BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Harry Dresden is Chicago’s only openly practicing wizard/private detective. As might be expected, Harry encounters lots of different supernatural entities, most of which try to kill him.
PROS: Non-stop action, smooth prose, interesting characters, unique setting, a page-turner.
CONS: Quite often Harry extricates himself from dire situations via the plot and not his own initiative.
BOTTOM LINE: A very entertaining and enjoyable read. This combination of fantasy/supernatural and P.I. genres works very well. A must read for fantasy fans.
Wizard For Hire is the Science Fiction Book Club’s omnibus version of Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden series, and is comprised of Storm Front, Fool Moon and Grave Peril. As such, I’ll give an overview of each story, then explain why I enjoyed the heck out of these stories.
- Storm Front – A grisly double murder, obviously involving magic, has forced the police to call in their special investigator, and only practicing wizard, Harry Dresden. Unfortunately for Harry, the White Council (a sort of governing body for wizards) believes Harry as committed the murders. Harry must clear his name by finding the black mage who is continuing to commit homicide and stop him.
- Fool Moon – The mutilated corpse of mobster Johnny Marcone’s bodyguard is discovered by the police, only the murder weapon appears to be fangs and claws. Oh, and there was a full moon that night. One month earlier, several people appear to be have been murdered by some time of large wolf. Harry must contend with werewolves, the FBI and organized crime to discover the secret behind the murders.
- Grave Peril – The spirit world is very restless, the fabric separating the Nevernever from reality is thinning. More and more powerful ghosts are crossing over and wreaking havoc. One very powerful ghost appears to have it in for Harry and his friends. And how does Harry attendance at the Vampire Queen’s ball fit into it? This time Harry contends with ghosts, demons and vampires.
All three books contain the same elements that make this series very fun to read. Harry Dresden, despite his penchant for hacking off his friends and for finding trouble, is a likeable guy. Even when confronted with acid spitting demons or very powerful werewolves, he never loses his ability to spout smart-ass remarks during the darkest times. There is much humor here, which serves to offset some of the grisly and horrific things to occur in the books. Things like people having their hearts ripped out via magic, or a werewolf decimating a police station (a la the Terminator). Harry’s friends are interesting too, from the police lieutenant slowly accepting the world of the occult, the nosy tabloid reporter, to Bob the air elemental stuck in a human skull and more. Butcher makes you care about everyone involved in the stories, but he doesn’t really pull any punches with them either.
Butcher populates his occult-laden Chicago with lots of supernatural entities for Harry to encounter. Each of them are well done and the situations Harry finds himself in flow naturally from the setup. Butcher’s writing is very fast paced, the stories are told in the first person and you get a real mystery novel feel to what are, essentially, modern fantasy stories. The melding of these two genres is well done and surprisingly effective. In each story’s case, I had to keep going to find out what was going to happen. That doesn’t occur very often as I am usually content to read a chapter or two then go to bed. Wizard For Hire has that ‘Just one more chapter!’ addiction built in to each story. I was as surprised as anyone (anyone who knows my general dislike of fantasy) that I found these stories to be as good as they are. The impetus for my reading them is that the SciFi Channel is creating a series, called The Dresden Files, based on these books. I hope they don’t screw it up using cheap SFX and crappy actors, but I’m not holding out too much hope, and what hope I have is that SciFi created the new Battlestar Galactica.
About the only thing I can complain about, and its a bit of a nit, is that there were several instances where Harry’s life was in immediate and mortal danger. About the only way out for Harry was for something to happen to save him, and it does. I can think of three instances where Harry is saved by external events and not by his own actions. Not enough to ruin the enjoyment, but enough to knock the end product down a half star.
Wizard For Hire is a page turning, enthralling fantasy series that just about anyone will find enjoyable.