Some Heathen are aware of our affection for Jim Butcher‘s “Dirty Harry Potter” series The Dresden Files, concerning the adventures of a modern day wizard (Harry Dresden) working as a paranormal investigator in Chicago. I discovered them during a period of intense travel five years ago, quickly caught up, and have read each new book pretty quickly after publication since.
Well, that sort of changed with the last one. After Changes, the penultimate volume, I was getting a little tired of Butcher’s schtick. He’s turned a certain corner by my lights such that his voice is overrunning his narrative talent, but he’s selling so well he’s got no reason to reign it in. Hey, dude’s making a living, and presumably a nice one, so more power to him, and I absolutely recognize how hard it must be to sustain a series, so this isn’t meant as a dig. It just means I was less enthusiastic about reading Ghost Story when it came out last August. In fact, I didn’t pick it up until this week, when I was reminded it existed after loaning a giant sack of Dresden books to a friend recuperating from some surgery.
Let’s just say my fears were a at last partly justified. I blew through the book quickly, obviously, as is often the case with genre work. I certainly enjoyed it more than The Trinity Six I mentioned in the last book post, but that’s not a high bar. Mostly, I’m still along for Harry’s ride because I already have a bunch of time invested, and I’m interested to see how it all resolves, but that’s the literary equivalent of being in an abusive relationship. Seriously: Ask any Game of Thrones fan.
What’s worse is that Ghost Story doesn’t resolve any of the growing backstory for Harry. There’s nary a peep of the White Counsel, the Black Counsel, or anything beyond the immediate repercussions of the events in Changes. Granted, that was heavy, but what that leaves us with in Ghost Story is a fairly thin plot with a fairly predictable end that’s telegraphed way, way in advance. (And, to be perfectly honest, the finale of Ghost Story is a clear and obvious place for Harry to end up based on the events of Changes; the plot of the most recent book ends up being almost completely filler.)
So, read it if you’re into Harry. And I can’t say the first few books (at least) aren’t fun, so the series itself is at least worth some of your time.
Oh, and how funny is it that Butcher is still putting the same plea to “please read my sword and sorcery Codex Alera books” in the back of each Dresden tome? Apparently, he only wrote the Dresden books to make cash, and his main love is a cycle of traditional fantasy. I do not have the sense that the fantasy carries any of the charm he’s managed with the Dresden Files.
(Confidential to certain parties in surgical recovery: It may be possible to steal Ghost before Erin reads it, given the pace with which you’re reading the others…)