posted 2011-09-07 15:00:18

Review of the latest entry in the 'Dresden Files' series

Josh Leib

Contributing Writer

With the Harry Potter franchise coming to a slow end, the hunt for the next mystical hero has already begun. However, to find a new source of magic, one should not look to the future, but rather the past. In 2000, Jim Butcher wrote Storm Front, the first novel of The Dresden Files series. The series follows the life of Harry Dresden, a professional wizard and private investigator from Chicago who frequently protects his city and the world from magical threats, while trying to maintain his own life. Eleven years after the publication of Butcher’s first novel, the series celebrates the release of its thirteenth novel, Ghost Story.

Entertainment Weekly has described the Dresden Files as “Buffy the Vampire Slayer starring Philip Marlowe;” a hardboiled, noir-style detective story taking place in a world beyond that of what we know, and Ghost Story is no different. Set six months after the events of Changes, the previous release in the series, Dresden is dropped into the freezing Chicago winter to solve his hardest case yet: his own murder. Trapped in spectral form, Dresden wanders among the ghosts of Chicago as he looks for clues to his own death, and comes to terms with the changes caused by it. While dealing with these personal issues, Dresden also unravels a dark scheme which threatens to end the world.

Butcher’s writing is what truly makes the novel a pleasure to read. Every page is a clever concoction of witty remarks, pop culture references, and plot advancement that blend together well enough to not have a single word wasted. While pacing in novels is often difficult to control, Butcher handles it masterfully, allowing the story to flow fluidly while successfully containing the suspense until he finds the right moment to spring a huge plot twist onto the reader.

However, the real charm of the series are the fleshed-out personalities of each character. Dresden, for example, is a wise cracking smart aleck with a response to everything—a trait he even carries after death. But aside from the set personalities of every character, each one goes through their own development throughout the series, which is mostly affected by their interaction with Dresden. Ghost Story sheds new, interesting light on its characters by further following their development through Dresden’s absence.

In a genre dominated by the appearances of ghouls, goblins, ghosts and monsters, Butcher also manages to keep his series fresh by incorporating new creatures from beyond the veil of reality while retaining old characters and creatures from earlier in the series. Enemies are known to make returns and Ghost Story is no exception. The revelation of the novel’s true antagonist is certain to induce a wide-eyed shock amongst long-time readers.

Reducing The Dresden Files as just a series for the maturing Harry Potter fan base would ultimately be selling it short. It does maintain a magical base but handles it in a darker, more adult world. The thirteenth book just came out, and there’s still much to look forward to in the next novel. The Dresden Files are a great read for any audience.