Last year, I read the Old Man’s War series by John Scalzi, and struggled to put together reviews for the latter books. After awhile, there really isn’t much to say when every book in a series is as consistently good and enthralling as the ones that preceded it. So, with The Dresden Files (which I plan on reading in its entirety), I’m just going to throw a bunch of reviews into a few posts. Here are the first couple:
Fool Moon (Book 2) – 4 stars
The consensus seems to be that the first 3-4 books in the Dresden Files series are a bit of a slog. While I haven’t found that to be true, there’s a fairly important character dynamic that’s already getting under my skin, and I hope it’s not a common thread in future books: Lt. Murphy inevitably thinks Harry Dresden is somehow involved in (or responsible for) whatever crime is being investigated. Just stop it, already. This is a fairly lazy device that’s being used to set up tension and create hurdles for the protagonist – and it’s built on that insufferable trope of characters withholding information from one another for no sensible reason. Dresden either needs to be more open with Murphy, or she needs to be more trusting of Harry. They’ve supposedly been working together for years to solve cases, and they still can’t overcome these simple hurdles? How do they ever get anything done?
(Full disclosure: I was reading these the same time I was reading The Bollywood Bride. So characters not talking to each other was even more irksome for me than it otherwise would be.)
Apart from this annoying plot device, I found this book to be a smooth follow-up to Storm Front. It has the same tone, builds on the world constructed in the first book, and enriches the characters contained therein.
In Storm Front, Dreseden faced off against a powerful but relatively inexperienced wizard. In Full Moon, he’s trying to solve murders that were apparently committed by werewolves. There were players behind the scenes in this book that I saw coming fairly early on in the story, but the characters and pace of the book were good enough to make my lack of surprise a fairly minor complaint. Towards the end of the book, Dresden ponders a larger force behind the events of both of these books, but doesn’t really give it much attention. I expect this to be foreshadowing.
Grave Peril (Book 3) – 3.5 stars
I hate Murphy. Sorry. All she ever seems to do is distrust Harry or yell at him because she doesn’t realize he’s trying to do what’s best for her. I don’t buy that they’re friends, and I don’t buy that Harry respects her. Why does he? What has she ever done except accuse him of being a murderer and disregard his sacrifices?
And, far as that goes, I’m not a huge fan of Susan, Harry’s love interest. She’s a civilian. She’s not a wizardess (I think that term is used in these books). Neither is she a vampire, fairy, or any other kind of magical being. She’s a normal person, who’s at least somewhat familiar with the magical realm. But she brazenly exposes herself to danger which she is woefully incapable of dealing with. There’s gutsy, and then there’s stupid. Susan borders on the stupid. Even when warned by Harry that she’s in danger. Come. On.
I’m not sure if this woman problem is Harry Dresden’s or Jim Butcher’s. Dresden (these books are in the first person) freely admits that he’s a misogynist, but in a very dismissive way. Like, “folks call me a misogynist because I like to open doors for ladies.” No. That doesn’t make you a misogynist. You’re a misogynist if you treat women like precious little flowers who can’t open doors for themselves, not because you’re polite. He (whether it be Dresden or Butcher) doesn’t seem to know the difference.
There’s a lot to like in these books. Harry Dresden is fairly likable, and the magical world Butcher has created is alive and rich in its density. But I worry that the female character issue might make these books more frustrating than rewarding. And I hope that some over-arching themes develop. If every book is a “monster of the week” kind of scenario, I expect to get bored before I finish the series. As it stands, I’m still very much enthralled by the books, and the general consensus is that they get better from here.