Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Let’s start at the very beginning: The Dresden Files

It’s a very good place to start. When you read this series by Jim Butcher, you should start with Storm Front and Fool Moon … and somebody cleverer than I could make one more line scan like that song from The Sound of Music, but I’m not even going to try.

As I mentioned in a recent review, where I inadvertently read book #7 of the series before reading any of the others, the Dresden Files combines fantasy, horror and noir, blending it all together with a lovely dry sense of humor – just my kind of books. The narrator is Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden and he is a wizard, and a sort of private eye of the occult. He is chivalrous to a fault, which often gets him into hot water with his friend, policewoman Karrin Murphy; he drives an original flavor VW Bug because wizards mess up technology and the Bug is a pretty basic machine; he’s got a huge cat named Mister and a smartass spirit in a skull named Bob.

In Storm Front Murphy asks Dresden to consult on a gruesome double murder in which a man and a woman were killed by black magic, their hearts ripped out of their chests. This is against the rules, both for human laws and supernatural laws, and as Harry is drawn in further, he must dance around both the Chicago police and the White Council’s peacekeepers. Throw in the Mob, a toad demon, some spider monsters and a love potion gone badly awry, and you have the start to a greatly entertaining series.

As you might imagine, Fool Moon is about werewolves. Murphy needs Dresden’s help again, this time on a grisly full-moon murder where forensics turns up strange dog-like paw prints and strange dog-like fang marks. It just so happens that this is only the latest body in a string of them, and Murphy is fighting for her reputation and her job, trying to solve the case before the FBI does. When Dresden starts looking into things, he has to come up to speed on theriomorphs (humans who shapeshift into animals) in a hurry. Not only are there several different kinds of werewolves - the classic flavor: a person who uses a spell to change themselves into a wolf, but retains all of their humanity; hexenwulfen: by which you get a magical token from a demon or a sorcerer that when worn enables you to shapeshift at will; lycanthropes: beserkers, basically, whose bodies don’t change into wolves but their psyches do; and loup-garou: the real monsters, cursed by someone else and tied to the changes in the moon – but there are some of each kind (plus something extra) roaming around Chicago. Things get busy – and bloody – for Harry and Murphy in a hurry.

I liked Storm Front but I really liked Fool Moon. Perhaps it was because Butcher was a little more comfortable with his characters, perhaps because the stakes were raised in the Dresden universe, or maybe just because I’ve got a soft spot for werewolves, but I thought book #2 really hit its mark. It’s fast-moving and full of story, funny and bloody, and I’m already looking forward to #3.

1 comment:

  1. The series does a great job of gradually expanding the Dresden universe over the course of the series. "Dead Beat" is one of my favorites, but I really like them all. I love the extensive mythology that is developed. I really wish the TV series had been more like the novels, but even then, you lose a lot without his internal monologue. I'm counting the days until the next volume is released in April.