Death Masks by Jim Butcher
While I have had an interest in many different novels and TV shows that deal with the supernatural and evil, most of them tend to shy away from actual religion. While Buffy battled demons and the forces of darkness on the Hellmouth, Whedon shied away from discussing God, even sending her to heaven without addressing religion. The first few seasons of Supernatural definitely deal with hell and demons but it wasn’t until the 4th season that God and angels actually started playing a role, and even there, Lucifer seemed a lot more of a real presence and threat than God.
Even though Butcher has already addressed religion by having his Knights of the Cross, I was still surprised to find that the Shroud of Turin played a role in this novel. Granted, the question in the novel isn’t necessarily whether it is real or not – if it is, it has power due to that; if it isn’t, it has power due to the many people who have strong faith in it. (Actually, this reminds me of a short story I read when I was much younger, though I don’t remember the title or author: a young woman captures a vampire and locks him up in her basement with shackles with crosses on them. She tortures him for his evil nature and actions, and eventually asks her priest for advice. She didn’t like whatever he said, so she either lied to him/ disobeyed him or killed him, and then went to the basement to torture the vampire some more. However, the vampire breaks the shackles, explaining to her that it wasn’t the symbol that had power but her faith in it, and since her actions towards the priest meant her faith no longer meant anything to her, the crosses no longer have the power to hold him – does this sound familiar to anyone?) This is also Harry’s introduction to the other two Knights of the Cross that have come to Chicago because the stolen Shroud has been brought to Chicago, and the Fallen, incredibly powerful demons/ fallen angels that possess people for centuries and millennia at a time are somehow involved.
As usual, it is a very quick paced novel, all plot points and random side tangents naturally end up being related to one another, and there are losses. There are also some issues with the ongoing war with the vampires, and Susan visits Harry, helping him out quite a bit on this case (since she is now much stronger than him, she ends up being incredibly useful in some situations). It’s been about a week since I read it, and it’s already a bit hazy, but I don’t exactly expect these novels to leave huge, lasting impressions and change my life, and I was already looking forward to picking up the next few in the series once I finished it. Also, I have to give Butcher credit because sometimes series get repetitive and old after awhile, steadily becoming worse from one novel to the next, but if anything his might be getting better (I’m not saying he doesn’t repeat himself at all – each novel has a comment about Harry's cat Mister almost knocking him over in greeting due to his size and weight, each one makes sure to describe Murphy as looking the opposite of how she really is . . . I’m not sure if this is because he expects people might pick up in the middle of the series or because there’s a period of time between when the novels were published and he doesn’t want readers to forget certain things).