Book’em Nerdo: The Dresden Files
Alright, we already know how this is going to go, I love this series. So it’s going to be me talking about why this series is good, but I’ve finally read everything that out thus far from Jim Butcher for the series. This includes the two books of short stories, and I’m now part of the group of people waiting for the next book to come out.
Just in the way of a quick synopsis, The Dresden Files follows around Harry Dresden a wizard private investigator. He mainly does things like find lost objects or missing people, stuff that’s pretty easy. But the Chicago PD bring him in time to time to consult on cases when things seem weird and that is too often in Chicago. The series starts out with him doing a few one off cases, but soon he figures out that there is something larger at play and now he’s having to deal with fae courts, vampires of all sorts, and basically anything else that might go bump in the night.
I really like Urban Fantasy, and Dresden Files is a very good series in that genre. Too often or too much of urban fantasy seems to lean into that light fluffy writing with a bit of pulp, whereas The Dresden Files are heavily pulp but keep a serious tone and really create depth of character. Now, this isn’t through all the books, the first couple, especially, since they aren’t as obviously tied into the main plot of the rest of the books, and are early in Butcher’s writing career don’t hold up quite as well, though, they are still very enjoyable. And his short story book, Side Jobs, you get some more of his earlier writing and while I enjoyed them a good amount, I can see how they might not hold up as strongly as some of his other work.
Besides the genre, I really like the main character. Harry Dresden is a good character, generally a good person, and definitely a flawed person as well. I think that is one thing that I really appreciate about Butcher’s writing of Harry. Harry has a pretty obvious character arc as he grows, and there are still things that he recognizes as hang-ups for him that he just doesn’t address or that he has accepted are part of him. This rough around the edges works well for the gritty world that the series is set in. And I think that’s a strength, not just of Harry in the series, but other characters as well. Each character has their own flaws, and while there are some who seem to have less flaws, their flaws just look a bit shinier and are harder to see. I’ve been listening to, and have read enough, to notice when books create a character that is either too perfect or too generic, and Harry is definitely not perfect or generic.
One thing I wasn’t sure how it would go throughout the books is finding a good way to increase the stake throughout. I’m not going to go into spoilers, but things start to get big and there are a lot of issues surrounding the fae, vampires, wizards, and other parties. Whenever that happens, I start to get worried. You can end up with it getting too big too quickly, and if a problem is solved, that means now you have to come up with something even crazier and bigger. In the Dresden Files, I feel like it’s balanced well. There is definitely a building feel to larger things, but there are some books where the stakes seem a bit smaller again mixed in without. The slow build and those that keep the story from growing to quickly make the series better. You can feel that it’s building towards something even bigger, and while there was a moment where you could feel like it drops off again, there are so many open questions in the series that it works to take a little bit of a step back.
I’m not sure how many books are going to be in the series, but I’m definitely looking forward to the next one. If you want to know more about the series, or get into some spoiler territory, you can join me with Malts and Meeples as I play through the Dresden Files Cooperative Card Game which does a solid job of telling the Dresden Files story. I’m really waiting for this to get picked up for a good television show as well or movie series. We had one SyFy channel series, and while the actor who played Dresden did a good job, the rest of the cast was just decent, and all in the all, it was too procedural to really be a show that captured the spirit of The Dresden Files.
Like I said at the beginning, I love this series. There are currently 15 books and 2 books of short stories. You definitely don’t need to read the short stories, though they are fun to fill in some gaps of the stories. And, random aside, one cool thing about the series is that each of them takes place about a year apart, so there are stories and things hinted at that we don’t ever see. It’s a bit of a haul to get through the series, but I haven’t regretted it, and I’ve read some of the books, especially early in the series, several times. I think if you’re looking for a good urban fantasy series you’re going to be hard to pressed to find something that works better than Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files.
What do you think of the series? What is your favorite book out of all of them?
Share questions, ideas for articles, or comments with us!