We Keep Reading: Dresden part 13

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…)

3 thoughts on “We Keep Reading: Dresden part 13

  1. I haven’t read these, but my wife Sally, her brother Jamie, and his roommate John (the latter two are part of my weekly D&D circle, natch) love them. Sally enjoyed the last one, but John and Jamie didn’t. Might have to try these out while I’m on the road this spring, the early ones at least. It’s good to have a male character in this popular “urban fantasy” genre (which is a stupid name, but no one has really known what to call it). I’ve read a few authors in this genre, a Laurel Hamilton here and a Kim Harrison there, mostly cause I was a huge Buffy fan but also ’cause Sally loves the genre. (But then she can read five books a week, both high and low brow.) The thing that struck me about “urban fantasy” is not that the protagonists are mostly female, even though they are, but that EVERY SINGLE BOOK in the genre is written in first person, or at least every one I have seen.

    Sally adds that you might want to check out Codex Alera after all, despite your misgivings. It’s more traditional high fantasy yes, but Sally, Jamie, and John all love it, and Sally usually is not a high fantasy fan. The quality among those books seems, according to them, to be generally higher than in Dresden. Plus they’re cheapo paperbacks (of course, you may be reading all your books via iPad now).

    oh, and look, I can comment now. I’m sure you have missed my drolleries. And, by the way, ROLL EFFING TIDE.

  2. Heh, the party in surgical recovery also has too much invested in this series now to give up. I ended up taking Ghost Story out from the library.