I laid out pretty clearly in my
that the Dresden Files will always have a place in my heart. That’s why I am going back and reading the previous thirteen books in the series and giving them all a second look. Some may say I am too kind to this series and, well, that may be true. Just a heads up.
Also, this series has been out going on nearly fifteen years, so from here on out I am putting a blanket spoilers tag on everything Dresden Files. I will attempt to rein myself in from time to time, but in general I am going to assume you have at least a passing knowledge of this series if you are reading this. You have been warned.
Professional wizard private eye Harry Dresden investigates the murder of two people killed by black magic that rips hearts from chests as well as keeping ahead of mobsters and other magic users that want him dead. The reader is introduced to magic and Harry Dresden as a character. Other main players in Harry’s life are also introduced, including:
- Karrin Murphy (police woman and Harry’s main employment as consultant)
- Susan Rodriguez (reporter and Harry’s love interest)
- Johnny Marcone and enforcers (head of Chicago crime, all of it)
- Morgan (Harry’s warden charged with killing Harry if it is deemed Harry is using black magic)
- Bob the Skull (A spirit under Harry’s command and knowledge depositary)
- Bianca (Head of the local Red Court Vampire clan)
- Toot-Too (A fairy that “helps” Harry)
- Mister (Harry’s large cat)
What I liked
As an urban fantasy novel, this book is heavy on the urban and relatively light on the fantasy. Few out of left field magical rules are displayed beyond what is needed to get the story told. The foremost aspect of this book is the detective nature of the main character. Like an old school noir protagonist, he is beaten and bruised by the end but still gets his man.
The magic on display is less about mystery and more about moving forces. Sure, the inherent quality of “magic” in and of itself is mysterious, but the world of this novel is set with hard line physics. Fire burns and keeps burning, magically created or no, until something stops it.
An extension of the noir-ishness and the magic rules, the world of this novel is populated with interesting and complex characters with a backdrop of real life. Everyone has an agenda in this book, whether that is to amass power, find justice, or simply stay alive. Even the supernatural creatures, as alien as they can be, are fleshed out and made real through well placed dialog and actions. Combining all that is a snarky sense of humor and clever nods that runs through the book, as if Mr. Butcher is tempting you to enjoy your time reading no matter what.
What I didn’t like
The villain in this book is given almost no page time, beyond a slight confrontation near the middle and the climax. The reader is given many clues as to how bad the person can be, but the result is underwhelming. This could be that the point of the story is Harry Dresden’s fight rather than the villain, but when the climax finally comes the bad guy is just another obstacle rather than an opponent.
My main complaint about this book is how it drifts from scene to loosely connected scene. This is an opening book to a much larger planned series and it shows. From the character list above, one can see how many players are introduced that are important yet get small and inconsequential scenes. This causes the book to lose a decent flow at the expense of fleshing out an already rich world. While understandable within the context of a series, the introduction of a character that does not pay off in this book is jarring. An example of this is the vampire Bianca, whom Harry visits for information. While she becomes important later and the scene sets up an animosity between Harry and the vampires, she never appears again in this book. This could cause a first time reader to think the scene was clumsily added for shock, exposition and to boost page count by a first time writer rather than the needed exposition that it is. The book could have benefited from a tighter narrative that held to its own plot rather than including scenes that only play into the larger series plot.
Who would like this
Is there a genre called “hard” urban fantasy? Urban fantasy that sets up rules to its magic and keeps them tightly reined in? Readers of that type of fiction would enjoy this book. Other types of “high fantasy” fans might enjoy the series, but I feel they would not enjoy the crime and noir feeling the book trades for mysticism and grand hero places. When recommending this book, I tend to use the phrase “Harry Potter by way of Die Hard.” Sure, there is magic and a magical world filled with creatures, but the good guy is a rough and tumble sort with a bunch of problems and a quick wit that barely escapes with his life.
Why was it banned?
As far as I could find, it has not been. However, it is an adult book that features drugs, violence, magic, demons, sex, and gratuitous pizza eating.