Wednesday, October 15, 2008

TBR Day: Dresden Files Books 1 to 6

It's the TBR Day challenge again!! Yay!!

So guess what I'll be reviewing this month? Yeah, easy to guess since it's in the title of the post... but nonetheless... Dresden Files books 1 to 6!!! Oh yeah, I'm beating the odds this month... not one or two books, but six LOL :)

Okay, so here it how it went... I bought the Dresden Files 1-7 about 2 years ago on one of my shopping trip. Basically, I was bored and a bit depressed... I read somewhere that the Dresden Files was a good series and decided to try it out. Knowing myself, I bought all the books available at that time... Wouldn't want to love the first book sooooo much and have to rush back to the bookstore, LOL. I tried to read Storm Front, but never got into it... but I kept them... I mean, I have 7 books right? Then, my friend and co-worker asked to borrow a sci-fi book when he went on his trip... and well, I lent him the Dresden Files instead ;) Seeing how fast he gobbled them up, I decided to give the series another try... and I'm now to book 7 :)

Since I'm going to be reviewing the 6 books at the same time, the format of this post will be different... I'll post my thoughts on the series and then, my thoughts on each book. Also, beware, there might be spoilers.

The Dresden Files Series: Mr Butcher has definitively written a winner with this series. I really enjoying it and I like his takes on the different supernatural beings. For example, the vampires are divided into 3 courts: Red, White and Black. Each has its different characteristics and particularities and it makes for a very, very interesting world. So kudos to Mr Butcher, the world-building in this series is one of the best I've read :)

In addition to good world-building, I think that one of the reasons people keep reading this series is for Harry Dresden himself. Our hero is just simply fun to read :) He has a nice sense of humor, he's noble, tenacious, a great friend, a good brother... Simply put, he's a bland of old traditions and new world that makes you LOL. You can't help but root for him and he has this talent for being in such complicated and unimaginable situations :) The most surprising is how Mr Butcher was able to create such a balanced character... I mean, Harry's a good guy, but not too righteous that he wouldn't play dirty. He's been tempted one or twice and he's not entirely pure, but he gets back on his feet and usually does the right thing. He's nice-looking without being drop dead gorgeous and he's smart without having all the answers. Basically, he's all shades of grey and that what makes him so interesting.

Lara traced her fingers in light caresses over the sword at her hips. "You've made me the cat's-paw for you, Dresden. While making me think I had the advantage of you. You've played me at my own game, and ably. I thought you capable of nothing but overt action. Clearly, I underestimated you."

"Don't feel bad," I said. "I mean, I look so stupid."

Another winner in this book is Harry's cast of friends. They are so varied, ranging from humans to vampires. Harry doesn't solve all these cases by himself and if it wasn't for his friends, he'd be dead several times over. None of the characters are one-dimension... they are all well developed and we know what drives them. Also, Mr Butcher knows not to throw them all in one book, i.e. he spreads out their involvement and that's a smart thing to do. Even Harry's familiars are great to read - Mister, his 30 pounds cat; Mouse, his huge Temple dog; and Bob, the knowledge spirit inhabiting a skull and who reads romance :) It's all these characters that make the series so good :)

What about the storyline itself? I have to say that the first 3 books were the weakest in the series in my opinion. I think that Mr Butcher was finding his rhythm, looking for his groove... They followed the same pattern and it was predictable... however, once you start book #4, the tone of the series changes and it becomes a bit more serious... The storylines also thicken up and become multi-layered... there's not just the case that Harry is working, but a bigger story spanning the whole series. Also, Mr Butcher has a lot of surprises in his bag and keeps throwing them at us ;)

So what's not so good? First, there are some adjusting to be done... I have to admit I have difficulty adjusting to the timeline of the book. About one year goes by between each book ^_^; It's easy for Harry, because he's a wizard and doesn't age as fast... but what about his human counterparts? I think that "time" isn't well reflected in the book. It's just hard to believe so much time has gone by. Secondly, there's not much romance in these books ^_^; I personally don't need sex scenes, but I want some lovey-dovey feelings!! Finally, what annoys me is the background information repetitions... for example, in each book, Harry gives an explanation on his Blue Beetle or why Mouse was named Mouse... etc. I understand why there are all those recaps of what happened; however, at this point, I think it's unnecessary. This series cannot be read out of order... so readers have already read all these things a number of times already...

So who is this series for? I think readers who don't mind the lack of romance will enjoy this series. Everyone who enjoys urban fantasy will love this... If you're looking for different takes on the paranormal world, this is it :) You just need to get past the first 3 books and I guarantee, the rest will be a breeze :P

Series Grade: B++ (Would have been an A/A- if it wasn't for the first 3 books)

Storm Front by Jim Butcher
published by ROC in April 2000

Harry Dresden is the best at what he does. Well, technically, he's the only at what he does. So when the Chicago P.D. has a case that transcends mortal creativity or capability, they come to him for answers. For the "everyday" world is actually full of strange and magical things -- and most of them don't play well with humans. That's where Harry comes in. Takes a wizard to catch a -- well, whatever.

There's just one problem. Business, to put it mildly, stinks. So when the police bring him in to consult on a grisly double murder committed with black magic, Harry's seeing dollar signs. But where there's black magic, there's a black mage behind it. And now that mage knows Harry's name. And that's when things start to get... interesting.

Magic. It can get a guy killed.

My thoughts: This was the introductory book and Mr Butcher did a great job. What's fun with this series is that we jump right into Harry's world... Harry already has a set of friends and contacts, so we're spared all the first meeting. This is not the perfect first book, but it's interesting enough and enjoyable.

My Grade: B

Fool Moon by Jim Butcher
published by ROC in January 2001

Business has been slow. Okay, business has been dead. And not even of the undead variety. You would think Chicago would have a little more action for the only professional wizard in the phone book. But lately, Harry Dresden hasn't been able to dredge up any kind of work — magical or mundane.

But just when it looks like he can't afford his next meal, a murder comes along that requires his particular brand of supernatural expertise.

A brutally mutilated corpse. Strange-looking paw prints. A full moon. Take three guesses — and the first two don't count...

My thoughts: This book is basically Mr Butcher's take on werewolves :) I enjoyed the mystery, I thought it was very interesting; however, it lacked something. I like that we're discovering things with Harry and that he's not a know-it-all. While interesting, it didn't make a deep impression and it also followed the same pattern as as Storm Front, which made it a bit predictable.

My Grade: B-

Grave Peril by Jim Butcher
published by ROC in September 2001

Harry Dresden's faced some pretty terrifying foes during his career. Giant scorpions. Oversexed vampires. Psychotic werewolves. It comes with the territory when you're the only professional wizard in the Chicago area phone book.

But in all Harry's years of supernatural sleuthing, he's never faced anything like this: the spirit world's gone postal. All over Chicago, ghosts are causing trouble — and not just of the door-slamming, boo-shouting variety. These ghosts are tormented, violent, and deadly. Someone — or something — is purposely stirring them up to wreak unearthly havoc.

But why? And why do so many of the victims have ties to Harry? If Harry doesn't figure it out soon, he could wind up a ghost himself...

My thoughts: This is the weakest book of the series, without a doubt. First, what was weird is the book opened. Readers are immediately thrown into action and we're giving the necessary information along the way... which wasn't the way to go in my opinion. I thought the book was very confusing and I was wondering if I missed something. In addition, this is the book where Harry's gf turns into a vampire... and I'm sorry, but I really didn't enjoy her character... I always thought that reporter characters were annoying and she was no exception. Poor Harry. What I liked thought is that we were introduced to one of Harry's good friend, Michael and his family plays an important role in the series. In addition, this book cannot be missed, because one of the event is key to the rest of the series.

My Grade: C+

Summer Knight by Jim Butcher
published by ROC in September 2002

Ever since his girlfriend left town to deal with her newly acquired taste for blood, Harry Dresden has been down and out in Chicago. He can't pay his rent. He's alienating his friends. He can't even recall the last time he took a shower.

The only professional wizard in the phone book has become a desperate man.

And just when it seems things can't get any worse, in saunters the Winter Queen of Faerie. She has an offer Harry can't refuse if he wants to free himself of the supernatural hold his faerie godmother has over him — and hopefully end his run of bad luck. All he has to do is find out who murdered the Summer Queen's right-hand man, the Summer Knight, and clear the Winter Queen's name.

It seems simple enough, but Harry knows better than to get caught in the middle of faerie politics. Until he finds out that the fate of the entire world rests on his solving this case.

No pressure or anything...
My thoughts: One of my favorite books in this series. I just love it. At first, I wasn't sure what I would think of it, because I don't usually enjoy fairies... however, this book was great. The intrigue was very good and the whole book, just enjoyable. One of my favorite scene was the White Council meeting which was funny enough and also, you start to understand that world of wizards better. I also liked how Harry dealt with the fairies and in this book, you're really starting to believe that Harry is smart, LOL :P Also, he finally comes clean to Murphy, his cop friend and I think this was important.

My Grade: B+/A-

Death Masks by Jim Butcher
published by ROC in August 2003

Harry Dresden, Chicago's only practicing professional wizard, should be happy that business is pretty good for a change. But now he's getting more than he bargained for.

A duel with the Red Court of Vampires' champion, who must kill Harry to end the war between vampires and wizards...

Professional hit men using Harry for target practice...

The missing Shroud of Turin...

A handless and headless corpse the Chicago police need identified...

Not to mention the return of Harry's ex-girlfriend Susan, who's still struggling with her semivampiric nature. And who seems to have a new man in her life.

Some days, it just doesn't pay to get out of bed. No matter how much you're charging.
My thoughts: I really enjoyed this one as well. I have to say I didn't really like the whole Shroud of Turin mystery; however, the duel against the vampire, that was interesting. LOL, poor Harry :P I have to say it was hilarious to see him running from one life-threatening event to another, if he survived, LOL. The ending was sad and unfortunate, but yeah, I liked it :)

My Grade: B+

Blood Rites by Jim Butcher
published by ROC in August 2004

Harry Dresden, Chicago's only professional wizard, takes on a case as a favor to his friend Thomas — a vampire of dubious integrity — only to become the prime suspect in a series of ghastly murders.

My thoughts: See, there's always thing that I enjoyed and others that I didn't. I like the case Harry was working on - finding who set the Evil Eye on a movie producer... the whole linkage to the White Court vampires, a bit less. I love this book because in it, Harry discover the real identity of Thomas... however, I don't like how Harry pushes away his one time mentor, McCoy. Oh, and this is the book in which Mouse appears!! So yes, a solid book that makes the storyline goes forward... but at the same time, you have to wonder what's happening with Harry's life and the uncertainty is killing me, LOL. Luckily, I have the next few books and I don't have to wonder too long.

My Grade: B

PS - I have to say, I love the new covers better though :P


  1. Wow. you have 3 posts up in quick succession! LOL I was going to come here to comment on your Good Weekend, and was stopped on my track by the newer two. LOL

    Anyways, I wanted to say it was nice to read of your family gathering. I always enjoy huge gatherings like that.

    Ok, Dresden Files. :-) I read Book 1 a few months back and I really liked Harry. I found the action a tad relentless and I'd have enjoyed the story more if the pace was slower. I've got the next 8 books on TBR but I don't know when I'll ever get to them. *sigh*

  2. Jace - LOL, yeah... I went a bit crazy on the posts, but then, I was catching up for the week-end :P

    I know, I love family reunion as well. There's something about being part of a huge family. I just wished we got together more often :P

    Glad you liked Storm Front... to tell you the truth though, I think the pace gets even faster instead of slowing down...

  3. I was told by someone who had read all 9 books that Butcher repeated the background story (Harry, Bob, etc.) in each book - this aspect sounds tedious and it's stopping me from reading Book 2, to be honest. What do you think?

  4. Great review, Nath! I've been thinking about starting the Dresden Files, I think I will now.

  5. I tried this one before as well and never got to the second book. I got distracted. I will have to try it again. Thanks.

  6. Hey Nath - Wow, massive TBR Day post!

    Re your point on repetition, I did notice that in some descriptions (e.g. the Blue Beetle, Harry's apartment, McAnally's pub), but having said that, I read hmm... five books in two weeks. So it probably jumped out at me, but I think it would be less noticeable for people who read a new Harry book once a year. And also appreciated by readers like me, who jump into the series at the fourth book ;-)

  7. I am on book 5 now. I'm reading them pretty slowly and the repetition isn't so bad. I just read a review that said to skip 4, and I don't really understand why, I liked 4. I thought the first was the weakest. Harry was too wimpy in that one and I didn't think it combined well with his need to rescue everyone.

  8. I've read the first two book in this series, and will be reading the others. I guess part of the need for some repetition is to make it easier for people to just pick up any book in the series and understand what is going on. With my pathological need to read books in a series in order could never do that but apparently other people do it all the time!

  9. Jace - Yeah, I did find it annoying. Perhaps because I read all the books together and not at a one-year interval... However, I'm thinking that at book 9, he could stop ^_^;

    Brie - I hope you enjoy them as much :)

    Kris - Hi Kris... the first few books are slow, but he really finds his groove and momentum afterwards :P

    Li - True what you said... but I don't know, even so... I mean, it's not as if it really matters right? ^_^;

    by the way, I just got up-to-date :) Finished Small Favor yesterday... and seriously, starting from Dead Beat, the series is seriously addicting, LOL!!

    Lisa - Skip 4 or skip to 4? Seriously, I think that reading book 1 is for sure... you can skip book 2 and 3, but starting at 4, everything becomes link and it's a really bad idea to skip any of the books.

    For me, the first 3 books are the weakest because Harry has to keep secrets and has nobody to talk to. Makes for a lot of internal angst that's really unnecessary.

    Marg - I understand what you're saying Marg... and for some series, it could be possible... but for the Dresden Files? Starting from book 4, I think that everything is linked and there's motives and reasons behind everything. I don't think you can really skip any of the books and pick it up at say, book 7, you know? I'm the kind of person who doesn't care about order, but i wouldn't for the Dresden files...

  10. I'm pretty sure she said she skipped 4 and read the others. Now I can't remember who it was though, so I can't go back and look.

  11. Lisa - LOL, I wonder if it's not me :P But however, I did say to skip to 4 :P Ah well :) You've already past that point :P

  12. The way my brain works lately I'd almost believe it! But I'm sure it was someone else cause I thought "wow, a lot of people are blowing through the Dresden books!"

  13. Nice summary of the first 6 books of the series. I'm not sure why but I didn't really care for Book 4, the amount of characters got confusing and the fairies didn't really interest me. There were some good parts to it, like the White Council meeting, but I was really tempted to quit the series after reading that one. Luckily, I picked up Book 5 about 6 months later and liked it a lot more. I'm on Book 6 now and it's even beter! Funny how one book could be your favorite and my least favorite huh?

    As for the repetition thing, I don't really find it distracting. It's usually only in the first few chapters that Butcher does this and it's never more than a paragraph or so of explanation. Of course, I didn't read them all back to back but even if you did I don't think it would be too annoying.

    Again, thanks for the well thought out post!