For today’s topic, instead of something heavy, let’s talk books. Specifically, The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher. The series comprises 14 books so far, as well as numerous short stories, most of which have been collected in a volume titled Side Jobs. Start with Storm Front and go from there. Butcher’s style does nothing but improve through the series, and it was pretty great to begin with.
So, what’s so great about Harry? Well, to start with, he’s the only wizard in Chicago’s yellow pages. He works as a private investigator. As he puts it: “My name is Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden. Conjure by it at your own risk. When things get strange, when what goes bump in the night flicks on the lights, when no one else can help you, give me a call. I’m in the book.” Yes, it’s modern fantasy fiction noir, and it’s just the best. Major players:
Harry Dresden: Wisecracking, pop-culture-quoting wizard with a thing for setting stuff on fire and a heaping helping of disdain for the White Council, which is the wizarding law-enforcing body. They don’t like him much, either.
Bob the Skull: A spirit of intellect who lives in a skull and acts as Harry’s all-purpose reference. Has no physical form but it obsessed with sex anyway. Go figure.
Karrin Murphy: A cop with the Chicago Police Department. She knows about the weird side of life and is Harry’s main contact on the force. She occasionally calls him in as a consultant when she suspects magic or creatures from the Nevernever are doing no good in town. Harry trusts her, which can be said about very few people.
Ebenezar McCoy: Harry’s mentor and the youngest and least powerful of the Senior Council of wizards. You still don’t want to mess with him. The only man Harry calls “sir”.
Morgan: Harry’s personal Warden courtesy of the White Council. That is, he’s assigned to lop Harry’s head off if he steps one foot out of line. Harry’s not crazy about him.
Susan Rodriguez: Reporter for the Midwest Arcane and Harry’s sometime girlfriend. Takes a level in badass as the series goes on.
Waldo Butters: A medical examiner and polka fanatic who becomes Harry’s personal physician. It’s a long story.
Thomas Raith: A White Court vampire who becomes Harry’s ally for his own reasons.
Michael Carpenter: The clues are in the name. Michael is a Knight of the Cross, wielder of a holy sword. Sometimes, he and Harry find themselves on the same business. Quite possibly the man Harry respects most in the world. Dedicated Catholic, husband and father of seven.
Charity Carpenter: Michael’s she-wolf of a wife. She and Harry have a strained relationship for a number of reasons, but he respects her. Mainly because she scares him, wizard or no wizard.
Molly Carpenter: Oldest child of the above, she becomes Harry’s apprentice.
Leanansidhe: Harry’s literal fairy godmother. This is not a good thing. One of the most powerful beings in the Winter Court of the Faerie.
Gentleman Johnny Marcone: Chicago’s biggest crime boss. Runs a tight ship. Harry doesn’t like him, but the two of them keep ending up on the same side.
Mab: Queen of the Winter Court and one of the most powerful beings in the Nevernever, period. Unfortunately, she takes an interest in Harry.
Lasciel: A fallen angel who takes an interest in Harry.
Uriel: An un-fallen angel who takes an interest in Harry.
Ivy, or the Archive: A young girl with all the knowledge of humankind in her mind. She likes cats. Fortunately, Harry has one.
Mister: Harry’s oversized cat.
Mouse: Harry’s oversized dog. Or, possibly, Harry is Mouse’s human. Mouse is a very unusual dog.
The Alphas: A group of young werewolves who ally themselves with Harry. Their leaders are Billy and Georgia, a size-mismatched couple still in college.
The Denarians: Some of the most dangerous creatures Harry’s ever faced, the mortal enemies of the Knights of the Cross. Each one is a human who’s joined with a fallen angel attached to the thirty denarii Judas received for betraying Jesus. Led by Nicodemus Archleone, who’s a couple of millennia old and one truly nasty customer.
The Knights of the Cross: Michael is one. He wields Amoracchius, the Sword of Love. The other two are Shiro, a Japanese man who wields Fidelacchius, the Sword of Faith; and Sanya, a Russian who wields Esperacchius, the Sword of Hope. Shiro mentored the other two. Sanya is a former Denarian who willingly gave up his coin and now fights his former colleagues.
White Court Vampires: Psychic vampires who feed on human emotions. House Raith feeds on lust through sex. House Malvora feeds on fear, and House Skavis feeds on despair. House Raith rules the roost. The major players are the aforementioned Thomas, black sheep of his family; Lord Raith, oldest and most powerful of the White Court; and Lara Raith, Thomas’s eldest sister. Harry generally doesn’t like these guys.
Black Court Vampires: Your standard Nosferatu. They have all the standard vampire strengths and weaknesses. Led by Mavra, a sorceress. Harry can’t stand these guys.
Red Court Vampires: Wear glamorous flesh masks, but are in reality hideous, batlike demons. Extremely powerful and well-organized. Led by Kukulkan, as in the Mayan god. Harry really hates these guys.
There are loads and loads more characters, but the above are the ones you see again and again. The books contain a lot of violence, some sex and a good dollop of bad language. They also contain great plots, amazing characters, and a surprisingly redemptive theme. Michael’s faith, for instance, is treated seriously and with great respect. There aren’t an awful lot of fantasy authors who’ll do that.
Be warned, though: These books are addictive. I’m re-reading them because the latest book puts a whole new shine on a number of events in previous books. And I know I’m not the only one doing it.