Author – Jim Butcher
Pages – 355
An underwhelming first book in the popular Dresden Files series, the sexist elements and thin plot outweighing the few bits of potential and successful capture of the Film Noir vibe.
I wanted to start The Dresden Files since the series is so highly rated. Unfortunately in this first instalment at least, I couldn’t see what all the fuss is about.
I lost interest halfway through but persevered – the story is ok, nothing groundbreaking. The magic system is kinda dull which is fine – I’m not huge on magic systems anyway, but there just isn’t anything that stands out as having that pull to counteract other parts being less developed or downright annoying.
Harry Dresden just seems to me like a bit of a loner weirdo, and the humour throughout just never made me laugh. What could complement the story for some readers had the opposite effect to me as to be frank I just didn’t find it funny.
What also grew tiresome and felt dated was that every time a female character was introduced, her looks were described in more detail than anything else in the book – and somehow they all happened to be beautiful – if I remember rightly one of them was especially attractive since she didn’t know it (yawn) – I’ll point out that this book was written in 2000 and was Butcher’s first ever published book, so both a different time and a degree of inexperience for the author.
That doesn’t change the fact that these factors just gave Dresden a chauvinist gaze and the female characters a lack of respect in that their value was judged on their looks. I’m not one of those people to deny people have a tendency to notice attractive physical traits in their preferred gender – it’s human nature afterall, but such an emphasis every time really got tiresome and was completely unnecessary and really felt demeaning. He even makes a love potion – is there any difference between a love potion and a date rape drug? – I don’t even think there is. I’m not for a minute suggesting the author advocates this in any way but it’s just another thing that added to the eyeroll.
It wouldn’t be so bad if these were written as negative traits, but adding these thoughts and viewpoints to Dresden’s already awkward, anti social loner lifestyle in the first half of the book just made me feel no connection or a liking for the character, which made it difficult to spend the book in his point of view.
I’m told the series does improve the further it goes, and Butcher’s writing style is ok so would be pretty good if there is some improvement. Maybe Dresden’s attitudes improve too. Since I bought 5 of them in advance a while back on offer, I am curious to see where the character development goes and what sort of series it becomes so I will most likely read book two… eventually. I’m just not in a rush. Everyone who rates this series says it picks up at book 4 – I’m just hoping it doesn’t take 4 books for the gender observations to take up less of the books than the story does.
If you can get past this, or are willing to persevere either to get to later books in the series or for the story in this book, it is an urban fantasy very much with the film noir detective theming and it successfully captures the essence of this. Dresden is one of a few openly practising wizards and is on the police department’s payroll as a sort of consultant for when crimes take on a more supernatural twist, as well as advertising his services locally for the more mundane use of his skills. The story revolves around the grisly murder of a mob boss’s henchman and a call-girl under the protection of a powerful vampire. It’s not a challenging story to follow, though is perhaps a little underwhelming and not strong enough to distract from the annoyingly sexist elements of the book.
There’s plenty of people who will enjoy this and I certainly suspect it gets better in later books – in fact I’m told it does, but that the sexism never really goes away completely. If you can accept that as part of the character then maybe give it a go – I’m just in no major rush to follow it up just yet.
Meet Harry Dresden, Chicago’s first (and only) Wizard P.I.
Turns out the ‘everyday’ world is full of strange and magical things – and most of them don’t play well with humans. That’s where Harry comes in.
Harry’s business as a private investigator has been quiet lately – so when the police bring him in to consult on a grisly double murder committed with black magic, he’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.
Magic – it can get a guy killed.