As many may have noticed, I’m a sucker for a curmudgeon of a hero. I like them cranky with bad humor and a heart of gold. I like my heroes skirting the line of dangerous and questionable behavior, but always coming out a good guy, mostly. Harry Dresden is my kinda hero.
You’ve probably heard of him. He’s a an asshole private investigator and the only wizard in the Chicago phonebook. At least according to the stories written by author Jim Butcher. He also had an ill-fated and horribly bastardized television series on SyFy. I blame Nicolas Cage for its horribleness – he ruins everything. When he couldn’t make The Dresden Files work on TV he totally stole Dresden‘s look for The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, but I digress.
The Dresden Files, as they are collectively referred to, span 12 complete novels (these are available in audio books narrated by James Marsters of Buffy fame), a 13th on the way, a myriad of short stories, graphic novels, and even a role-playing game. This is all in addition to his multi-volume Codex Alera series. To say Butcher is prolific is an understatement. The man is a story-making machine!
A lot of issues that authors run into when they crank out such a sheer volume of material on a specific character-driven series is that the stories get stale, or the character goes flat, or the author goes crazy and takes their entire creation with them (::cough::laurellkhamilton::cough::). But not Butcher. If anything, Dresden has gotten better and better as time goes on. Each novel can stand on its own, but viewed in conjunction with the other novels, Butcher paints an expansive tale that grows and grows with each edition. A reader would have to read them all to appreciate its full scope leading to the final end game. Mixing the right amounts of fantasy, horror, and hard boiled detective work in a modern setting, Butcher is like a mad genius taking things that usually don’t work together and making them brilliant.
Through the course of the 12 novels we follow the life of Harry Dresden and his series of unfortunate events. Really, really, bloody unfortunate events. Dresden is not your cuddly Harry Potter kind of wizard. Dresden’s wizardry is like warfare. It’s violent, explosive, amazing, and borderline out of control and all delivered with hold-your-breath suspense and a witty quip.
We tag along with Dresden as he grows as a wizard and a person, becoming darker as the tales unfolds. I became so very attached to Dresden. He is exactly what I would want a wizard/hardened detective/smart ass anti-hero to be. He’s screwed by his friends, by life, by himself and yet, he still keeps kicking along the way collecting people to care for and subsequently become liabilities.
One of my favorite aspects of the book is that Butcher sugar coats nothing. It is so hard to keep the magical abilities of your character from running rampshod over a writer. The temptation to use magic as a convenient plot device that gets your character out of harm free and clear is oh so very tempting. Butcher denies himself this luxury and sticks it out the hard way – adhering to the rules of the universe he has created and never compromising to take the easy way out.
There are no shortage of horrors. Gore, violence, monsters, zombies, black magic, vampires, evil fucking fairies, and don’t forget the human mafia and their traditional thugs thrown in for spice. Dresden finds himself pitted against all manner of adversity and most of the time he makes it out, just barely. The Dresden Files are a wonderful fusion of fantasy, sci-fi, and hard supernatural horror that appeals to the escapist reader.
He’s so good he made a zombie t-rex work. A zombie t-rex.
Ghost Story is the latest in The Dresden Files which comes out July 26, 2011.