Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Dresden Files: Dead Beat

My first several posts are going to be Dresden heavy. As I mentioned previously, my husband started listening to The Dresden Files on CD a few months ago and he's hooked. I started reading the series back in 2010 but gave up after the sixth book. A lot of things annoyed me about Jim Butcher's writing style and about Harry Dresden himself. For one thing, I got the impression that Dresden was just a voice box for Butcher, and I always find that annoying. All writers put some of themselves into the characters they create, but a good writer can hide that fact. Harry himself was (and still kind of is) obnoxiously sexist, and acknowledging as much in his inner monologue doesn't make his constant boob gazing any less annoying. Butcher writes a lot of stereotypes and a lot of times his dialogue is a little too cute. I'd like to slap Dresden every time he says "bite me" to a bad guy. Butcher is also too free with the deus ex machina...

Tell me again about how women are fragile, Jim But- I mean Harry Dresden.
*sigh* I could go on.

But The Dresden Files also have a lot of good going for them, so picking the series up again wasn't so hard. Butcher has created a pretty cool world with plausible rules for magic. I like the way he weaves faith and magic together. I like some of his secondary characters quite a bit, especially Karrin Murphy, head of Chicago's supernatural investigation team.

Red-headed Karrin Murphy.
Dead Beat, the seventh book in the series surprised me. Instead of just rushing to the end to find out what happened, I found myself enjoying the story quite a bit. We start with Harry getting blackmailed by Mavra - this really nasty high muckamuck of the vampire Black Court. Either Harry finds a book, The Word of Kemmler, or Mavra makes public pictures of Murphy murdering what appear to be regular people, but are really thralls of the black vampires.

Harry does some research, finds out that Kemmler was a seriously nasty wizard practicing black magic and necromancy right around WWII, and discovers that The Word of Kemmler is this guy's missing book detailing a spell that would make anyone who completed it a god among men. Of course, Harry isn't the only one who wants the book. Kemmler might be dead, but his disciples are also running around Chicago looking for the The Word. If Harry doesn't get his hands on the book first, not only will Murphy go to jail, but the world would be overrun by the most powerful black magic wizard in the history of time.

If Dresden ever fails at anything, this will happen to the world. In every book.
So goes the plot of every Dresden novel - Harry faces a problem that doesn't seem to have a solution, and hi-jinx ensue.  However, with this book, I was really entertained by the ensuing hi-jinx. Harry has grown as a character and Butcher has grown as a writer. Harry makes more mature decisions and finally learns that the world isn't cast in simple black and white. Harry is literally forced to make a deal with a devil toward the end and I'm really looking forward to seeing how that plays out in the rest of the series. Murphy is almost nonexistent in this installment, and I missed her. But instead, we get up close and personal with Waldo Butters - a polka obsessed medical examiner, who starts out as comic relief but becomes so much more. Also, Butcher's proverbial gun on the stage pays off big time... pun intended, for those of you in the know.

I read through this book in a couple of days and had a lot of fun with it. I still don't really buy the fact that Harry gets into as many scrapes as  does. Seriously, dude should learn to just stay home for a few months, or years. I still get a little annoyed with Harry's irreverence. But I like Harry a little more now, so I'm more willing to suspend my disbelief. I hope this new found goodwill lasts through the rest of the series.


  1. I prefer the Codex Alera series. Stronger women, more mature men.

  2. Have you watched the TV series? I saw that on Netflix the other day and was thinking about putting it on my queue.

  3. I do want to read Codex Alera. I haven't seen the Dresden Files show, but from what I understand, it's only loosely based on the books and was pretty awful. Everyone I know who has read the books has said to stay away from the show.