For the past few months, I’ve been telling friends that I really enjoy the Dresden Files. At this point, I’m ready to admit that I’ve been lying to them. And I’ve been lying to myself. After 12 books, the flimsiness of the characters has taken its toll on me. For a while, I had hoped for Jim Butcher to allow their personalities to develop naturally through the plot and stop with those annoying one paragraph introductions he includes every time a regular jumps into the fray and maybe, let the reader find out what their deal is all on their own. The problem is that everything you need to know about the characters in the Dresden Files can be boiled down to a paragraph and a few quips. They are not very complex. It bothers me something terrible and it makes his characters predictable, from the cowardly, career-driven but crooked Special Investigations officer all the way up to Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden. I don’t ever catch myself wondering what’s going through his mind whenever he crosses paths with anyone in high heels.
Dresden himself boils down to this well-intentioned and highly misunderstood individual with the proclivities of a frat-house reject who hasn’t gotten any lately but has managed to contain his nearly nuclear levels of lust and should be commended for doing so. He also thinks that his constant interactions with the supernatural makes him better suited at deciding the fate of others, but it really doesn’t so he ends up messing things up for his people, professionally, emotionally and/or physically, take your pick. Jim Butcher paints Harry as the underdog, always fighting the odds, standing up against convention and fucking shit up (good and bad shit), while steadily acquiring the silent admiration of the brash, younger folk. He tries to be the nice guy but when it comes down to it, he comes off as the unintentional anti-hero.
Butcher’s female characters are all hotter than Cholula sauce. Harry constantly fetishizes them. You would think one couldn’t get hotter than the next but that’s only because you haven’t met the next contestant, with the exception of Murphy who is only really super cute (just give Molly some time). The traits and personalities of the women around Dresden are constantly overshadowed by their sex appeal, at least whenever the protagonist addresses them. Or talks about them. Or thinks about them. They highlight his sexual instincts and the strength of his will -his power to overcome temptation. If and when temptation overcomes him, it’s only because he’s taking one for the team. Murphy and Molly are the only two who somehow manage to escape this box. Kind of, since Harry still has a thing for them.
The characters in the Dresden Files are more or less defined by their props if not other tropes. The wielder of the Sword of Hope and a Kalashnikov, an agnostic black russian Knight of the Cross (God’s own Delta Force) is as complicated as they get. Everyone else just slips right into their bathrobes and slippers.
Sometimes, I don’t mind someone else doing the thinking for me and I say this not in an attempt to validate my taste for these books by labeling them as a guilty pleasure. I’m not a big fan of Butcher’s character portrayal, yet I’ve made it through 12 volumes.
I don’t hate Dresden. I rather like him in spite of his apparent deal-breakers. It’s not hard to find yourself rooting for the guy regardless of the annoying stuff about him and the people around him. I still think of Dresden as a regular guy, with a gift for magic, and a bunch of Nevernever people problems. I am annoyed at the things that I’ve mentioned because I think that were it not for those things, the Dresden Files would be even better. I love the concept behind many of the characters in the series, but I mean, after 12 books, I don’t expect a drastic change in their portrayal in the remaining 8.
Having said that, it still doesn’t sound like a good enough reason to stick around for so long. What gives?
These stories take place in a vast world that extends beyond the natural and incorporate classic fantasy and other fiction into its universe, while weaving together multiple, intriguing story lines. And I am a sucker for story lines and world building. I’ve become a big fan of the hardboiled tone of the series and I’m digging the underlying plot, Butcher’s take on the supernatural universe and the way he’s incorporated other fantasy books and myths into his own work-the Nevernever (land), Bram Stoker’s Dracula being a manual on how to kill a type of vampire, werewolves, native american shapeshifters, King Arthur, Merlin and Excalibur, dragons, archangels and fallen angels, and the world of the fae to name a few. It’s more than clever, it’s amazing work, something that I came to fully acknowledge around the time Dresden saddled up a zombie dinosaur. It got me hype. And I find myself looking forward to his possible encounter with the Jabberwocky.
While my beef with the characters in the Dresden Files was brought to a boil in Changes, I was still able to enjoy the details that further fleshed out of the world in which Harry operates. It’s not difficult to go through the series but this volume was a rough ride. Among the things that I’ve managed to accept by now is that there’s no way of avoiding the Deus Ex Machina that affects every story, especially since every one of them is about Harry saving the day, regardless of how out-muscled he may be. I’ve come to expect a certain outcome, I think it’s part of reading these books, but I can’t imagine anyone would be aghast at the final twist in Changes, whether or not you know that there are supposed to be 20 books in the series. I am fully vested in the Dresden Files despite my gripes. I enjoy reading them but after this one, I’m going to need a long break before moving onto what’s left.