The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher – book review

By Emma Brooks

It’s time to go back to one of my favourite literary genres: fantasy. Always on the hunt for a good new fantasy book, I regularly visit this section in the bookstore and last time I went, came back with the first book in the Dresden Files series: Storm Front. Since then, I have read the first five in the series.

About the author:

Jim Butcher is an American author and is best known for the Dresden Files series. He was introduced to the world of fantasy as a child, and soon became obsessed with it as well as with science fiction. He therefore started writing as a teenager, and decided to make writing his career. After numerous attempts at a more traditional style of fantasy, his first book in the Dresden Files was written as part of an exercise for a writing course. Ultimately, the Dresden Files is what really allowed Butcher’s career to take off.

About the novels:

Our main protagonist is Harry Dresden, a wizard living in modern day Chicago. No, he is not a wizard who has a long beard and wears a pointy hat, but he nonetheless has powers of some sort and is recruited by modern day individuals in Chicago, to deal with the supernatural ongoings they cannot grasp.

Harry is usually employed by the police’s special investigations unit, which deals with crimes that cannot be explained any other way than by magic. Here, Harry works closely with his friend and police officer Karin Murphy. Once Harry starts investigating a crime scene, he usually runs into all sorts of trouble, starting by being chased by whichever magical being is the perpetrator of the crime. Not only that, but he has to protect his human friends from magic they cannot deal with, and he also has to make sure he doesn’t cross any lines established by the White Council, the governing body of magic. However, Harry usually battles it out with whoever is behind the mysterious happenings until near death, before triumphing.

Aside from the White Council, the governing body of magic, we also have regular encounters with the underworld in which live many different magical and dangerous creatures: ghosts, fairies, vampires and werewolves amongst others. We also get a hint of romance as we follow Harry’s endeavours to find love, despite the fact the he lives as a stereotypical bachelor does: on his own, in a dark house and living off take-away food. However, he succeeds in having a romantic affair with the journalist Susan Rodriguez, who is also one of the recurring characters in the novels.

Though it took me a while to get into the first novel, the action is good as is the magical/fantasy element. Admittedly, Harry’s powers are not the most incredible you will have come across if you are a regular fantasy reader, but the magical monsters he is often up against are fun and creative. Aside from the usual, there are also some other less traditional ones that crop up in the stories and help to create the suspense as we wonder what on earth Harry is up against.

Butcher’s literary style is not always my favourite, sometimes weighing in with sentences like “excuse the pun” that I find unnecessary, but his books are nevertheless catching. Once you start it is hard to put them down as you want to know what happens to Harry. Butcher builds upon the characters that recur in each book, making you want to follow them and their life stories as well as Harry’s.  This also allows you gain in familiarity when picking up the next book in the series, taking up where you left off.

It might not be the most exciting fantasy read you have had, but I would definitely recommend the Jim Butcher series for anyone who is in search of a light but gripping read in the fantasy genre. Not only that, but the fact that the Dresden Files contains many books means that you don’t get the impression of having read only one book and then having to hunt for a new series, and what’s more, the series is still not complete.

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