I started Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files nearly two years ago, but as of spring I was still only through the first three books. Something about them was off, and I liked them but only in a very hesitant and uncertain way.
Then out of the blue, my mom told me she’d started a new series that was great, and yes, as you will have already guessed, it was The Dresden Files. So we talked. I told her I’d given up. She said it started slow. I said I’d read three. She said the fourth, Summer Knight, was the turning point.
Now this is a conversation that I’m familiar with from TV talk with friends. You say you don’t like something. Your friend says it’s great and gets better and, somehow, no matter how far you’ve pushed forward into the series, it’s always the next episodes or the next season that matters and that you’ve got to see. I’m never persuaded.
That said, I’d never had this conversation with my Mom and certainly never about books. She’s a voracious reader and has generous but reliable tastes. She also never pushes books on people, trusting that there are too many books to read anyway and people will find what suits them. But here she was telling me how much she liked this series and two things became clear: she genuinely found them fun to read and she was serious when she said everything gets better starting with the fourth book.
Obviously, I agreed to read more and, to my surprise, when she came up to visit this summer, she gave me the next book as a gift. I read it immediately and discovered that, duh, Mom was right. (When is she not?)
It’s always risky to imagine what’s going on in a writer’s head but my sense of the fourth book was that it was written by someone who had discovered all of the sudden that what they were writing wasn’t awful and that they could enjoy making the story up. That’s a weird sense to have but I felt it very clearly and very strongly. This book seems to enjoy itself and that change makes all the difference.
So with Death Masks, the fifth book, now read (and yes, I liked it), I think it’s fair to say that I’ve found some winter reading.