Warning: Possible spoilers for people who haven’t read the Harry Dresden series through book 7: Dead Beat
So, back around New Years I wrote a little bit about what I was hooked on at the time. I had started reading ‘The Dresden Files’ Series by Jim Butcher, because when we asked who your favorite five characters were, Harry Dresden ended up in 9th place overall and I knew nothing about him.
Now, I’m more or less at the half-pole in the Dresden Files world. I’ve read:
I still have yet to read:
But I’m basically at the half point of the series and some patterns have clearly begun to emerge. First of all, I get it. I get why everyone loves Harry Dresden. I, too, now love Harry Dresden. When I began, Jim Butcher’s writing seemed a little…I don’t know…light(?), but as you go on, he clearly gets better. Much, much, much better. In that way it kind of reminds me of Dennis Lehane, where you watch him improve before your eyes.
So yeah, Harry is great. It helps that the world is amazing. It feels real and well designed and messy enough that it doesn’t feel like a construct. The rituals and concepts feel right, somehow. The archetypes work. When he plays against type, Butcher does it right, like in the case of Michael Carpenter, Knight of the Cross, who is a blue collar, work boot-wearing carpenter. The Nevernever is fascinating. The occult stuff is well realized. And generally, it all feels incredibly well done, thought-out, and fun. It’s mind candy and mostly just a super breezy, enjoyable read.
That said, I’m not going to let it off the hook that easy. Just because something is good, it doesn’t mean I won’t poke fun at it. And because there are foundational elements that seem very cookie-cutterish, I decided to make a chapter outline for a standard Dresden Files novel, based on the seven books I’ve read in the last seven weeks or so. Maybe the series will change. (Hell’s Bells, there’s a book called Changes! on the horizon!) But so far, at the halfway point, this is the scoffing recap chapter outline.
(Note: Probably the worst thing about the series is that every book is written to be a standalone, so every time we read another book there’s another description of Mac’s place. Thirteen pillars. Breaks up the magic. I fucking get it! We have to read how cute Karrin’s bangs are every time. We have to read ‘akido’ and what the SI unit is and Mister and how a spirit can live in a skull and what the basement lab looks like and etc. etc. etc. I’m not a person who ‘skips’ paragraphs so this can be tedious. I get it, obviously, but I wish there could be less of it.)
Without further ado…
CHAPTER 1. I’M A WIZARD, HARRY!
CHAPTER 2. I HAVE A FAT CAT WHO IS A GHOST BUS (COMPUTER BOB).
CHAPTER 3. HOLY SHIT AM I BROKE!
CHAPTER 4. WHO THE HELL IS THIS NOW? (THE PART WHERE I TAKE A CASE).
CHAPTER 5. WHY THE BLUE BEETLE ISN’T BLUE (ANYMORE).
CHAPTER 6. I DON’T EVEN HAVE TO HEX IT. ELECTRONICS HEX THEMSELVES AROUND ME.
CHAPTER 7. BLACK COURT, RED COURT. FUCK YOU BOTH.
CHAPTER 8. I KNOW YOU’RE A SEX VAMPIRE BUT DON’T LET ME SEE YOU LIFE DRAINING IN FRONT OF ME. (ME = DAMSEL PROTECTOR).
CHAPTER 9. MURPHY IS FUCKING PISSED AT ME.
CHAPTER 10. I’LL DO IT FOR THE MONEY.
CHAPTER 11. FUCK THE WHITE COUNCIL.
CHAPTER 12. MY GODMOTHER IS A BITCH.
CHAPTER 13. TIME TO MAKE THE EXACT RIGHT POTIONS WITH BOB!
CHAPTER 14. OVERNIGHT PASS BOB. FINE. BUT DO NOT GET ANYONE PREGNANT YOU FUCKING LECH.
CHAPTER 15. JUST WHEN I SAID I’D NEVER GO BACK TO THE NEVERNEVER…
CHAPTER 16. NOW WHAT’S UP MURPHY’S ASS? (HINT: NOT ME)
CHAPTER 17. I DON’T THINK THIS SITUATION IS WHAT THEY SAID IT IS.
CHAPTER 18. SOMETHING IS STALKING NEAR MY HOUSE.
CHAPTER 19. THE WARDS ARE UP! I CAN BREATHE AGAIN. I’LL SLEEP AND THEN I’LL SUMMON TOOT-TOOT OR SOME OTHER WYLDFAE.
CHAPTER 20. THIS NOW? (B PLOT DOESN’T KNOW IT’S NOT AN A PLOT).
CHAPTER 21. I KNEW BETTER THAN TO DO THAT. HAVE TO FOCUS. DAMMIT! (I’M LUCKY THAT DIDN’T KILL ME).
CHAPTER 22. THE POLICE AGAIN? I’M NOT THE BAD GUY, YOU ASSHOLES!
CHAPTER 23. WELL THAT’S A SOULGAZE I DIDN’T SEE COMING!
CHAPTER 24. OKAY IN ONE SECOND THE WHOLE THING JUST FELL INTO PLACE FOR ME. I WISH I WASN’T BADLY INJURED ALREADY.
CHAPTER 25. STARS AND STONES! THESE THINGS ARE LIKE A MILLION TIMES MORE POWERFUL THAN ME. I THOUGHT THE LOUP-GAROU WAS TOUGH!
CHAPTER 26. THERE GOES MY STAFF AND BLASTING ROD!
CHAPTER 27. I’VE SERIOUSLY NEVER BEEN THIS TIRED OR INJURED, YOU GUYS. LIKE FOR REALZ.
CHAPTER 28. OH SO THEY CAN DO THAT TOO? I’M FUUUUUUCKED.
CHAPTER 29. TIME TO LISTEN AND USE THE SIGHT.
CHAPTER 30. OH SO THE BAD GUYS ARE WORKING TOGETHER TO KILL ME NOW? AWESOME!
CHAPTER 31. IT’S ABOUT TIME YOU SHOWED YOUR FACE, GENTLEMAN JOHNNY MARCONE.
CHAPTER 32. THIS IS GONNA BE CLOSE….
CHAPTER 33. I JUST PULLED SOME HARD CORE MAGIC OUT MA BUTT, YA’LLS! (HANG ON DID I JUST USE HELLFIRE AGAIN? SHIIIIIIIIT.)
CHAPTER 34. I SURVIVED? I SURVIVED! THANK GOD NOW EVERYTHING IS A BILLION TIMES WORSE.
CHAPTER 35. FUCK THE WHITE COUNCIL.
How close am I, Dresden fans? What chapters did I forget? I wonder how the second half of the series will evolve and change. I’m sure Thomas and Mouse will be more important going forward (I think?) It might also be nice to see if Harry can go from being kind of a magical pit fighter (all force with limited focus) to the Wizard version of something closer to Shiro. God, I loved Shiro. Not that Harry will ever have that type of clarity of spirit that Shiro did. And Harry still has Fidelacchius! Who’s he gonna give that bad johnson to?
Also, I live in fear of the moment when someone gets the better of Ebenezer and what that will do to Harry. I didn’t fully buy the mechanism where Harry was mad at Ebenezer for not telling him about his past. Maybe I’m less principled than our good wizard. It seemed to me that what McCoy did for Harry far far far outweighed him covering up a dark past. Harry seemed a little adolescent in his response to that, to me. But I’m splitting hairs a bit, and Butcher did a good job of owning that in book 7 when Harry finds out that Ebenezer was injured.
In general, the existence of an incompetent, always-wrong bureaucratic government structure like the White Council (or The Ministry of Magic) was an irritant for me in past books. So it was a huge relief when that dynamic changed in Dead Beat and the Senior Council came off the sidelines to wade in the muck and mix it up. I got really fired up when Harry donned the Warden robes. It felt like a vindication for him and some relief from that dick Morgan. Sit there in your wrongness and be wrong, Morgan, you fuck! Even though the Warden ranks have been crushed, the Council not being a bunch of pussy willows who act like chum for the Red Court was refreshing, as was everyone converging on Chicago for an end-of-the-world showdown. (How long before Harry becomes the Council’s Blackstaff?) One thing that has ground my gears in past books is how Harry just seemed like a goddamn sitting duck all the time and while that tends to keep the tension pegged, man it’s nice when some of the allies he’s made come to his side. I made you Summer Queen and all I get is maid service? Hmmm…
But I love Michael, especially when he wields Amoracchius. I love how Billy and Georgia and the Alphas have grown up. I really like how they’re seeing a change in Harry. Can they already see Harry succumbing to Lasciel’s influence? Her intoxicating style is such a terrifying form of temptation. I kind of love her and how Harry keeps reminding himself that she’s an ancient being, known as the Webweaver and the Seducer and the Temptress. I would have been her love slave in about eleven seconds. She is goddamn delicious. I think Harry’s flirtation with the temptation of power in all its forms, in general, is the most interesting thing about this series.
Tough not to be excited about the arrival of Mouse, because I’m a dog person. And of course the intro of Ramirez, who kind of reminds me of a younger version of the Ramirez character in the Highlander movie. They’re both impossible-to-dislike, gifted, charming, impossible shits.
Kinkaid is interesting as hell. When he was teamed with Ebenezar in Blood Rites and was like “That’s Blackstaff McCoy! I don’t want to be in the same state as him.” (Or whatever, I’m paraphrasing) It was awesome. Your grandad shows up and the magical super-asskicker you hired shits his pants. Makes you look at ol’ grandad differently. There are so many amazing characters, but I feel like I relate to Blackstaff McCoy the most.
Obviously there’s a lot of Harry in all of us, but if you had to pick someone, who are you guys in the Dresden world?
I really like where Harry’s skills are. I think Butcher has done that admirably and it’s tough to do. I like that there are other wizards, Sidhe, etc., who tower above him in power and skill. Feels like you’re meeting James T. Kirk while he’s still in high school. There’s so much room for Harry to grow and learn. So many ways of reimagining his power. So many potential sources for him to draw from, and now, seven books in, there’s enough story where it feels dense enough, where there are real allies and enemies and stakes you kind of understand as a student of that world.
I like how everyone who is stronger than him, to this point, comments on how young and stupid he is. Makes you wonder just how powerful and wise he could get. Really impressive. I mean, just the speech Harry gives to Mavra at the end of book seven? Where he’s like “I have a fallen angel tripping over herself to give me more power, I can do necromancy now, I’m a warden commander, and Mab has asked me twice to be The Winter Knight. If I want more power, I can get it.”
(Is it wrong that I secretly kind of want him to be The Winter Knight? And use Lasciel’s power? And be the Council’s Blackstaff all at once?)
Book seven really seems to have opened up a world of possibilities for the story and for Harry.
It’s great fun. Good pick , Pajibans. Looking forward to the second half of the series…