I missed out on the Harry Dresden series for years. I remember once, several years ago, picking a Dresden book up in the library. I glanced at the cover, read the inside flap. And I thought to myself, “I am so glad that someone is writing urban fantasy for men.” Then I set the book down and walked away. I’m not sure if it was the cowboy hat, or the trench coat, or the grizzled-private-eye-but-with-magic vibe, but I just assumed that these books were not meant for me and that I wouldn’t enjoy them. It wasn’t until years later that I picked up COLD DAYS and realized what I had been missing. Of course, the great thing about falling in love with a long-standing series is that, at least for awhile, you have the pleasure of catching up on your reading.
If you haven’t given these books a try yet, there a few very good reasons why you should. One of the things that I find most impressive about them is that author Jim Butcher has, in my opinion, successfully navigated the most challenging part of writing a successful series. So often, the longer a series goes on, the thinner the plot lines get. Some authors simply run out of ideas. Other realize that, if they allow their characters to overcome their adversaries or solidify their relationships, there will be nothing left to write about. So they keep their characters in a constant state of limbo that becomes increasingly frustrating for the reader. But the Dresden books really do evolve. The main character makes decisions that fundamentally change his situation and his relationships. The series grows darker as he becomes less sure of his own morality. The situations that he finds himself in grow more complex. This makes for tremendously rewarding reading, especially in the more recent books.
The other thing that I really find amazing is Jim Butcher’s ability to build up to a fantastic, satisfying resolution for each of his stories. So often authors come up with an interesting scenario or fascinating premise, but then have trouble bringing the pieces of the puzzle they’ve constructed together in a meaningful way. Great endings are much harder to write than mysterious beginnings. But if anything Jim Butcher has the opposite problem. Sometimes I find the very beginning of the Dresden books a little bit dense to get through. But this is because Butcher is laying out all the pieces of his puzzle very carefully. In the end, when everything comes together, he presents the reader with an ending that is both action packed and also, somehow, manages to take you by surprise, as elements come together in a way you would never have been able to predict.
The most recent Harry Dresden book is SKIN GAME. If you haven’t given it a chance yet, it is well worth the read.