November 24th, 2011

The Dresden Files

Many years ago, I came across a series that had, at the time, maybe four books in it. Since I like both fantasy and mysteries (though the traditional hard-boiled genre is not my favorite), I gave it a try. I really liked the first book. I didn't care as much for the 2nd for some reason (I have since speculated that it was my mood at the time), so I didn't go on to the third immediately. But eventually I did, and I liked it enough that I went on to the fourth, and I liked that even better.

After that, of course, I had to wait for Jim Butcher to write more, and I got my Dresden fix every year or so. My personal favorite remains Dead Beat (at least so far), but I didn't read the penultimate book, Changes, because what I heard about the ending led me to speculate that it might be the last of the series. So I was saving it for a special occasion. Then Ghost Story came out and it turned out I needn't have worried. 

Then the other day, a copy of the audiobook of Dead Beat came into the store. Like I said, it was always one of my favorites, and since I recently acquired a 40-minute commute to work, I thought I might as well give it a try. I fell in love with James Marsters' reading of the text, and in love with the book all over again. So I embarked on listening to *all* the audiobooks, in order, and also to reading them over again. I have to say, it's given me a very different appreciation of the series. The arc of the overall story comes out much more strongly if you read them all back to back, and I find it really adds something when you don't have to search your memory for references because they're all still fresh in your mind.

It was from here that I finally approached Changes and now Ghost Story. I've only just started Ghost Story, so I won't comment on it, but I had a few thought on Changes, and on Turn Coat, the preceding book. 

BEWARE!!! SPOILERS BELOW!!!!

In both books I wasn't too fond of the earlier parts. In Turn Coat, this had largely to do with the "the-butler-did-it" motif introduced early on. I kept hoping that it would turn out to be a blind, that it was a clever misdirection on Butcher's part. But, no, as it turned out, it really was the old cliche. I really honestly felt that a plot element that had run for several books deserved to have a better conclusion, and the answer should not have been a character that we had never met before. Additionally, there were plot holes you could drive a Mac truck through. But the second half was so spot-on emotionally that I didn't care a whit about any of the rest by the time I got there. Butcher even made up for Peabody with the introduction of Cristos. I have rarely encountered a scene as emotionally satisfying as the one with Morgan at the end. And, to a lesser extent, the scene with Luccio.

In Changes, I mostly felt that poor Harry was getting hammered on just a little *too* much in the earlier part of the book. But again, Butcher pulled it out in the second half, and especially with the slam-bang ending. I mean, I sure didn't see that coming. Not even a little bit, and it was heart-wrenching once I got there. I was sort of dreading the end, since I'd heard what happened, but actually I really liked it. 

As an aside, I was talking to my agent about the Dresden Files the other day, and she mentioned the phrase "urban fantasy." I was a little startled. I know what urban fantasy is, of course, but I've never actually read any--as a genre it doesn't particularly appeal to me. But what I thought was funny was that I've never thought of the Dresden books as urban fantasy, even though they clearly are. Thinking it over, I decided it was probably because when I first encountered them, urban fantasy wasn't as common as it is now and might not even have been on my radar at the time.

Anyway, I've immensely enjoyed my re-reading of the series, and I've found that, taken as a whole instead of individually, they have a much more epic quality to them than I had remembered. I'm awfully sorry that I only have one book left.