Tag Archives: Dresden Files

Peace Talks

The first thing to say about the new Dresden Files book is, unfortunately, damned near the only thing to say about it. Peace Talks is half of a book.[1] I don’t mean that it ends on a cliffhanger, although it does that. (And I think it may be the only book in the series that has ever done that, including Changes.) I mean that things I want to talk about, although they would be spoilers, I can’t. Well, I could in person, if it were a TV show and we were on the same episode, or if the person I was reading along with was on approximately the same chapter.

But I can’t say that Harry’s actions lack [spoiler here] in a review of the book, because maybe they stop lacking that spoiler a few chapters from now, in the second half of the story. That’s what I mean when I say it’s half a book. The main plot advanced to a cliffhanger, which is fine, and one interpersonal plot actually found resolution that has been waiting for something like sixteen books, which is, uh, pretty awesome. But the mystery of the week plot is just as big of a mystery as it was when it came onto the scene, and the other interpersonal plots are just as half-baked, and how do I review the book when I don’t know whether my complaints will be addressed in the second half of it or not, until I’ve read that half?

[1] The good news is, less than 60 days until the second half is released.

Death Masks revisited

So, uh, massive spoilers for not so much this book but for the entire series through Peace Talks, which is not yet published as of this review. Don’t read farther unless you don’t mind.

Without yet having checked my previous review of Death Masks, I assume that I liked it quite a bit[1], since all of the Dresden books have hit me pretty favorably. And yet, reviewing the audiobook relisten in my head, mostly what I think of it is… well, that’s not fair. It’s still extremely positive. The war with the Red Court is really heating up, we get the first real glimpse of the Denarians, Marcone is humanized[2], there’s some big movement with the Knights of the Sword that, if I remember my timelines correctly, has only recently paid off. Plus, they finally introduced Molly, who appears to have set off the chain of events leading to Harry’s procreation. A lot of really important things happened!

The problem, if there is a problem, is that everything I’ve said (or almost everything) is groundwork for future books. Whereas my actual experience of Death Masks as a book was: you know, it was fine. Butcher has already written better single book mysteries and anyway it only reached half-resolution, and only via deus ex missourian at that. I mean, unless you care how the Shroud of Turin thing turned out, which I suppose is fair enough. The problem, briefly expressed already a paragraph above, is that this makes me sound sour on the book, and I’m not! It was, y’know, fine.

Anyway, the by far more important part, my timeline update. The book occurs in February of year 3, seven months after the book prior. And various events lead me to conclude that okay, probably Harry’s daughter was conceived during this book, rather than being 6 months old already. Which makes her birthday in November of year 3 rather than Augustish of year 2. (Because, see, I’m still making this calculation easy on future me. Woohoo!)

[1] Guess: correct! Shockingly.
[2] Which has stuck with me ever since even if the details of how it happened had not.

Summer Knight revisited

I am shocked to see that we finished listening to the last Dresden Files book less than six month ago. It really seems much longer ago. Which means that yay, still accomplishing something here. Anyway: as usual, the first and most important part of Summer Knight is timeline placement. This occurs in June (midsummer, really) of year 2, a good eight months after Grave Peril.[1]

Huh. I just realized why it seems so long: we didn’t really spend any time listening to the book between the August road trip and today. As a result, I do not have a ton of deep insights into the plot of the book, or the way things are going with the series. I do know that a) Marsters is still a good narrator, even if he keeps randomly not knowing some of the technical language of fantasy, and b) Butcher has definitely hit his stride.

Here’s a little behind a cut, mainly because my footnote definitely has a spoiler, so I need to anyway.

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Grave Peril revisited

Last week / weekend was a big driving vacation (let’s say) to GenCon. Which was cool and completely exhausting but I think pretty cool, but I’m really disappointed that I never managed to do anything much towards getting in on any games. I will be a little choosier about getting involved with something on the next con with signups that I go to. (Which is probably most of them, but not so much BGG.)

None of that is important, of course, except for how it left time to finish an audiobook during the drive, hooray! Grave Peril is I think the book where Butcher found his footing, at least from a plotting perspective. It’s not that the plot of the book is outstanding in some way. If anything, it’s a little bit overly convoluted. What I mean is that I’m finally seeing the seeds of a long term story for the series, as of this book. Not “oh, hey, these characters come back later” so much as “oh, wow, that felt like foreshadowing for things I read in the most recent book or two”. Also, this being a reread, I should probably elaborate along a few axes, below a cut perhaps? Sure, why not.

But first: timeline update. This one is set almost exactly a year after the last one, so we are now in October of Year 1 (granted a starting point of May (I think?) of Year 0). We are first introduced to Michael as well as to the concept of a holy sword of God, which… I’m still not sure how I feel about angels and demons co-existing alongside fae and being from the outer realms. But it hasn’t made me want to kick the books down the stairs, so I guess that’s alright?

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Brief Cases

After a pretty long time, a new Dresden Files book! …well, kind of. Brief Cases is short stories (get it?), which if my count is right makes it two main books since the last short story collection. That’s a little disheartening, right? But, they are largely good stories, and that’s not nothing.

Actually, I should say up front that I liked the stories, one and all. Good bigfoot trilogy, good opening number set in the past which I would read another series about (or watch a show, even better), good look into a character I would not have guessed we’d ever get such a close look at. But…

So, look. Harry Dresden has a great narrative voice, and I am a really big fan of him. He’s not always right, but his heart is always in the right place. Y’know? Like, his errors come from a place of love and caring, not anger or hurtfulness, and that means something. (And he learns, if at a glacial pace.) That said, Jim Butcher does not have a lot of range of narrative voice in this series, is what I have come to learn. There are two Molly stories, and while I do not doubt that Harry influenced her life and outlook quite a lot during her apprenticeship, there’s still a problem if I’m reading a female character and think, “Well, this is just Harry with boobs.” No amount of lampshading his influence over her is going to make that okay.

This was probably the only misstep in the book, and certainly the only one I much cared about. But it was egregious enough to color my overall impression, alas.

Fool Moon revisited

I wish I could say I am horribly backlogged. That would be amazing next to the reality, which is that I just haven’t been doing much of anything. Too busy at work, too busy fighting with my broken comics collection, too busy watching TV. I mean, I’ve done other things in there I’m happy about, but finished books and new movies are not among them.

However, I have been on some road trips lately, and thus finally completed the second Dresden book, Fool Moon. As promised before, my running total indicates that six months have passed since the last book, and therefore, um, six months total.[1] Which is to say, October of year zero. Or at least fall instead of spring? But I think I remember October being right.[2] Also, and apparently I didn’t mention any of this before, but James Marsters (who you may be more familiar with as Spike) does a perfectly serviceable rendition of Harry Dresden’s narration. I mean, better than that, all in all. But occasionally he pronounces familiar words strangely, and on top of that I have an unreasoning love affair with the voice of Paul Blackthorne, despite him only performing 13 TV episodes (that are widely panned) before I had otherwise really ever heard of these books. That will always be the voice I hear in my head while I’m reading.

So yeah, that came out heavier against Spike than I meant it to. He really is good, he’s just not what I want. It’s okay, I’m sure I’ll come around more and more. (Especially since as of the second book he mentions chapter transitions, instead of the nonstop wall of text that the first one was.)

As for the story? I was just slobbering all over it the first time I read it, and this time that was not the case. Partly because it’s no longer a delicious new treat I’ve never had before, partly because I no longer have as big a pile of recently consumed Anita Blake to compare it to, and certainly partly because I’m better at spotting Harry’s character flaws than I was then. He absolutely got people killed under the guise of protecting them, and what’s worse is he hasn’t yet learned that it was his fault[3]. He may have said the words, but you can tell.

Otherwise, the main thing I look forward to in the series is when Murphy starts wanting to beat up Dresden for things he actually did, instead of things she unfairly blames him for doing (or not doing). There’s plenty of that to go around, without the misunderstandings about things he couldn’t possibly have thought to mention at the time.

[1] Later, this running total thing will be more useful.
[2] You know how I said reviewing audiobooks is problematic for me? This is what I mean.
[3] It’s also possible I’m just older and wiser than I was, then? In any case, this doesn’t make me dislike the book, or even Harry. Flawed people are mostly better; that said, it’s been a minute or three since I picked up a new Honor Harrington, hasn’t it?

Storm Front revisited

I probably just shouldn’t bother to review audiobooks, because of how I take so long to finish them. Anyway, Mary and I decided that a good book series to do a reread of while in the car together without a podcast backlog would be the Dresden Files.

I think what caught me off guard most about Storm Front is how icy the relationship is between Dresden and Murphy. I didn’t remember exactly what happened in the book, but hadn’t forgotten enough for a real shock at any point, except for that. It’s funny how far Harry has come, though. He really did start off as just a magical P.I. in the phone book, with no friends except Bob and… okay, most of the same magic toys throughout, but the no friends and no prospects thing is an adjustment.

Oh, and I luckily remembered I intend to estimate how much time has passed in this series, which means it behooves to me document that this episode was set in May of year zero, when Harry is… haha, like anyone mentions ages. I’m guessing late 20s to mid 30s, though?

Skin Game

91WhO9pwfPLI read Skin Game in early September, wrapping it up whilst out of state on personal entertainments, only to find myself firmly entrenched in the emptying, cleaning, and packing of my house ever since I got back. Well, and sometimes work. (Also, I’ve watched a handful of basically terrible movies on streaming television that I shouldn’t ought to have watched and will not be bothering to review.[1])

The upshot of this is that while I know what happened in the book and can say that I liked it and still want to read more (once they exist), I do not have the sense of immediacy that I’m used to having when writing these reviews. Or maybe it’s being diluted by the incredible stresses of selling and moving house. And eventually buying, one expects. So instead of that, I’m going to talk about the series.

Specifically, I’m going to talk about having read 15 books, a short story collection, and a graphic novel. (Pete tells me there’s maybe three more graphic novels and/or ongoing comics with material I’ve not read.) Because here’s the thing about the Dresden Files. They are a bunch of entertaining, largely standalone books, as I’ve probably conveyed extensively since 2007. But they are also telling a long-form, overarching story about this man and his place in his world, and that story is perhaps beginning to buckle under its weight. Everything that happened in Skin Game was predicated on events from previous stories. And there’s nothing wrong with that! ….except the part where I’m almost certainly missing more and more nuances because of not remembering enough details to know, for example, how important this or that player is.

And this isn’t even a problem with the story not being complete. If I were reading all of these in a row, I’m pretty sure I’d be losing details by now regardless. And there are something like ten books left? It’s… it’s a daunting undertaking, is I guess all I’m saying. But they are good. I honestly can’t even tell if I’m complaining or not? All I know is either my memory is not up to this task, or my willingness to immerse myself in long, long stories deeply enough to not miss things has waned sharply over the course of my thirties[2]. Or, you know, some combination of those. In this case, clearly, I’ll just have to get used to missing things or being a little confused by them. Because I have no intention of stopping, or even of waiting until the series is finished before I resume.

[1] “The world’s first NC-17 found footage movie.” Sorry, guys, but I’m pretty sure if it had been actual porn it would’ve had more of a plot than that. ….and that was the good movie of the two.
[2] Which, notably, encompasses the lifespan of this site in fairly close parallel.

Cold Days

5146UKREBPLSee? I said screw it, I’m catching up, and that’s what’s happening! You can measure in months instead of years since I read Ghost Story, and yet here we are, right back to Harry Dresden. Downside of Cold Days: every single thing I could say to set the stage is a massive, massive spoiler for previous books, and it’s only going to get worse.

The Dresden Files have definitely reached a tipping point. This is the book where Butcher has set the stakes and the stage. Lots of small books could still be written if he wants, but damned if Changes doesn’t continue to prove the accuracy of its title time and time again. Example: I dropped the noir tag from this book, because Harry Dresden isn’t really a detective anymore. I think he might still act as one sometimes, but his roles in the world have definitely changed. It would be weird if that aspect was the one that pushed you away from the series, but it’s definitely worth noting that it’s not the same series anymore.

Buckle up, I think it’s only going to get bumpier from here. Also, an oblique spoiler: the title continued to amuse me, start to finish. Very, very cleverly done.

Ghost Story

51PeXmFimqLThis has been a long time coming. Sure, I’m not yet caught up on the Dresden Files, but I no longer feel spoiled for them. So, hooray! That said, I have to figure out how to write this review without spoiling anyone else[1], which I’ll admit is easier said than done.

Ghost Story picks up after the perfectly named Changes, which I understand to be the midpoint of the series, and it focuses on one of the changes that occurred in Harry Dresden’s life over the course of that book. Arguably, the most minor change, certainly next to last. But still, it was a pretty big change, right? So, spoilers follow this paragraph / reside below the cut.

[1] Ha ha, joke’s on me, everyone has already read this book. Who am I fooling?

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