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His name is Harry Dresden. He is a wizard.
No, seriously. You can look him up in the phone book. He finds things. And people. And occasionally helps out the police on murders when certain things can’t be easily explained. No love potions, though. He’s a serious wizard.
If I had to explain this book in one sentence, I think I’d say “Imagine Raymond Chandler got drunk and when he’d sobered up he’d written a book about a magician”.
Because this is what it is: it’s your classic hard-boiled cynical down-on-his-luck detective who gets called in on a murder case that turns out to be a particularly nasty form of magic, and next thing he knows, people are either trying to kill him, or trying to make him drop the case, or perhaps both — all while more people die in particularly nasty ways.
And at some point Dresden realizes he’s next. Oh, and did I mention Dresden is on magical parole and his parole officer wants him dead?
Dresden is your classic hard-boiled type. He’s always on the edge of broke, he has a bad attitude and a mouth that gets him in trouble. He doesn’t trust other people, so he’s always doing things that get him in deeper trouble rather than go to others for help. Oh, and did I mention, in our modern world of technology, since he uses and depends on magic, machines hate him?
Dresden quickly finds himself up to his ears in trouble, and he realizes he has to unmask and disable the rogue magician that’s killing people before he’s killed — or his parole office decides he’s the one doing the killing and takes him out. Along the way, he has to figure out how the killing is being done, argue with a sardonic familiar, fight off a toad demon spitting acid (while saving a damsel in distress that just accidentally quaffed a love potion and has other things on her mind) all while staying out of trouble with his parole office wizard and his contacts at the police.
Butcher tells a very serious story, but doesn’t necessarily take it too seriously. There’s a lot of humor, much of it self-deprecating by Dresen, and riotously funny situations he’s stuffed into — at least, funny to us, probably not to Dresden.
There are mob bosses, enforcers, police who want him in jail, his wizard babysitter who wants him dead, cute women wandering into his life (not all of them survive the experience), a growing drug war tearing the city apart, and this rogue wizard who will kill him the next time a storm blows through the city.
All Dresden needs to do is stay alive long enough to sort it out.
This is book one of the series, and it’s a lot of fun. There were a few times where it seemed the author was still trying to figure out what the character would do, but in general, the plot moves at a serious pace, the suspense is honest and the character of Dresden is a lot of fun to pay attention to.
This is a rip-roaring read and highly recommended, especially if you like hard-boiled type stories. This one, with the fantasy/magical slant, will bring that type of story to readers of fantasy as well, and the won’t regret it one bit.
I’m already looking forward to grabbing the next book.