Sep 172016

summerknightI 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.

deathmaskscoverObviously, 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.

Jun 202015

Grave PerilWhen I was a kid, I loved book series, and one of my favourite book memories is reading Lloyd Alexander’s The Chronicles of Prydain over the course of a week in grade school. I’d stumbled upon The Book of Three, the first volume, in the library one Monday and that night read it through, spellbound by the pig-keeper’s adventures. Tuesday I checked out the Black Cauldron and read it to the end. By Friday, I’d read all the series, one book per day, finishing with The High King. The intensity of the experience left me sad but euphoric and I’ve never forgotten it.

The Dresden Files is nothing like Prydain other than being a series. It’s weightless and very much grounded in the myth-in-modern-world genre so popular on contemporary television (cf. Buffy the Vampire Slayer, True Blood, Supernatural, etc.), but that’s fine. Grave Peril is the third in the series and I didn’t love it, but things seem to be settling into a rhythm and the spirit-in-a-skull sidekick makes me laugh in his short scenes. This time around Harry is chasing ghosts and realizes nearly too late that they are just a ploy and that someone’s actually trying to kill him.


I’ve just realized that I didn’t log the first two books in the series (Storm Front and Fool Moon). That I didn’t feel like announcing I’d read them speaks volumes.