Review – The Dresden Files
The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher is one of my favourite series. Essentially, the series is about the adventures of a detective who is also a wizard.
Personally, I don’t find much fantasy enjoyable, because in a lot of cases the world is inconsistent. If it’s a story where the world is exactly the same, but there are wizards, then why has that not shaped history? What boundaries are placed on the power of the main character? If one wizard can blot out the sun why can’t they all do that? There are some fantasy stories that do answer these questions, but I find plenty of fantasy stories that don’t. While I understand that you have to suspend disbelief in order to read any fiction, I find world inconsistences jostle me out of a good reading experience.
The Dresden Files is a perfect example of how to do magic systems right. Over 15 books and several short stories, there is no point in which the magic system is inconsistent. It answers why the existence of magic hasn’t changed the course of history and it evolves as the character evolves. By book 15, if Dresden was confronted by the same challenge he faced in book 1, he could slap it down with ease, because the character has learned more about the world and become more powerful. It is a testament to Jim Butcher’s skill that he doesn’t have any power creep in such a long series.
When I discovered the Dresden Files I bought the first book because I watched the short-lived TV show. The idea of a wizard detective drew me in and I saw that 11 books already existed so I bought the first story “Storm Front.” The first book is by no means perfect, but it hits all the conventions of a paranormal murder mystery. The only real criticism I have of the first book is that the intensity of the scenes is a little uneven. As you read through the books Butcher gets much better at this, the highlight that stands out in my mind happens in “Small Favour” right as the climax is coming to an end. The climax is battle heavy and high stakes, then after Dresden has achieved his goal he is confronted by the conclusion of a subplot. Instead of going into battle and high stakes life-and-death, Butcher punches the reader with a subtle life-and-death battle of words.
The Dresden Files is a great series and I suggest you quit whatever you’re doing and go read it.