Jim Butcher is another one of those authors I see everywhere and get recommended by everyone. And whenever I ask/look to see which is the first book by him I should read, pretty much everyone agrees this book. This book and its subsequent series might be categorized as urban fantasy, which I’ve heard kind of combines murder mysteries and modern fantasy, often set in the real world with fantasy elements.
Although there were certainly parts in this book I enjoyed, I have a feeling my opinion about this book is highly unpopular. So be warned if you go into this review loving this book, you might be a bit triggered.
Synopsis: (from Goodreads) “Harry Dresden is the best at what he does. Well, technically, he’s the only at what he does. So when the Chicago P.D. has a case that transcends mortal creativity or capability, they come to him for answers. For the “everyday” world is actually full of strange and magical things—and most don’t play well with humans. That’s where Harry comes in. Takes a wizard to catch a—well, whatever. There’s just one problem. Business, to put it mildly, stinks. So when the police bring him in to consult on a grisly double murder committed with black magic, Harry’s seeing dollar signs. But where there’s black magic, there’s a black mage behind it. And now that mage knows Harry’s name. And that’s when things start to get interesting. Magic – it can get a guy killed.”
There are many intriguing aspects of this book, and yet I could never find myself enjoying it. Jim Butcher seems to be trying to take common tropes, especially those in noir mysteries of the 1930’s like those written by Raymond Chandler, and turn them on their head. While I appreciated that, I felt there were times Butcher played into the tropes too much. Harry Dresden was not the most interesting protagonist to me. He was dull, without a deep understanding of the world and thus we, in his head, get a pretty shallow understanding of characters and the world. The world itself was interesting, and I appreciate how it was woven into the real world, and the mystery was intriguing. But because of the perspective and protagonist, I just couldn’t get into the book.
Many of the tropes Butcher plays with are common noir mystery tropes, like the femme fatale. I appreciated some of these, and yet I felt like the book relied on these tropes too much. It became boring when a trope was introduced, because I became quickly certain it would be turned on its head in some way. In that sense, the unexpected soon becomes the expected.
The world itself was really well done. Even though the story is set in a world which is pretty much ours, there are vampires and wizards living in the open. It’s not like an underground world, and instead a magical world woven seamlessly within our own. I won’t get too into the details because of spoilers, but for example a human police detective calling on Dresden to help solve her case with magical elements.
I found it interesting how Harry Dresden moved between two worlds, the human one and the magical one, so easily. Similarly, the plot is balanced between the mystery and the fantasy. I’m not a massive urban fantasy fan, but I didn’t dislike this aspect. I just found the ending to be a bit of a cop-out, based on luck more than Dresden using intellect to solve the case.
Basically, I think this book was too hyped for me. I was expecting a really good book, but instead found a merely okay one. Because of that, I was a little disappointed. I probably won’t continue on in the series, not because it was a horrible book, but simply because it wasn’t a strong enough world or main character to intrigue me to read more.
Have you read this series? Or heard of it? Let me know your thoughts down in the comments, follow my blog for more musings and, as always,
Best wishes in your life full of adventure,