A Series Review
I started reading this series just after the tenth book – Small Favor — was released. Of course I was starting at book one, but it didn’t take me long to gobble my way through the first nine and get to that tenth story before I wanted to. Then I had to wait … not so patiently … for the eleventh. So, I guess I could say that I became an addict very quickly.
Jim Butcher has achieved so much with this series. The world-building is top notch, the character development is excellent and the emotional impact of each book is powerful. The stories are told from the point-of-view of a modern day wizard named Harry Dresden. He advertises that he is a wizard but he’s licensed as a PI. He also consults with the police department which is what brings us into the story in the first book.
The series now has fifteen titles plus many short stories that are compiled in a release called, “Side Jobs”.
Here are my ratings and flash reviews for each installment:
Storm Front: this is a fairly good introduction to the series. It’s a little clunky, as most first books are but it’s funny and entertaining. We get to know Harry as the protagonist who tells the story (first person POV) and some of the characters that surround him. It’s funny and exciting.
Fool Moon: arguably the weakest book in the series. Harry continues to be funny, the featured characters are strong, but the story telling is a bit weaker here. Far too many chapters end with a dramatic tag like: “and I knew I was going to die.” And then he doesn’t die, of course. Harry’s romantic life takes some focus.
Grave Peril: this is the book that really puts The Dresden Files on the map. An important character is introduced and a shocking twist that affects the entire series going forward is put into play. This is epic story telling. Heartbreaking and thought provoking as well as exciting. Debate continues in the fandom over this book and the events that stem from it.
Summer Knight: the first time I read this book I didn’t like it. I probably should have set the series aside for a book or two before I jumped into this one. Grave Peril was such a shock to the system. This book deals with the Fae courts in much more detail than the previous books and it can be a bit mind-numbing in parts. But it’s an important book in the series and really does have some amazing scenes.
Death Masks: the return of a particular character and the introduction of some seriously freaky villains make this book one of my favorites. The story telling is tight, the events resonate throughout the rest of the series and the character growth and story impact are key to the rest of the series. In my opinion, this book starts the strongest five-book run of the series story wise.
Blood Rites: some reveals that would be surprising if I hadn’t read the back-of-the book blurb first. Beware! They pretty much spoil you there. Again, an exciting and thought-provoking book with the fandom’s favorite opening line: “The building was on fire, and it wasn’t my fault.”
Dead Beat: this book has pretty much everything in it and I really don’t want to get specific because each surprise unfolds so beautifully it would be a shame to be spoiled beforehand. More new characters are introduced and some old ones are brought back to bother Harry. This book has huge implications for future events and remains a goldmine for fan speculation.
Proven Guilty: Butcher incorporates a horror movie/pop culture convention in this story and he does it beautifully. There are more surprises, some heartbreaking, and tons of suspense. Huge foreshadowing for future events too. An excellent book with action and heart.
White Night: one of the best books of the entire series, in my opinion. We’re back with the White Court vampires and dealing with their intrigue. As always there is a B story that brings in several surprises and some pathos. I absolutely love the intricate, clever and brazen way that Harry gets himself (and others) out of impossible situations.
Small Favor: one of my least favorite books. I should probably reread it, because I’m not sure why I disliked it. It’s possible I was on too much of a high from the previous book and this one could only fail. It’s also possible – probable – that jamming through ten books back-to-back in a series is a terrible idea. So I’m ambivalent about this book and I admit my initial reaction and continued attitude toward it might be unfair.
Turn Coat: definitely in the top five installments of this series for me. The story unfolded with finesse, the characters were at the top of their games, the long term impact was obvious. This one has what I consider to be one of the strongest story arcs while maintaining multiple threads of the series.
Changes: Butcher deviates from his title tradition (two words, the same number of letters in each word) with this installment. The name says it all and I’m not sure how he could have called it anything else. I both love and hate this book. It got the highest ratings from me but I’ll also admit it may have jumped the shark. It took several books to get the mojo back and I’m not sure it’s entirely returned. The story has some glitches and convenient events but as I said, the emotional impact is stronger than most books I’ve ever read. It stuck with me for a long time.
Ghost Story: an important book. Can’t say it was as entertaining as a typical TDF, but it was important. And it wasn’t entirely bad, it was just a totally different feel. Harry’s in the position of having to learn a completely new set of rules and that takes up a lot of time. As a reader I felt frustrated, but not in a good way.
Side Jobs: This is a compilation of short stories written by Butcher for The Dresden Files. Most are from Harry’s POV but three are not. Butcher is particularly good at writing short stories so this is an enjoyable — as well as handy — element for the TDF fan to own.
Cold Days: while this book returned to the more typical TDF story arc, there was a lot of business to get through. Unfortunately a lot of things didn’t happen that readers/fans thought were important to see. That’s where the consideration of “shark jumping” comes into play. The events of Changes were big enough that they haunt (drag down?) every story following. While this story was exciting and fun, there was still a jarring sense of “not right” with the whole thing. Maybe that’s good, maybe bad. Some books down the road I may be able to look back and see that effect was important to the whole.
Skin Game: definitely a step up from the previous book. A caper-style tale that incorporates some of my favorite characters and brings shocking changes for some of them. Very well put together, very well told. There’s one moment that haunts me, however, and my concern is that Butcher is trying to “retcon” an event that was probably the biggest, most soul-changing action in Harry’s life. That leaves a bad taste in my mouth because it was something that didn’t have to happen as it did in the first place. The author chose that sequence of events rather than a simpler path, he can’t just pretend the simpler path happened at this point. It’s got to be dealt with. I could go on for hours about that part, so I’ll stop. But, yes, the story telling is back on track here (aside from that otherwise beautiful scene where doubt was formed in my mind as to Butcher’s intentions).
The next book in the series will be called Peace Talks and no release date has been set. Butcher appears to be a little burnt out on the Dresden Files and the books are coming slower. I guess it happens after fifteen books from the same protagonist.
Jim Butcher also has an epic fantasy series called, “Codex Alera” that I’ve read and it’s quite good. He’s starting a steam punk series called, “Cinder Spires” the first book of which is called, “The Aeronaut’s Windlass” and is scheduled to be released on September 29, 2015 (finally!).