It’s April the 29th, the last Friday of the month, and we all know what that means: time for my reviews of all the books I’ve read this month! 😀
If you want to read the reviews from March, you can find them here. Now, this month I finished the Dresden Files series, and I have plenty to say about the last few books, and the series in general. A quick preview of the rest of the post: “Wow.”
Anyway. Here are the books I’ve read since last month’s post:
- Blood Rites (The Dresden Files, #6)
- Dead Beat (The Dresden Files, #7)
- Proven Guilty (The Dresden Files, #8)
- White Knight (The Dresden Files, #9)
- Small Favor (The Dresden Files, #10)
- Turn Coat (The Dresden Files, #11)
- Changes (The Dresden Files, #12)
- Ghost Story (The Dresden Files, #13)
- Cold Days (The Dresden Files, #14)
- Skin Game (The Dresden Files, #15)
Holy cow. That’s a lot of books to cover. I’ll divide them into groups and go into them briefly, then add a review of the series as a whole at the end of the post. So if you’re not interested in reading about 10 different books and want to get my thoughts on all of them as a whole, scroll waaay down to read what I have to say about the series.
But uh, again, wow. So many books.
Ah well. Here we go.
Blood Rites, Dead Beat, Proven Guilty, White Night – Jim Butcher
Blood Rites. I read this book a little over a month ago, so I had to look up the synopsis on goodreads. It was there I read “oversexed vampire family” as part of the plot summary. Heh.
Blood Rites follows Harry as he takes a mysterious job for a shady ally. There were a few twists in the plot, which made the result of Harry’s investigation difficult to guess. Mostly though, this book does a good job of planting seeds that will flourish in later books, both with big revelations as well as the introduction of one of my favourite characters. The book is solid, and can definitely be read as a stand-alone.
Dead Beat describes what might be my favourite mental image of the whole series, and that’s saying something. I won’t repeat it so as not to spoil it for you, but trust me: you’ll know when you see it.
Dead Beat is about a rogue crew of necromancers (is there any other kind?) trying to destroy Chicago and gain power. You know, the usual. It brings back a fairly minor character from Death Masks, and gives him plenty of importance. Which is great because Waldo Butters, medical examiner extraordinaire, is as endearing as he is wonderfully earnest about his dorkiness. His war cry of “Polka will never die!” had me grinning in delight.
The magic in this book was great. There were a couple of odd twists in the story, a surprise here and there, but the wizardry is really where it excels. Super entertaining, and fun to learn more about.
This book was also the first in which I noticed what I consider Jim Butcher’s greatest strength in the series: the casual introduction of new characters and development of previously introduced ones, without letting anything feel ham-fisted.
Proven Guilty had some very exciting and excellent scenes. It had me exclaiming in delight while riding in a crowded bus. That’s how great some of the scenes in the book were.
By the way: Charity Carpenter is so kickass. I love her.
The book was delightful. At times it felt like it was just ‘developing the overarching plot,’ but it didn’t stop being enjoyable for that. The creatures Harry confronts were interesting to read about, but the part of the story that was most fascinating was the development of a character so minor I had to go back to another book to confirm they’d actually been introduced before. Great job from Jim Butcher to not only re-introduce them, but develop them and turn them into someone thoroughly interesting and relatable.
White Night has Harry investigating a series of suspicious suicides, as well as looking into the odd behaviour of someone close to him.
I don’t have much to say about this book, except that it made me cry. Not just tear up, but properly bawl. It completed an arc of character growth that was totally unexpected at first, yet felt completely natural. It made a certain character into my favourite of all the series, especially after a beautiful and selfless act. I don’t want to spoil anything, so I’ll just say that as solid as the main story and the action scenes are, the strength and beauty of this book lie in a wonderful relationship that made me fall in love with this series.
Small Favor, Turn Coat, Changes – Jim Butcher
Small Favor is the tenth book in the Dresden Files, and it has Harry make a deal with the devil. Well, more or less. More accurately, it has Harry be strong-armed into helping someone he would do well to stay away from.
My favourite villains make a triumphant return in this book, which came as a complete (and pleasant) surprise to me. The story has some heavy scenes, and some of the most entertaining fights in all the books. I read it in just a couple of days, it was so good.
Small Favor was also the first book to establish that there are consequences to the decisions the characters make. Or rather, Consequences. It also has some heart-breaking moments, plot development, and plenty of Dresden-brand ingenuity and humour. I was reading these books as quick as I could, and by this point they began to blend together, so I’m sorry I can’t say more about the book than this.
Turn Coat takes pleasure in its completely unexpected introduction. It was very fun to read, and you can tell Butcher really enjoyed writing some of the scenes that Harry walks into throughout the book.
This book is heavy on the plot advancement, and introduces what might be the most bad-ass villain yet.
Events build up to a huge melee which in turn ends with the single most exciting fight of the whole series, and one the most awesome things I’ve ever read. I was pumping my arms in the air reading it, letting little excited sounds as I read each sentence of the final confrontation, and cheering louder than I realised at the end. It was so, so good. Look forward to it.
Changes was the first book in the series to disappoint me. Just like Turn Coat, it starts with a completely unexpected revelation, but it sadly devolves from there. I can’t give a synopsis without spoiling huge plot points so I’ll just say the following: The story felt flimsy, and a lot of what happened seemed more like Butcher cleaning house in an attempt to fix the failed, half-developed overarching plot the first couple of books tried to set up.
I didn’t enjoy the idea of the story, most of the scenes, or the ending. However, plenty of important events happen, so it is a must-read to understand the next few books. I suggest just bearing through it. It gets better in the end, promise.
Ghost Story, Cold Days, Skin Game – Jim Butcher
Ghost Story and Skin Game both introduced disappointing ideas for a story, but they both turn out surprisingly well. Ghost Story picks up directly after the shocking ending of Changes, and the huge consequences of Harry’s actions. Reading it, I was afraid of a terrible clichéd twist, a convoluted attempt at retconning Butcher’s gutsy decision at the end of Changes. My fears were unfounded.
As easy as it could have been for him to fall into a trap so many others have fallen into, he managed to balance out a seemingly terrible twist with very good writing. I couldn’t enjoy most of the book with the fear Butcher had written himself into a corner, but the way he redeemed himself by the end earned him my trust. If you read the book and begin to worry about how he would keep the story going after certain revelations, just trust me and keep reading. It works out by the next book.
I mention Skin Game along with Ghost Story despite there being another book between them, because Skin Game also had what I initially thought was a terrible plot, but which also turned out surprisingly well. Briefly, Skin Game is a bank heist story. Terrible, right? The sort of awful story every TV show that has gone on a few seasons too long ends up telling.
Except it’s not. Just like Ghost Story, Butcher manages to make it work, and does a great job of avoiding a trap others have found it easy to fall into.
Finally, Cold Days. Wow. What a fantastic book. This is definitely the one I enjoyed reading the most. So many mysteries are solved here, and so many things happen. I can’t wait to read books 18, or 20 of the series and be surprised at how many seemingly inconsequential events from this book end up being huge plot points by then. Butcher has good form for that.
I hate saying this again, but I can’t give a plot summary without spoiling many, many things. It’s worth reading, though. Excellent.
Thoughts on The Dresden Files as a Whole
The Dresden Files is a series about Harry Dresden, wizard for hire.
Harry is a private investigator, and he just happens to know how to work magic. It sounds cheesy as all hell and, I’m going to be honest, it is.
It’s so great.
I really enjoy unabashed joy in being yourself, whatever you’re like. Some of the jokes, dialogue and even plot developments feel almost awkward from how cheesy they are, but Jim Butcher has too much fun with it all for the books to feel like anything but great fun.
On top of that, there are some really great action scenes that made me cheer and grin and want to jump around from excitement. This along with magic that felt alive and vibrant and fun. The world of Harry Dresden laughs at the idea of fifteen thousands rules for magic, and excels in its simplicity.
However, as entertaining as The Dresden Files is, and the books are very entertaining indeed, Butcher’s main strength lies in his character development, and how he handles time.
Individually, the books aren’t particularly special. They’re written well enough, are clever enough, are good enough, but that’s it. Except when you take them as a whole, they add up to much more than the sum of its parts.
We start the series with a Harry in his twenties, a lonely rebel whose actions and attitude scream rock-and-roll, and who’s mostly alone and ignorant of much beyond his personal problems. By the time Skin Game ends, still 2/3 of the way to the supposed planned length for the series, Harry Dresden, wizard, is in his thirties, with a body that has felt the passing of time. He’s still something of a rebel, but he has grown to understand more, and now plays the other role in some dynamics he was previously in.
A group of teenage wannabe superheroes introduced in the first book grow up, marry, and force Harry to see and treat them as the adults they’ve become a few years later. A traumatising experience doesn’t get swept under the rug, and instead leads someone off the rails, messing with their head in a way that becomes very disquieting later on.
About thirteen years pass between the first book and the latest one. Thirteen years, and instead of pretending the world stands still, Butcher allows his characters to get older, fall in love, become distant, make terrible decisions, run away, be brave…
I have never read a series like this. I have never ever gotten to see a group of people grow together and get older before my eyes. Some stories have cheesy “ten years later” transitions, and others *cough* Harry Potter *cough* pretend that characters grow up when all they do is get a little larger and act the same way, if a tiny bit more mature. The Dresden Files actually allows its characters to change with time, to make big decisions with Consequences. The series feels alive, and its wider universe is fascinating because nothing is permanent. Situations and people change, just like in real life, and it is so refreshing.
When I started these books, I was expecting some bang-average fantasy. What I really got was one of the best series I have ever read. The first couple of books are disappointing, and there are bits of the story that let me down, but as a whole, The Dresden Files is absolutely excellent.
If you’ve read the books, please please please share your thoughts on the series or my review in the comments section below, or on the blog’s facebook page.
Now that I’m finally finished with The Dresden Files, I’m looking for other stuff to read. I’m currently halfway through the first Codex Alera book, but I’m keeping an eye open for something to read once I’m done. Please give me your recommendations!