The Dresden Files Books in Order
The world that Jim Butcher has created in the Dresden Files has garnered him fans around the world and from every walk of life. That isn’t too hard to believe, despite running at fourteen books and counting, the stand alone stories are easy to get into from any point in the series. Though I really do recommend starting at the beginning if you can. The characters and back story do build better that way. I was actually trying to explain the world of Harry Dresden to a friend the other day and realized that much of the reason I so enjoy them is the dry and yet comfortable way that Harry talks with all of us in the books. First person narratives have a big following in fantasy because they make the unbelievable things in a fantasy book more real for the readers. Butcher’s deft handling of the first person narrative is what gives these tales of a rascal of a wizard in an alternative Chicago such pull.
For those of you who may have heard of the series because of the (unfortunately) short-lived television show on the sci-fi network, I do suggest checking out the books. There is far more to Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden then meets the eye, and certainly more fun in the books. Harry is not exactly someone who likes to play by the rules, though as a wizard with some connections, he is not above helping out the local police. After all, even if the general public doesn’t tend to know magic exists in this world, the cops do.
Lt. Murphy may also know that getting a wizard with the kind of street smarts Harry has will help any investigations that has even a whiff of the paranormal in it. The trouble is, Harry doesn’t always see things the way most authorities do. So, Harry does tend to get himself in the bad graces of just about everyone from his vantage point in his downtown office. It isn’t hard to find, he is the only openly practicing wizard in the country. That alone can get you trouble.
We meet Harry in this first book of the series. Harry has been having a tough time lately. Business is worse than slow, it is almost non-existent. Even a wizard has to pay the rent. So when he gets a call from Lieutenant Murphy of Chicago’s Finest to help out on a grisly double murder case, he agrees to come.
Turns out the only way anyone could kill a couple in the way he is seeing is if they used black magic. The only problem is that means a wizard who is willing to cross the powerful White Council is in Chicago. Worse yet, now that Harry is on the case, they know his name. You never want someone powerful enough to kill with magic from a distance to know your name.
Even for Harry things have been kinda dry. Just when he was thinking that he wouldn’t be hearing from Murphy again, she shows up in his favorite hangout, asking him to help her. Not that she is happy about it, seeing as Harry pretty much left her hanging the last time she asked for his help.
But someone is leaving some pretty bad looking corpses in Chicago, and she thinks Harry is just the guy to help. You see, the bodies look pretty torn up, and there are big doggie prints all around. Oh – and did I mention they all seem to happen on a full moon? Looks like the kind of case you want a wizard in on. That is, if she can trust him.
Someone has let loose a few ghosts, and more puzzling then why is the fact that they appear to have had a torture spell cast on them. While Harry and his friend Michael dodge angry ghosts they try to find out who is unleashing these angered spirits on their hometown.
With his crazy black trenchcoat flying in the wind, Harry is up against a host of dead, including one demon he killed himself. Lots of action and so fast-paced your will feel breathless by the end of the book. Cracking jokes and treating the ladies fine, Harry is in fine form here as Butcher begins to hit his stride in this series.
Harry is wallowing in pity in the depths of the basement, feeling that he has truly hit bottom. But a request by Queen Mab, the Winter Queen of the Fairies, to get to the bottom of the killing of the Summer Queen’s knight gets his juices rolling again.
Soon Harry is up to his ears in political intrigue of the faery type, defending himself before the court of the White Council and defending himself from the Vampire’s Red Court as well. For Chicago’s vampires want revenge and Harry may not be able to stop everyone from getting a piece of him this time.
Sometimes it just doesn’t pay to get outta bed! Harry has more trouble than usual in this fast-paced latest addition to the series. No sooner does he find out that the Red Court has decided to settle their differences by having their champion defeat Harry as the champion for the Wizard’s White Council in one-on-one battle then he is on the hunt for the thieves who stole the Shroud of Turin.
Add in three knights with great big swords and a girlfriend who is sorta vampire and you can see it is going to be a hectic time. Bricker just keeps getting better, the wisecracks funnier and the action fast and furious.
In Blood Rites we see Butcher cranking it all up a notch as the action gets faster but also as the stakes get higher for Harry. When he is asked to look into why some actresses all seem to be dying in a strange manner, Harry gets pulled into the strange world of porn films. The investigation reveals some darker sides to Harry and these lead to some revelations about Murphy as well.
The Vampire Courts and their intrigue is fully revealed, and for some of us it maybe more than we wanted to know! We finally see something of Harry beneath the wise-cracking wizard with a heart of gold, and the revelation can be shocking. For Harry discovers some old family secrets, and a bit more.
Once again Harry is cornered into tracking down and delivering a powerful artifact in to the hands of evil. Not that he wants to, and sometimes doesn’t even mean to. But Harry has begun to grow from all the changes the last few books have put him through, and it shows here.
As usual, Harry is outgunned from the start and will have to depend on more than magic to get him through. Some of the usual cast is missing in action, and there are a few places where things seemed to lag a bit, but I also think we have gotten spoiled with Bricker’s fast-paced delivery. Dead Beat is a great addition to the tale of Chicago’s best known wizard at large.
The aftermath to Dead Beat is being felt by Harry and those around him. The book opens with The White Council making Harry, as a warden, witness the execution of a teenager who has given in to Dark Magic.
It not only sickens Harry, it shows him where he could so easily have ended up. Harry knows he has a darkness within, and in Proven Guilty he struggles with it a bit more openly, along with the problem of how to even reach the newly magical in Chicago so the executions are not needed.
Just to keep things interesting, Harry’s old mentor asks him to check into a report of someone using black magic in Chicago and take a trip to Faery find out why they seem to have no interest in aiding the wizards these days. To top it all, Harry finds himself investigating a murder at a horror convention that looks to be supernatural in cause when he offers to help an old friend’s daughter. As usual, fast-paced and full of the dry side-notes that make sitting in Harry’s head watching the mayhem around him so fascinating.
Harry’s investigation of a suicide that turns out to be murder by supernatural means implicates his half-brother Thomas and leaves Harry stunned and looking for answers. Just to keep things from getting too comfortable, the war between the White Council and the Red Court has heated up a notch and Harry’s turn at teaching Molly Carpenter has gotten complicated.
With demons popping up in the most inopportune time and witches showing up dead across Chicago, Harry has his hands full. Our favorite wizard is getting better and handling all the responsibility but it never stops him from uttering those wry sarcastic asides we have all grown to love. Fast paced as ever, I think this one has even more danger in it.
A lot of the old crew of both friends and enemies return to the scene with this amazing fast-paced rip of an adventure. Many of the threads started in the earlier books come back to haunt Harry as he is called upon by Queen Mab of the Winter Court of the Sidhe to perform a rescue. That it is to be a rescue of his old enemy Mob boss Marcone is just one small part of the puzzle.
The other is that the Summer Court is not exactly in favor of this rescue and so makes his job that much harder. Never get in the middle of a fight between two Fae Queens! Soon Harry has everyone after him, and he will need all the help he can get just to stay alive, let alone fulfill his promise to Mab. Once again Harry proves to be the odd man out in every circumstance, and always with the best intentions.
There is a traitor in the midst of the Wizard’s White Council and it has turned the council against fellow warden Morgan. When Morgan turns to Harry for help, literally showing up on his doorstep in dire straits, Harry knows he has to find out who in the council has framed Morgan for murder, and why.
With much of the action this book centering on the White Council we finally see more of the workings of it, and get introduced to an interesting array of Wizards. As if problems with the council aren’t enough, Harry must track down the “skinwalker” that has kidnapped Thomas and somehow stay alive while the battle between the various courts accelerates yet another notch. Butcher continues to knit together magic, gumshoe detective work and nail-biting thriller action as we follow Chicago’s wizard warden grow into the power he has been acquiring over the last ten books.
Harry has always held that there are some lines he won’t cross over. But all bets are off in this very dark and personal book when he finds out he and Susan have a daughter. What is more, she has been kidnapped by the Red Court duchess Arianna Ortega as both revenge on Harry and a human sacrifice for her own devices. He knows he must and will call in every loyalty and favor to rescue Maggie and soon discovers just how far he will go to save his own child.
We all know that Harry has always had a soft spot in his heart for kids or anyone in danger, in this book we see a grown and much more dangerous Harry deal with all of his biggest taboos at once. Gripping, darker than the others without losing that ironic streak that makes the Dresden Files so entertaining, this book is a turning point for Harry and company.
Even in death, Harry just can’t get a break! Left for dead by an unknown assailant, Harry finds he cannot just move on, but must return as a ghost to resolve his own death. And since three people who are very important to Harry could be harmed if he doesn’t, Harry must find a way without a body or his magic to determine why his death is deemed questionable.
What he returns to is chaos. The Red Court’s destruction has left Chicago and even beyond the Windy City in danger because of the power vacuum left behind. Along the way, as he is discovering who killed him and why Harry rediscovers old connections and sees the aftermath of his decisions in life. Some of them aren’t exactly what he intended.
Harry may be dead but that doesn’t mean his troubles are over. Now made over as the Winter Knight for Queen Mab, Harry has more to take care of then the duties of a wizard. For one, Mab has commanded him to pull off an assassination, and he cannot refuse her.
Worse yet, it is an assassination of an immortal, supposedly one who is beyond such threats. The whole gang is here and for those long time fans of the series there are the many rewards of references to earlier story lines and plot threads. Strong characters and superb storytelling with intricate timing and fast action continue to make this series a must for any urban fantasy fan.
Now to anyone who has never read the series, that list of title can be pretty intimidating. That is why I love that Butcher has also released a collection of his short stories that also spotlight Harry and his band of rag-tag followers. This collection of short stories, some previously published and a few never seen before, should allow anyone considering delving into the Dresden Files series the ability to consider this compilation as a toe-dipping start. On the other hand, the inclusion of “Aftermath” a short story that takes place 45 minutes after the shocking conclusion of the 10th book in the series Changes, may make it necessary for newcomers to somehow put that story aside until they catch up with its history.
But this is a great collection, including some early works for those completists amongst us who want a peek at the world of Harry Dresden before it was truly fleshed out. The notes that Butcher includes before each story are also a bit of a treat, giving you some context for each story. So whether you are a long time visitor to the world of Harry Dresden or a newbie, here is the perfect complement to the series.
Beyond Harry – The Codex Alera
Now, as you can well imagine, Jim Butcher likes to stray from that well-defined world from time to time. I am not sure how he manages to keep his sanity swinging between two such completely different universes, for the world of The Codex Alera is vastly different from the one of Harry Dresden. Here we have an almost classical fantasy world, with many similarities to Ancient Rome, including the names (Quintus Sextus is the ruler’s name) and the fact the military is organized into legions. It’s a classic case of the barbarians at the gates situation for this world, with a magical ingredient thrown in via “the furies” who are elementals. There is plenty of room for heroics here, and treachery as well. If you like the classic heroic fantasy story, this has got it all. It is always interesting to see an author you know from one sub-genre move into another. Butcher seems to do it with ease. Here is a very brief look at that series as well:
This first book has a lot of setup to do. It needs to introduce us to the world and all of its main characters, for just a start. That may be why it takes almost 50 pages for the action to start, but once it does Jim Butcher is in true page-turning style here. The furies in the title are the elemental beings that each person in the Kingdom of Alera bond with as they come of age. Each person has just one elemental being that they connect with, centering on the aspects of air, earth, fire, water or metal.
This bonding bestows a power upon the person, and it is this power that is called upon when Alera is threatened by outside barbarian forces. In Furies of Calderon we are introduced to our hero, Tavi a young shepherd who for some reason has not found his fury. He meets Amara, a young female spy and they soon encounter enough political intrigue, military battle and magic to change anyone’s world. For there is a traitor in Alera, and Amara must find him before it is too late.
We return to Alera to find Tavi working hard as an Academ, a student of the Great Academy. But while everyone thinks he studies to be a page, the reality is he is learning the art of the Curser, a spy and is planning to serve his uncle, the great Gaius Sextus. But when something magical causes Gaius to be ill and begins killing the Cursers around him, Tavi must do what he can to keep Gaius’s illness a secret as the possibility of civil war erupts around him.
Recovered from the magical attacks, Gaius Sextus sends Tavi as a spy to march with his legions. But when treachery deprives the legion of its officer, Tavi must take over leadership and learn along the way.
As Tavi struggles with the decisions of a military leader, Amara is sent to rescue a kidnapped supporter of Sextus, enlisting the support of the deadly Lady Aquitaine along the way. The action notches up yet another step in this one as Butcher continues to meld humanity and magic together at a fast clip.
A few years have passed and Tavi remains committed to the campaign to eradicate the Canim before they destroy Alera. When he discovers that a Senator with more ambition than battle sense has made plans to end the war that could spell disaster, he knows he must act quickly and decisively.
Along the way Tavi finds out the truth about himself as the Emperor and Amara fight to regain control from the devious Kalare. Lots of action, a few unthinkable revelations and the fastest pacing in the genre make this a great read you won’t want to put down until the end.
The action actually notches up again as Alera reels from the bloody insurrection of Lord Kalaruss along with a slave revolt and invasion by the barbarian Canim. But Tavi, now recognized as the heir to the crown discovers there are worse enemies than the Canim, for not just one but two non-human armies threaten the kingdom.
It seems that the Canim may be better allies than they were enemies. Furious battles, engaging characters and more make this an exciting addition to the Codex Alera series.
In this final chapter of the series we follow not only Tavi as the First Lord of Alera in its fight to the death battle against the deadly Vord but get to know some of the secondary characters more intimately. All of the character arcs come together in a satisfying end as we watch our hero take final control of his ultimate destiny. Butcher continues to deliver a fast-paced action-drenched story to its conclusion in the highly rewarding series ender.
Jim Butcher Visits the Marvel Universe
Finally, as anyone who has read his books and most of all, his website would know, Jim Butcher is a long time comic book fan. It isn’t really that surprising, there has always been quite a bit of cross-over between comics and fantasy. What is also not surprising is that when he got an opportunity to write a novel based on one of comic books superstars: Spider-Man he jumped at the chance. The end result was his own contribution to the Spidey world: Spider-Man: The Darkest Hour.
The basic plot is not hard to follow. Peter Parker is married to his beloved Mary Jane and working as a science teacher. At the school he is struggling with his latest assignment, the fill-in as basketball coach (who decides to put nerdy Peter Parker in as a coach??), a wife who bought a car so she can drive to her latest acting gig even if she doesn’t know how to drive and the return of an old nemesis. Well at least the last one he can handle! Lots of sarcastic humor, Butcher’s trademark and plenty of action once Spider-Man shows up. This is Butcher having fun in someone else’s universe and though it isn’t exactly as strong as his own books, it is a fun read. If you are any kind of Spidey fan, this is worth checking out for a fresh look at an old friend.