Friday, January 30, 2009

The Dresden Files - Book Series Review



I hate when a good story ends, I just want to keep reading and reading. But, alas, all good books must end. So, for the past while I've been reading a lot of series books to allow me to 'feed my need' to continue a great story line.

This review is for one of my current favorites - The Dresden Files series by author Jim Butcher. I'm a fantasy nut, so started right in on this series when it was recommended to me. I just finished book 10 so thought I would share my thoughts. Below is a link to the first book, Storm Front, as listed on Amazon.com.





The Synopsis:
The series is based on the main character, Harry Dresden. Harry is a modern-day wizard with the only ad in the Chicago yellow pages under the listing of Wizard. His specialty is locating lost items. Clients are understandably skeptical, so Harry subsidizes his income by consulting with the local police on unusual cases.

SI = Special Investigations - set up for those cases that are a little too, hmmm, strange for the standard investigative team. Of course the police don't believe in 'other-world' events, vampires, or werewolves, but they start to bring Harry in for his special insight when a normal explanation just isn't available.

During each of the books Harry gets involved with some combination of the NeverNever, non-mortals, Black Wizards and everyday people. Usually there is someone in trouble and in need of saving - most likely someone close to Harry, and he's is not afraid to use everything in his power to resolve the problem

Do you need to read the books in order?
While each book is a story in itself and each comes to a conclusion (which I like), the books definitely build on each other. Read them in order to receive the full benefit of the author's build-up of characters, relationships and subplots.

So who is Harry?
A Wizard: Harry is a younger wizard, as wizards go. Wizards are mortal, but can live for centuries. Their strength and abilities increase over time.

An Outcast: Harry is most assuredly a loner. Thought by many of his fellow Wizards to be a practitioner of the 'darker' arts (a crime punishable by execution by your peers), Harry has few wizards who claim his as friend, or respect him.

His loner status extends to his personal life. He has few friends, but those he has can expect his loyalty - to the extreme. He is hesitant to build intimate relationships, so Harry's love-life can be non-existent for months (or longer) at a time. (Poor Harry!)

Throughout the series his personal relationships expand and develop in great detail. Harry begins to earn grudging respect in all realms, be they mortal, NeverNever, magical, and religious.

At Odds with Right/Wrong: Harry is a pretty powerful wizard. He truly wants to help those who need it (he has a weakness for saving women). However, Harry has no problem using whatever means are at his disposal to get the job done. Since his main power lies with fire, Harry tends to burn things, up, make things explode and cause considerable collateral damage whenever he is involved. Restraint is not one of his stronger suits.

In addition, Harry deals with the constant temptation to seek power from unsavory sources. He feels he can use this power to do good, without becoming corrupt himself. Deep down he knows this isn't true and there is a continual internal battle for Harry to stay on the right side of his power.

A Funny Guy: Some of the best parts of the books are Harry's comments in the face of sure death. Harry uses constant sarcasm and biting one-liners to throw his enemies off guard, stall, gain information etc. Many of his conversations are laugh-out-loud funny.

The Main Supporting Characters:
These characters appear in most, but not always all of the books. There are many other recurring characters not mentioned that play smaller parts.

Murphy: Petite yet dedicated and fiercely capable officer for the Chicago Police. Murphy eventually comes to understand what is really 'out there' over the course of the books and she becomes increasingly involved with helping Harry (and vice-versa). Murphy is 'good people' and is devoted to her job of protecting the citizens of Chicago.

Michael: Michael works for God - literally! He is a White Knight and bearer of one of three swords, each made with a nail of the crucifixion cross embedded it. Michael's faith is unwavering and his duty comes before all else, including his large family. Michael's attempts at getting Harry to attend church don't go over very well, but he gently prods regardless. Michael helps Harry when he really needs it, but Michaels main job is to track down the Fallen (see below). Michael's wife Charity and oldest daughter Molly also are important characters in some of the later books.

The Fallen: The Fallen Angels come into play in later books. Really bad guys - they are angels who have fallen from God's grace and have taken 'residence', each in one of the 30 pieces of silver used to betray Jesus. Very powerful and just plain nasty. I will say here that while religion is mentioned at times, it is NOT an main theme of the books. The author simply takes into consideration that there many 'powers' out there and one of them is God.

Thomas: A White Vampire who becomes close and important to Harry over time. White vampires don't drink blood to survive, rather they live on people's emotions. Thomas provides a lot of humorous bantering with Harry, and is often there to watch Harry's back.

Queens of the NeverNever: Winter and Summer Queens rule the NeverNever. You really don't want to owe them a favor. Not to be trusted in general, they do follow through on any debts owed, but not always in the way one might wish. Basically terrifying forces of power, always at war with each other, and often finding ways involve Harry.

The Rest: Each book has its own set of main characters. Some appear in multiple books, some die, and some are involved in only one or two stories. They may be fairies, angels, werewolves, vampires, pixies, trolls etc. etc.

The Humor:
If, like me, you like sarcasm, innuendo, and some dark humor then the books can be just plain funny. Harry is funny, but humor comes into play in other ways as well. For example, the book often reminds us that fairytales are based on truth.
In one book the Summer Queen sends gruffs to take care of Harry. As in - Billy Goats Gruff. If you remember your fairytale well, you'll remember that each of the three Billy Goats Gruff has a big brother, and HE has a big brother. These storylines allow the sometimes very dark story to be lightened up a little, well actually a lot, and offer some great comedy relief.

Maturity Level:
There is some swearing, but not a lot. Every so often the 'F' word is thrown in, and really isn't needed. Harry tends to say "Hells Bells" a lot, so much so that it tends to be annoying. The sexual content is innuendo only. The violence however is significant. People and non-people die in violent and bloody detail.
Conclusion:
If you enjoy fantasy set in the present you will love this series. The author has the ability to keep each book as interesting as the previous and builds a complex and detailed world and life for the main characters. Each book is excellent by themselves, and the underlying ongoing plots keep me wishing the next book was already released. I loved all of the books and strongly recommend them.
Have you read the books or do you have questions? Please leave comments.

View All Dresden Files Books on Amazon.com

2 comments:

jamie said...

Always looking for recommendations for a good read! Thanks!

Drew said...

This series is fantastic. I just finished storm front and fool moon within a two day span. I went out the next day and bought all of them i could afford. The cast of characters are fantastic. You can easily relate to the feelings and emotions of the characters, especially the protagonist and the stories are very entertaining and thrilling. I highly suggest the Dresden Files series. If anyone has any other similar series in mind or ones that are also quite good, please comment.