The Dresden books are really good airport reads. I’m partial to genre fiction, so I read a lot more science fiction and fantasy than, say, James Patterson or John Grisham. But I think these books fall quite nicely into that quick, fun read section of the bookstore which is also inhabited by Michael Crichton, Dean Koontz, and other, similar, authors. There’s nothing revolutionary, or particularly meaningful here. Butcher isn’t exploring the existential quandary his characters, or delving some broader exploration of life in the early 21st century. In the grand tradition of Louis L’Amour, he’s writing books that are meant to be fun.
And they are. He’s created a rich and vivid supernatural world that grows and becomes more real with every installment. Dresden is a likable character that’s easy to root for – despite his latent sexism, and there are a host of other characters that flesh out his world to a satisfactory degree. Particularly, Karen Murphy finally becomes likable in Summer Knight.
There a few things that kind of intrude on my general enjoyment of the series. The repetition of basic facts of the world always seems out of place and obviously shoe-horned in for readers just joining the series. It’s totally inorganic. I get that not every reader has devoured the preceding books, but I’m frankly tired of being told what a soul gaze is.
But, then again, he’s sold millions of books and has an avid fanbase. So, what do I know?
Summer Knight (Book 4) – 3 stars
Harry Dresden, our titular hero, gets drawn into an eternal conflict between two rivals “courts” in the fairy realm – Winter and Summer. The balance of power has shifted, and the whole thing is centered around the murder of the Summer Knight (each side has “knights” who fight for them). Dresden has to unravel the mystery and save the world before the imbalance throws existence into turmoil. As enjoyable as this book, was, the fairy realm isn’t as compelling as that of the Vampires or various demons.
I had trouble focusing on other books while reading this – so I certainly find the story compelling – it just doesn’t last with me. I’m not going to be haunted by these books 5 years from now, but reading anything else isn’t really working for me at the moment.
Death Masks (Book 5) – 4.5 stars
I find the characters of Michael Carpenter and Johnny Marcone to be some of the more interesting background characters in the Dresden-verse. I’m not really sure why, but any book that features them stands out from the rest. Add to this the enriched mythology of the series with the addition of the Denarians (30 fallen angels who inhabit Judas Iscariot’s 30 pieces of silver), and I think this might be the best book in the series, so far.
I like that the vampire feud acts as an undercurrent for the entire series, as well. No matter what else Dresden is faced with, the potential for vampiric violence always hangs heavy and threatening behind everything that happens. It adds an ominous depth to the books that I find quite pleasing.
Blood Rites (Book 6) – 4 stars
Dresden’s vampire friend, Thomas, hires Harry to solve some mysterious deaths connected to a friend….who works in pornography. Most of this book is centered around the white court of the vampires – which is fairly interesting. White Court vampires feed on lust, not blood. Thomas is an incubus. So they aren’t effected by sunlight, and seem more human than your more stereotypical Black and Red Court vampires. Say what you want about these books, but Butcher is a master at world-building.
Another great thing about these books is that they go beyond the “monster of the week” type stories I’m prone to lump them in with. If this were a TV show (and we’ll pretend right now that it never was – because the Dresden Files was terribly unrepresentative) it would “feel” like a monster of the week show, but it wouldn’t actually be one. None of these books have been throw-aways, they’ve all added to the world and the characters, and have ended up playing vital roles in subsequent events. Blood Rites is no different.
You can probably pick these books up at any point without being too lost, but you’ll be oblivious to some of the more nuanced events. I strongly suggest reading them in order.
Dead Beat (Book 7) – 5 stars
Shit gets real in this book. The quietly simmering war that’s been building in the background takes some major leaps forward in this book. And we’re introduced to the T-rex mount that I’ve heard so much about. At first I was like:
And then I was all:
T-rex fighting zombies, y’all. It don’t get more bad-ass than that.