I decided about a week ago to pick up Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files series again after not looking at them for about a year. My husband had read the series and said that I would really like them. While he was correct on other series suggested to me, such as the Codex Alera and Wheel of Time, I did not take to the Dresden Files as quickly. But I had read so many “intellectual” books recently that I needed a break. (I actually started Atlas Shrugged for a second time and still cannot get past the 3rd or 4th chapter. Maybe I should read War and Peace first?) This time around, I ate up the few Dresden books we had.
I have only gotten through four of the Dresden Files books so far. I have the sixth, but I’m waiting on the fifth. While I think you could probably pick up just about any of these books and enjoy them, they do run in a chronological fashion and context truly does add to a story. So I have to wait to continue my book-eating.
Overall, I do like these books. I never thought of myself as a fantasy reader until I read the Codex Alera, also written by Jim Butcher. I think I finished those books in a month or so. That series and the Wheel of Time are not much like the Dresden Files save that the mystical is included in all (and all are fiction). But the Dresden Files are different. They are set in the real world and in the recent past and present. Dresden, the titular character, sets himself up in Chicago as a professional wizard, helping everyone from maidens in distress to the special investigations division of the Chicago Police Department. There is danger, mystery, and a bit of romance throughout. Somehow, Butcher managed to mix what are seemingly separate genres of literature into one coherent and engaging series.
The books are not long, but I have found that in just about every book I think I am at the end before I am. You know the feeling. You’re at that moment in the story where it seems all the leads have come together at everything is looking up for our unlikely hero when you realize there are still 150 pages left. You have to ask, “Oh no, what is going to go wrong?” And something usually does. After all, this is also a drama. No drama, or mystery, or romance for that matter, is complete without a little suspense.
While the conclusions are usually positive in the relative sense, not every story ends in all sunshine and roses. This is not a Shakespearian comedy. People get hurt, are separated, and die. There is also happiness, laughter, and love. In many ways, this fantasy series reflects life while combining the mysterious and supernatural in ways that books typically do not.
And this is where I initially hesitated reading the series. Dresden is a wizard, and with that comes spirits, demons, summoning, and, of course, magic. With other books, such practices were easy to ignore because they were in a fantasy world. But as I mentioned, Butcher manages to put the fantastical world of Dresden into the real world, our world. This causes me to pause as witchcraft and the supernatural, or spiritual, world is real, as are its dangers. Yet Butcher deals with it in the sort of seriousness that is deserves. Though there are fantastic creatures, like werewolves, faeries, and other beings, he generally treats them as creatures of darkness and evil. In general, good and evil are rather clearly defined. There are rules and consequences. While I am going to shy away from some parts of the books, Butcher’s treatment of the spiritual in our world is in some ways refreshing.
He also does not ignore the reality of Christianity. I have no idea what Butcher himself actually believes, but I find his use of Christianity within his novels fascinating. One character in particular has a sort of special calling and power that Dresden does not exactly understand yet highly values. This character knows the power of God and that our battle is not with flesh and blood. Like all Christians should, he recognizes the reality of spiritual evil and the battle all around us. This character also sees Dresden as a friend and tries to lead him to the truth. Dresden recognizes something in his friend. He just doesn’t know what it is yet.
The wizardry does still bother me, I can hardly deny that. But I do not see Butcher dealing with the spiritual flippantly. Perhaps my opinion will change as I continue the series. It is fantasy, fiction, but spiritual powers are realities and that cannot be ignored.
Whatever the case may end up being, I cannot deny that Jim Butcher is a talented author. He has managed to make Dresden a particularly likable and, in many ways, a relatable character. The world is dramatic, spiritual, mysterious, real. These things appeal to me as a reader and a writer, and it makes sense to me why so many are drawn to his books.
Until next time, blessings to you and yours,