Storm Front/Fool Moon/Grave Peril – Jim Butcher (or: SO MUCH DRESDEN)

Over the past week or so, I’ve worked my way through the first three Dresden Files books (partly in response to reading more Jim Butcher a few months ago – Furies of Calderon – and partly because I happened across the books when looking for something else – Wicked – on my stupidly overstuffed bookshelf (I didn’t find it, alas)). My first comment, and the one that was the most prominent opinion as I read them, is – “Jesus you get through these quickly”. I read the whole of Fool Moon, bar about twenty pages, on a train between Leicester and London, and that is not a long train journey. I’m torn as to whether this is a good thing or a bad thing. On the one hand, it shows just how light and easy to read they are, and I do like that. But on the other hand… that’s a bit ridiculously quick to get through a book, especially considering how much books cost (well, ok, not those… I got them second hand in Haye-on-Wye a few years ago, for £1 each in perfect condition, but normally they’d be like a fiver each which is not legit for a two hour bit of entertainment). That said, they felt the right length. The stories tend to go on just the right amount to balance good pacing and depth of plot. Stuff happens, and you get to appreciate it, but not too much because there are quips to be made.

If I were to start criticising the plots… I’d sort of be missing the point of the books. They’re not bad, but they’re not meant to be groundbreaking or amazing either, so… they’re nice, light, trashy fiction, really. And that’s what they’re meant to be. For what they are, they are good. And the writing is definitely better than Furies of Calderon, despite the Dresden Files being earlier in Butcher’s career. The only real issue is the main character.

Harry Dresden is annoying. Like, really really. And he doesn’t get any better when you get used to him. And Butcher takes pains to highlight all of his most annoying features, like the chauvinism (of which Dresden is perversely proud). Also… women seem to fall over themselves at him. For reasons I cannot fathom. I mean, I can see the stereotype he’s filling, trying to be a detective genre novel but with magics, but… ugh. I’m sure he could have been made not-annoying. Somehow. The detective genre he’s playing into is from the past, when being a bit of dick was entirely normal behaviour for lead males in novels, and they were actually expected to go save damsels in distress patronisingly. Spoilers here, but in Grave Peril, the woman who starts off the whole adventure… her plot doesn’t even get wound up properly. Her resolution is a footnote that someone told Dresden and he drops in as an afterthought. Vaguely. In about two sentences. Fantastic…

The other characters… don’t really justify being called “characters”, really. They’re all very one-dimensional… except maybe Bob the skeletal head. He’s quite fun. Everyone else though… clear cut, obvious and simple.

But that’s the sort of books these are. They’re light, easy reads with enough going on to keep you busy on a train journey and not much more. They’re enjoyable, certainly. They’re sometimes funny too, and inventive and clever and silly and cute. But they’re not good. I’m fine with that, but possibly wouldn’t inflict them on people with taste.

Interesting side note – I reread the Alex Verus books just after I finished these three, and I realised the author deliberately sets them in the same universe, with the main character mentioning how he “even heard of one guy in Chicago who advertises in the phone book under ‘Wizard’, though that’s probably an urban legend”. Which explains why the Alex Verus books feel so similar to the Dresden Files…


About readerofelse

A student of a redundant, useless and thoroughly interesting subject and reader of many books, particularly fantasy, science fiction and plenty else besides.
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One Response to Storm Front/Fool Moon/Grave Peril – Jim Butcher (or: SO MUCH DRESDEN)

  1. Benedict says:

    The Alex Verus books aren’t actually set in the same universe as the Dresden Files (if they were, I’d have to use the same magical ruleset). To be honest, I only ever wrote that comment as an in-joke – still surprises me how many people pick up on it!

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