I started reading The Dresden Files books by Jim Butcher somewhere around the time book five was released. It was all because the covers on the shelf of my local bookstore looked interesting. Sure, you shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover but sometimes that’s all you have to go on and you take a chance. So, I picked up the first book in the series, Storm Front, and carried it home in hopes it would prove to be at least okay. Two days later, I was back at the bookstore and bought the next book, and the next, and the next until I’d read them all and had a new name on my list of favorite authors.
The stories center around Chicago’s resident Wizard Private Investigator, Harry Dresden. This guy ain’t Gandalf. I suppose he could be if he manages to live long enough, but in Harry’s line of work it’s doubtful he’ll live to see the next sunrise much less the next century. He’s got power and smarts and a desire to help people, but the man creates enemies at an astounding rate. His habit of taunting them like a twelve-year-old on a playground makes it even worse.
He’s fought vampires, faeries, necromancers, wizards, ghosts, and all manner of unidentifiable beastie. He doesn’t do it with a pointy wizard’s hat and a cloak, but with determination and a coat that’s been spelled to make it just a little bit more difficult for the bad guys to turn him to ash. Most of the time, it works out pretty well for him, but he’s always a little worse for the wear both physically and emotionally by the end.
I am not usually a fan of Fantasy novels. Even with Urban Fantasy, they get bogged down in too much detail for my liking. I want action. Sure, give me some background history and lore, but do not give me eighty-two pages of the stuff at once. Butcher gives just enough history to let you know what you need to know and then gets right back to the business of trying to get Harry killed. And Harry gets back to the business of trying to help Chicago’s underdogs survive despite the obvious advantages of the evil bad guys.
At their core, all The Dresden Files books are about Good vs. Evil. Harry fights the evil with magic, snark and a healthy dose of humor that geeks will love. In the current book (no spoilers) there are references to multiple superheroes, Star Trek, Star Wars, and The Princess Bride. Yeah, not only is Harry a talented, good-hearted wizard, he’s an absolute nerd underneath it all.
Although most mortals aren’t ready to understand and accept that the creatures of myth and legend are real, Harry still spends his time trying to keep those creatures from hurting us. He throws himself into the middle of the fight, even when it makes him look like a madman or a criminal depending on your point of view. And in his spare time, to get away from it all, he plays DnD with a bunch of young werewolves and fights fake dragons and vampires. I told you. Nerd.
Mr. Butcher has created such a fully-fleshed out and intriguing universe that the guys at Evil Hat Productions worked with him to create The Dresden Files RPG so we could all pretend to be Harry Dresden. I have both volumes of the RPG and as a fan of the series found them wonderful additional reading material. They even won the 2011 Origins Award for Best Role Playing Game and Best Role Playing Game Supplement.
If you’re already a fan of the series, then you’ll find yourself right at home in the latest installment, Ghost Story, as Harry is up to his old tricks. He’s getting in way over his head, trying to save friends from peril and breaking the rules along the way. The familiar cast of characters is all there, trying to deal with the consequences of the last book. This one is a team effort from beginning to end and will surprise you. I had more then one “No way!” moment as secrets were revealed, mysteries solved and destinies discovered. Sort of.
You’ll get to see Harry sling magic and try to save the day, but, in typical fashion, even when he wins there’s still something lost. It’s not all about brute force. This book packs an emotional wallop that brings the action to a standstill as you, along with Harry, realize what exactly has happened to the ones he loves.
If you’ve never read the series, then you’re in for a real treat. The rest of us have 453 pages of ghosts, wizards, fireballs, slimy monsters, wise-cracks, sci-fi references and lovable snark. You’ve got 13 whole books!