential informant: he is expected to drop everything and serve her: ““Dresden, I’ve sort of got a pair of corpses with no leads and no suspects, and a killer walking around loose. Your appointment can wait.” Murphy shows no real professional courtesy toward Dresden. She treats him like a confidential informant—someone who is useful to her, someone she can dominate, and someone who is just like every other criminal she comes across, except that she’s using him to gain access to other criminals.

This behavior does not change in Fool Moon.

Murphy forgets halfway through the books that she’s hired Dresden to seek information on her cases, and then suspects him of being the perpetrator. While this is more spectacularly done in Fool Moon, the pattern is also evident in Storm Front. Murphy orders Dresden to the scene of the crime, orders him to figure out how two people were murdered by magic (ignoring the fact Dresden told her he couldn’t), then—when he reveals he’s been doing exactly as she told him to, but with methods she disapproves of—she threatens to arrest him. Then, when Dresden’s fighting for his life and hers against a scorpion that came to life because Murphy wouldn’t listen, she shackles him to her. This reveals the prideful, arrogant, and often stupidly focused mentality of the main cop character in the Dresden Files. Dresden was owed an apology at the end of Storm Front, but Murphy conveniently forgot what a stubborn fool she was attempting to arrest him while they were under attack by a magically constructed scorpion.

Fool Moon is even worse. She shows up at the beginning just in time to pick up a scrap of paper she would later use to incriminate Harry Dresden in the death of his first “apprentice” (though Kim Delaney was not nearly as strong as Molly Carpenter has proven to be, nor was it an official apprenticeship; Harry was more of a mentor). There had been a death, and it was not until they were driving to it that it is revealed to be outside of her jurisdiction. The FBI shows up to intimidate and threaten, and after Agent Benn has taken out her gun and fired at Murphy, Murphy goes along with the lie that it had been an accident. Murphy upholds the law as long as a fellow law enforcement official is not the one breaking it.

Her greetings to Harry are, in general, angry and impatient: “About time, Dresden. Get up here.”

Murphy manipulates Harry into helping her: “After that, it’ll be simple for them to get some charges going on me for complicity or obstruction. And they’ll probably try to get to you, too. Harry, we’ve got to catch the killer, or killers. Or I’m history.” There is no logical reason for Dresden to be indicted for the events of Storm Front, nor would an investigation turn up incriminating evidence against a licensed investigator doing his job. Both times, Murphy dragged Harry into the case; both times she bullied and harassed him into the job—usually by threatening arrest—and both times she built a case against him (including a paperwork trail) at the same time he was helping her.

Murphy does not see a happy ending for a romance between them. Several times in the series, Murphy threatens Dresden that a romance would not end well for him. The first of these occasions happens in Storm Front, and sets the tone of their friendship.

And here we venture forth into speculation. Chapter Two of Storm Front introduces the reader to Murphy (in the flesh, as it were). They meet outside the Madison and head together to the grisly crime scene, and Dresden has a niggling doubt about her: “My shadow and Murphy’s fell on the floor, and almost looked as though they were sprawled there. There was something about it that bothered me, a nagging little instinct that I blew off as a case of nerves.” Butcher has used shadows for very interesting things later on in the series – for one, Nicodemus Archleone can listen in on almost any conversation he wants to by using his Denarian, Anduriel (whose name, coincidentally, I’m sure, means “shadow of Uriel”). Later on in Storm Front, Dresden mentions that the mark He Who Walks Behind has on him “could still be seen upon me by those who knew how, by using the Third Sight, stretching out behind me like a long and horribly shaped shadow.” Whatever it is that caused that moment of doubt has not been made clear. Yet.

There is also the fact that some of Murphy’s backstory contradicts itself. In “Restoration of Faith”, set no more than four years prior to the events of Storm Front, Murphy is a young beat cop. In Storm Front, she is a lieutenant and department head “who had to fight and claw and play dirty with the hairiest men in Chicago to get as far as she has.” Making lieutenant and becoming a department head in less than three years is not only highly unlikely given the amount of time one has to stay at one rank before one can test for a higher rank, but is a meteoric rise that could hardly have been hampered by institutionalized sexism. There are several possibilities for this: 1) Butcher neglected his research in this one area, 2) Murphy is a plant from someone who can pull strings (like government spooks) at a city level, 3) Murphy isn’t human, and can enforce her will and remake her little corner of reality, etc.

In closing, at the 2011 Boston signing, Butcher mentioned this: “I know that a lot of the folks that are generally perceived as bad guys aren’t necessarily, there are several who are currently perceived as good guys who aren’t necessarily, and we’ll continue to have those fall out over the next several books.” Lieutenant Karrin Murphy is the prime candidate for the betrayal that will hurt Harry all the way to his core. I’ve got an idea of who will eventually unmask her and why, but that will have to wait for another day.

Do you think it's possible that Murphy will turn out to have been Harry's adversary all along?

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The talented Andrea Gonzales is responsible for the lovely photograph. She can be found at various spots on the web, including here.

The views expressed in this post don’t necessarily reflect the views of the people in the photograph, but they did give their permission.

Mythological Mantles, Aspects, and Masks in Fantasy Literature

Mythological Mantles, Aspects, and Masks in Fantasy Literature published on 1 Comment on Mythological Mantles, Aspects, and Masks in Fantasy Literature

Forgive me for getting all academic here, but I’m going to put on my graduate school hat for a moment. As a fan, I just read stories and revel in their flow and fun. But occasionally, I like to admit that I do indeed have a Master’s degree in Communication Studies and dust off the passive voice, complex sentences and gobbledygook that makes it sound like I am a Deep Thinker. So here we go…

Mantles of power, varying aspects or incarnations of gods, and the masks they can wear are a mainstay of fantasy literature and represent the need and ability of characters, and humanity, to change.

As an example, take Odin. The All-Father. Far seeing, wise, powerful, the leader of the Norse Pantheon. He is also frequently mentioned in modern fantasy. Jim Butcher references him in The Dresden Files. Kevin Hearne has him as fairly central figure in The Iron Druid Chronicles. Rick Riordan features Norse gods in his new series featuring Magnus Chase. And of course, Odin is also an important figure in Marvel’s Thor movies.

odin

Physically, Odin is represented in all of these worlds as a male older figure with one eye. The one eye is a notable trait – indeed a symbol — derived from the original Norse myths, representing Odin’s sacrifice for wisdom.
In Butcher’s Dresden Files, Odin is only one aspect of a multi-faced character. Vadderung is the contemporary Odin, who lives in a modern day version of Midgard with a company front company front called Monoc Securities. Monoc is yet another ode to the one eye of Odin, as monocle in Latin literally means one eye. Sometimes Odin appears in another aspect, as in Cold Days, when he appears as Kringle, or as we may know him, Santa Claus.

The concept of a god wearing multiple mantles or aspects is not singular to Butcher. Lucienne Diver, who has not yet used Norse mythology in her Latter-Day Olympian series, uses the concept of varying aspects and incarnations as well. In her latest book, Blood Hunt, coming out at the end of October, she plays on this theme heavily. Apollo, for example, literally morphs physically into a member of the Egyptian pantheon. By using this technique both authors present the idea that gods represent concepts and that belief systems have universal needs, met and realized by similar aspects of what is essentially the same god.

Kevin Hearne uses Odin as an individual figure, but plays with the concept of multiple aspects with other characters. For example, he asks a devout Christian woman to imagine the Mother Mary, and when Mary appears, she looks as the woman imagined. Even Jesus changes looks/aspects/mantles depending on the belief system of His believers (read the sharply written Hammered).

One subtle but important difference does exist between the aspects of a god and the mantles. Previously, I have discussed them as if they were exactly the same thing, and they are not. A mantle can have a far deeper meaning as not just one face of a godlike incarnation, but a cloak of power that one can sluff off and hand to someone else. Or, more accurately, a cloak that transfers to another person once you die. Butcher does this beautifully in the ending scenes of Cold Days, as the Ladies’ mantles transfer to other vessels. They actually take a type of physical form and fly into the new vessels’ chests.

Confusing matters more, only a few pages later, in the same exact book, Butcher alludes to mantles as masks. “Masks, mantles,” Kringle said, “What’s the difference?” (Cold Days)

santaclaus

For readers, the difference is subtle yet instructive. While many of us wear masks, displaying different aspects of who we are or hiding part of ourselves, the masks can be removed and our true selves revealed. Humans can wear masks and it simply hides parts of who we are. Mantles, on the other hand, are components of godhood or at least fantastic power. Harry Dresden is handed the Winter Knight’s mantle, not the Winter Knight’s mask.

Another key difference is that Mantles typically bring responsibilities and burdens, and the very real possibility that the bearer will lose who he or she is and become what the Mantle wants them to be. This is Harry’s continued battle as he feels the power of the Winter Knight try to change who he personality and values. Even Molly, who now carries the Mantle of the Winter Lady, is changing in front Harry’s eyes, becoming less wizard and more Fae. She is absorbing and changing due to power given through the Mantle.

But, it should be noted that Molly wears a mask as well, displaying different aspects to different people, playing a challenging game that will inevitably fail. Winter Lady to the Fae, dutiful daughter to her mother and father, wizard and friend to Harry. The problem with masks, unlike mantles, is that they can slip. Mantles overpower. Masks hide. And tiny differences can signal the slipping of a mask and the revelation of the mantle’s changes, such as when Molly successfully uses a cell phone.

Whether an aspect, mantle or mask, the writer’s ultimate goal is give his or her character a reason to change. The changes can represent different incarnations of the same things such as when Diver’s gods morph from one pantheon to another, or challenging and terrible powers such as Dresden’s Winter Mantle, or even the power of individual belief, as in Hearne’s Jesus.

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