Proven Guilty by Jim Butcher
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I can always count on Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files for an enjoyable (and memorable) read. While Proven Guilty is no exception with its avalanche of movie monsters, fairy monsters, and courtroom drama, it simply lacks the punch of Dead Beat and the last few books. The intense life and death struggles are still here…they are just sandwiched between a lot of drama.
While I give Butcher some credit for playing with the formula a little bit, it could have done with about 50 less pages of Harry’s existentialism over trying to be the perfect hero (we get it, you feel bad about recent events, you can stop reminding us every other page) and his sudden desire to act on his Murphy feelings (lets not kid ourselves, we all knew how round one of this was going to end). The extra pages gained could have helped him on the rushed trial sequence at the end.
Speaking of sudden, I give Butcher extra credit for creative use of divine intervention. Every time a Knight of the Cross story comes up, I always fear a cop out in the form of “he works in mysterious ways.” This book does a wonderful job of playing with the concept, so perhaps I should stop worrying and love the Butcher.
Don’t let the three stars and review fool you. The sharp writing and clever humor remain intact and I enjoyed the book. But if I compare it to previous books in the series, it just lacks the Forzare! of previous books.
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Storm Front by Jim Butcher
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Believe it or not I have never read The Dresden files. Rest assured I am now working on correcting this oddity. In any event, my only complaint about this book was that it was over too quickly. Seriously, this is probably the fastest 300 page book I’ve ever read.
Ok, I should add a few more words. Stormfront combines my two favorite things in one novel: well thought out magic and the noir style. That’s not something you usually see at the same time. Dresden is a cynical, powerful man out to clear his name. Yet despite the power Dresden possesses, he never once ventures into sue-mode territory. Dresden is plenty capable of both kicking ass and getting his ass kicked. Usually the former happens right after the latter. Magic aside, it’s almost too…human. Hopefully in future novels Dresden will remember to keep a better grip on his staff and various other magical implements.
A common complaint I have about the first novel in any series is the lack of a fleshed-out world. To this end, I argue that you should frequently start your protagonist around the middle of his career. It gives the writer two directions in time to work with instead of just one. The best writers bring the reader into a well-developed world right off the first page, and the reader is so carefully introduced that he/she is never confused. It is clear that Butcher spent a great deal of time fleshing out his world, his characters and the overall plot arc long before this book hit shelves. Signature noir introduction of Dresden’s business aside, it would be easy to mistake this book for the third or fourth entry into the series. The characters and setting are that well detailed, while never confusing the reader.
So The Dresden Files and Discworld will now be competing for reading time in the near future. I have a lot of catching up to do with both.
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