While I was a member of the Science Fiction Book Club, I purchased an omnibus edition titled Wizard for Hire by Jim Butcher. It includes the first three novels of the Dresden Files: Storm Front, Fool Moon, and Grave Peril. I devoured these three novels in short time. I’d say that it took reading all three novels in order to come to a general opinion of the series, which is now at sixteen books. These books are exciting page turners, but they smack of being formulaic. It’s a very good formula where the obstacles keep mounting for the hero, but I find myself leery of formulaic plots. After all, can’t one keep changing the details and villains and continue to churn out thrillers? One of the things I like about the classics is that the science of writing a story was not well known. The plots might be slow or full of errors when looked upon from the science of novel writing, but they’re more interesting for all that.
For all the sense that Butcher follows a kind of formula, the details and characters in each story are brilliant and lovable. These areas of the novels and the prose itself contain his artistry and great sense of humor. I might describe his hero as a Philip Marlowe with the physical features of Sherlock Holmes–sans the master detective’s athleticism. But, Butcher adds the twists of Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden (what a name!) being a wizard and perfect gentleman. Butcher also goes to great lengths to making Dresden seem more human and less hard-boiled than Marlowe. Another recurring character is Karrin Murphy. I find her too touchy and too much of a feminist. It’s cool that she’s a Aikidoka (Though, her trophies prove that she’s numbers among the sport Aikidoka, whose art is less traditional), a sharpshooter, and a tough cop; but, she’s way too demanding. (I was happy to see less of her in Grave Peril.)
Besides Raymond Chandler’s detective novels, I’d say that he owes much to H. P. Lovecraft and Christian writers like Tolkien and C. S. Lewis. Concerning the former, the vast array of supernatural villains and the idea that giving in to evil never pays are very Lovecraftian. The ideas of sexual purity, the positive presentation of faith, and the constant battles between good and evil evince a Christian moral background. Though Harry Dresden himself seems to be kind of pagan–he still believes in God, but is not sure whether God is caring, Butcher introduces a very Catholic character in the paladin Michael, the Fist of God. Virtuous characters are often accused of being boring, but Michael, with his stoic insistence on morality, quiet faith, and a bastard sword named Amoracchius, stand as one of the series greatest characters. Michael appears in Grave Peril, and the opportunity to read more of him and Dresden battling villains will likely convince me to pick up more novels.
So, I have a rather positive impression of the Dresden Files. Though the plot for his modern fantasy thrillers reveal a formula, the writing, characters, and other details he adds are very interesting. They feature suspenseful and action-packed battles between good and evil. So, these novels are great fun and I recommend that you read a few of them. Fool Moon, which dealt with werewolves running rampant in Chicago, stood as my favorite of the three.