Reviewed: February 14, 2007
By: Jim Butcher
378 pages, $10.99
From paperback original mystery/fantasy
series to brand new television series in just seven years, Jim Butcherís Harry
Dresden novels have moved very quickly into the the big time.
I was primed to try this series by
Laurell K. Hamiltonís Anita Blake series, which held my interest for the first
six books but eventually got to be too much about sex and not enough about
mystery and character development to keep me reading.
It had started out well, with a Sue
Grafton type private eye who operated in an alternate reality where magic
worked and vampires were granted citizenship. I didnít mind giving the concept
another try somewhere else, in this case an alternate world Chicago which
reminded me a little bit of Kelly Armstongís fantasy novels about witches
Oddly, my first take on Harry Dresden
was that he was a lot like Howard Engelís non-magical private eye Benny Cooperman,
a slightly down at the heels wizard with a number of eccentricities and a
low opinion of his own worth.
Storm Front (2000) introduced the character and some of his supporting cast:
Bob, the ghost in a skull who is his mystical data base and helper; Murphy,
the Chicago cop who gets the weird cases; Susan, the tabloid reporter who
likes to write them up; Michael, the Knight of the Lord who acts as Harryís
conscience and backup muscle.
Despite the seriousness of the problem
in the book, it was a little bit slapstick, what with Harryís propensity for
fouling up any technology newer than about 1945. Things just donít want to
work properly around him; if youíre with him take the stairs not the elevator.
Forget about computers.
I thought it might wear thin quickly.
Butcher apparently thought so too, and cranked up the tension in Fool Moon
(2001), the second novel which, of course, had something to do with werewolves.
Some parts of the formula were the same. Once Harry takes on a case he doesnít
get much rest until itís over, and he gets chewed up pretty badly along the
way. In that sense, his adventures are a lot like Anita Blakeís, but Harry
is much more coy about his intimate relationships than Anita has come to be.
Grave Peril (also 2001) revisits an earlier villain, and has to do with ghosts
and vampires. In addition, we pick up some Dresden backstory and learn a bit
more of why he is under perpetual supervision by the White Council of Wizards.
We learn a lot more about Michael, as well as Susan and Connie Murphy.
Michael and Harry are called to a hospital
to deal with a ghost that is apparently trying to capture babies for itself.
In this reality ghosts are not spirits of actual people, but rather memories
of the spirits of the departed. This one seems to be unusually powerful, and
Harry discovers that it, as well as some people in the material world, are
being tortured to madness by some unknown force. The barriers between our
world and the Nevernever (which contains all the mystical dimensions) have
thinned, and some nasty stuff is getting through.
Harry has to undertake a number of
dangerous journeys into that realm, where he is in peril from his fairy godmother
(really) who wants to possess his spirit and keep him there. He also has to
face down a horde of vampires in order to rescue the young woman who first
got him involved in this case, as well as his friends and Thomas, a vampire
who turns out to be on the side of the good guys.
Itís all very fast paced and action
packed, and just the sort of thing to take your mind of the fact that youíre
trapped in bed with the flu, which I have been this week.
As for The Dresden Files, the
television show, itís not bad. Theyíve given Bob a spirit body so that Harry
doesnít have to have long conversations with a skull, and theyíve provided
him with an ancient jeep instead of the VW Bug that is featured in the books,
but the casting is pretty good and they have a lot of material to work with.
Butcher has produced nine books in
this series since 2000 and all the ones I mentioned here are currently on