Warnings: This is concerning the whole series, although so far I have read the following books: Storm Front, Fool Moon, Grave Peril and Summer Knight.
I first discovered The Dresden Files through the short TV series that aired a while ago. And you know what? Even after having read the books, I still like the TV series – part because of the nostalgia factor, part because I really do picture the characters the way they were in the show, and part because it’s genuinely not a bad series. It’s not much like the books, but if you don’t sit and compare, it’s actually quite pleasant (if you’re not nitpicky about your live action TV shows, and I know I’m not).
But I did not come here to talk about TV shows!
The Dresden Files are a guilty pleasure of mine. They’re like Raymond Chandler with modern magic, and you know what? It works. They’re extremely cheesy, using every known trope ever created in penny dreadfuls and it works so well. The reason I decided to review the first four books in one post is that, honestly? There’s no point in breaking it all up, as I would probably say the same thing about all of them, as they have similar formulas that surprisingly doesn’t irritate.
The world of magic is well-developed in a way that you can actually believe all of this could be happening right under your nose. While it focuses on the wizard community in the US, you definitely don’t get the absolute US-centric feeling you would expect (not that it isn’t US-centric, but you kind of get the feeling there’s more beyond its borders, which many movies fail to do, let alone books – a very small issue I have with A Darker Shade of Magic, but I’ll leave that for another review), and the way magic works is just… so good. I haven’t read many novels where there was modern magic used in an urban lifestyle, but I feel The Dresden Files manages to present a relatively original way of doing it.
And I love the magic side of the world! I can definitely say Jim Butcher took all resources he could find that contained any mention of a magical creature and mixed them up so shamelessly (and so well) that even I, who knows a thing or two about creatures in legends, stopped to wonder if, for example, the Queens of Summer and Winter’s names were something taken out of an actual legend (and not more fiction, as I discovered). It’s slightly more imaginative than what the Nicholas Flammel series did in that regard, honestly. The way magic works is consistent and solid, and you actually start seeing and even learning the laws and rules of it in that world.
The characters. Ah, yes, where I usually get into some sort of rant about bad development and what have you. But not really. The cast that is constant is actually unique, each with its own little quirks that you just can’t help but like, and your main character, Harry Dresden, is just as lovable. He’s a dark brooding man with a past filled with pain and drama, afraid to love others because they might get hurt and oh my, how you will hate to love his self-congratulatory, self-deprecating, and sarcastic remarks throughout the narrative! Harry Dresden is a weak spot of mine. I’d want to have dinner with that man.
Normally after gushing for a while, I step into criticisms. But you know what? I don’t think I really have any when it comes to this series. Not because the books don’t have their flaws, but because the flaws are really not unusual to the genre. If I was going to complain about certain factors, then I really shouldn’t even be reading those books. I didn’t get any nasty surprises (so far) simply because I knew exactly what I was getting into – yes, there’s going to be a lot of expendable background cast, yes, there’s going to be soap opera dramatics, and yes, the women are going to be somewhat reduced to sexual objects (although I feel Jim Butcher could have done a whole of a lot worse in that regard than he did, and I actually think the female characters aren’t as objectified as you would normally expect) – but that’s nothing new in the genre, and honestly? I liked how it was all executed. When it comes to the actual style, I have nothing but positive feelings: it’s playfully dramatic, doesn’t take itself too seriously and you can sort of tell even the author thinks Dresden himself is being ridiculous sometimes.
It’s just such a good guilty pleasure.
Conclusion: I came for the penny dreadful and I got the penny dreadful. Nothing more, nothing less; and it’s so good. I will read as many of the series as I can get my hands on.
Would I recommend: yes! If you don’t mind cheesy detective stories and Edgy Dark Narrative from the perspective of a Lonesome Man Filled with Sore Pain then definitely pick those up and give them a read. They’re easy to go through, too!