The Dresden Files (books 1 & 2) - Jim Butcher

I know quite a few people who seem to have enjoyed Jim Butcher's "Dresden Files" books, chronicling the eventful life of wizard for hire, Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden in a fairly deliberate conflating of noir and urban fantasy tropes.

So, perhaps my expectations were unfairly inflated by the time I finally got around to reading them.
Let's be fair: I've only read the first two books (Storm Front and Fool Moon), and it's reasonably clear that Butcher has an arc plot or two in mind from the hints dropped by various characters so far.

However, books should be good in and of themselves as well as in their place as components of a larger story, and neither book really manages to rise above "vaguely entertaining". Part of the problem is Harry Dresden himself—he's a little messed up by the vague hints of his past we've been told about, and he has a habit of not telling people vitally important facts and almost getting them killed. (Plus, he rubbed me up the wrong way from the start by wittering about "Science being not enough for people", when his magic clearly exhibits repeatable effects with a well-understood set of laws governing them. Like, erm, the kind of things science investigates? It is unclear to me as to if this is Harry being a moron or actually his writer.)
The main problem, though, is the prose. It's workmanlike; sometimes aspiring to genuinely evocative descriptions, but generally just managing to get the job done. To an extent, this is probably a side-effect of the noir influence on the setting, but I found The Maltese Falcon a great deal more engaging than these.

And, of course, there's the supernatural. Which tends to the predictable meets the all-you-can-eat buffet—not just one kind of vampire but three! (apparently, according to wikipedia), not just one werewolf like creature but four! (or was it five? I forget already...); but all of them basically fairly standard examples of their kind. At least when Warhammer, for example, does this, they turn everything up to eleven. For Harry Dresden, it seems like he just needs to go down the library and check out a book on myths and legends of Western Europe.

(I may be being unfair, a little, in the last criticism. I've also just finished reading the first In The Night Garden collected novel, which manages, in its multiply-nested stories within stories, to also perfectly reinvent a lot of fairy tale/ fantasy paraphernalia whilst simultaneously bringing back the old, forgotten aspects of those tales. (And it doesn't have a werewolf or a vampire in sight, preferring more interesting, more obscure creatures of myth, whose nature hasn't been rehashed repeatedly in popular culture.)

Anyway. I do feel like perhaps I'm missing something in the appeal of these novels. So, if anyone wants to explain to me why they're excellent examples of anything in particular, or how the arc plot really is worth reading the next n books, I'm happy to be convinced.


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