Saturday, March 28, 2015

The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher

After a too-long separation, I finally got to spend some quality time this week with a good friend of mine. This guy has run me -- and all of his other friends -- through the wringer. Bad relationships, health problems and serious injuries, questionable career choices, crises of faith, a child he didn't know he'd fathered, brushes with the law, troubling associations with bad folks... Heck, we were all even convinced he was dead for quite a while. All that aside, he's one of the most genuinely GOOD people I've ever read.

What, you thought I actually knew someone that interesting in real life?

I speak, of course, of Harry Dresden, protagonist of the excellent Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher. (The early books of the series were previously recommended by GLW here.) He's one of those rare characters who, despite being a now semi-immortal wizard, feels so real that you actually feel bereft when you finish a book, as if a close comrade has suddenly left town. He's a complicated guy facing more-complicated situations and daunting odds, and he does so with humor, honor, and an increasingly sophisticated sort of spirituality.

The series starts out with, perhaps, a fairly standard (but highly entertaining) urban fantasy style and premise, and would be perfectly at home in a collection of books for high school or even middle school readers. As the series progresses, the books do get darker and hotter, although the steamy bits are appropriate to character development and never gratuitous. I wouldn't put book 15 (the most recent installment, out in paperback this month) in the hands of a 12-year-old I didn't know well, but it's not completely beyond the pale. And I've recommended the series to many, MANY of my high school aged students. It appeals to adult readers of urban fantasy, too.

After all, who wouldn't love a series well-populated by pizza-loving Wee Folk, psychic vampires, Gruffs (as in Billy Goat) who prefer sprinkles on their donuts, Hades, talking skulls, the Wild Hunt, polka-dancing Jedi coroners, knights, parkour, Valkyries, magically-good beer, Santa Claus, fallen angels, the Sidhe, a FrankenBeetle, shapeshifters, and zombie dinosaurs -- just to name a few delightful things that immediately jump to mind?

Recommend this series -- currently fifteen novels and six graphic novels) to anyone who wishes they could read the adult adventures of Harry Potter. The books are accessible, action-packed, hilarious, fast-paced, heartbreaking, and thought-provoking. Dresden is a good role model, a good guide for trying to travel the murky path between good and evil and good intentions and unforeseen consequences. He's also a damned good narrator and, as fictional characters go, an awfully good friend.

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