Boozy Books: The Dresden Files

Welcome back, readers, from our weekly three-day hiatus, and greetings unto you this…Friday. Yeah, it’s still Friday. And as it is, in fact, Friday, I suppose that means it’s time for our weekly alcohol anthology. (Help me, guys…I have an addition to alliteration. An alliteration addition, if you will. OH GOD, what I have I done?!) Last time it was my turn, I gave in to my impulse to reminisce about our vacation instead of writing about Sabriel, my favorite YA book from my actual youth. (Aside from Harry Potter, I mostly skipped YA books and went straight to “grown-up stuff”. I was twelve, for example, when I first read Hamlet and even younger when Austen came into my life.) Well, the poor Abhorsen will have to wait again, because I decided to write about my favorite wizard named Harry.

Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden. And be careful with that name.

(From the cover of Ghost Story.)

Gasp, you might say. Heresy, cry others! Harry Dresden over the Boy Who Lived? Chicago’s only professional wizard against the Chosen One?! How could you? Well…yeah. I like Dresden better. For one, he whines a lot less. For another, the books suit my particular taste far more. I’m a bit of a world-building nut and the Dresden Files just has more of that in it. As the series goes on, the world gets bigger around Harry; he doesn’t go off to boarding school every year and face the Dark Lord. All-in-all, I’d say Harry Dresden is what Harry Potter will be when he grows up. Auror Harry Potter, not boy wizard Harry Potter.

But…I get ahead of myself. Let’s start out with the basic premise, shall we? There are currently fifteen books in the Dresden Files with more on the way, beginning with Storm Front. The most recent book is titled Skin Game. OK, now that we’ve gotten that over with, let’s dive in. Harry Dresden is a wizard. He is, in fact, Chicago’s only professional wizard (no love spells) and works as a private investigator, often alongside the Chicago PD. The novels themselves are written in the first person and are reminiscent of old hard-boiled detective novels, so they’re sort of an urban fantasy-meets-Sam Spade amalgamation of awesome. Harry lives in a basement apartment with an ENORMOUS cat named Mister (and later an equally GIGANTENORMOUS dog named Mouse) and a spirit named Bob, who lives in a skull. Especially in the earlier books, he works with Karrin Murphy, who is a member of the Special Investigations unit (they work with the weird stuff), to solve crimes (as the PI business doesn’t really rake in the cash). But as the series grows, so does Harry and the world he inhabits.

I admit it, guys: I am a sucker for a wise-ass. I gravitate toward the trickster in just about everything, really. Not that Harry is the trickster, per se, but he is a quick-thinking character with an equally quick tongue and a propensity to make whatever joke comes to mind. Usually of the nerdy bent. How could I possibly resist? If Harry would just learn a bit more subtlety, I think he’d be a great trickster. As it is, he’s definitely a Gryffindor. Brave, chivalrous, fool-hardy, charges into situations before thinking about it…yeah, he’s a Gryffindor. Slap a lion on him, guys, we’re done here.

And Harry isn’t a static character, either. He isn’t always the hero. He tries to be–he will give everything of himself if need be–but sometimes he is not the hero. Sometimes it’s Karrin or Michael (one of my favorite characters ever…but no spoilers…Oh God was I excited to see him again, though…) or, hell, even Butters. (Yeah, there’s a character named Butters.) Sometimes he’s a pawn in someone else’s game. Actually, as more and more powerful entities get involved in Harry’s life, he finds himself a pawn far more often. But Harry always struggles to do his best, even when he knows it isn’t enough, and that’s heartening. It’s good to see a character who can’t wave his hand and everything’s solved. Harry needs help and he asks for it (though sometimes begrudgingly as he, like Potter, doesn’t want anyone to get hurt). He grows, learns new skills, meets new people, realizes that there’s more to Heaven and Earth than he’s ever dreamt of…(WHAT?! There’s a skull!) And as we get to see Harry grow, we get to delve further and further into this amazing world where just about everything is real. You want werewolves? Got ’em. Vampires? At least three types. Gods? At least a couple so far. Faeries? All kinds. Santa Claus? Oh yeah, baby! Angels and Demons? Yup, and without Tom Hanks. Really, if you can think about it, it’s probably there. And all with Dresden’s signature style.

(This is actually Butters, but I couldn’t resist. Remember guys: Polka will never die!)

But, really, what I love most of all about this series is that, as a reader, you literally get to watch Jim Butcher (Oh, Lord, did I forget to mention the author’s name before now?! What tomfoolery is this, me? I thought we were professional!) grow as an author alongside his character. The early novels are, to put it plainly, not the best. They’re good–they’re certainly better than most of the urban fantasy nonsense on the shelves now–but they’re weaker than the rest. By the time you get to Skin Game, it’s like reading a well-oiled machine of one-liners and “Oh shit!” moments. The characters are solid, the world continues to be viable no matter how much new stuff we learn, and the plots remain interesting. Actually, what I really admire about Mr. Butcher is his ability to write paradigm-shifting novels; it really keeps the series fresh without feeling like a reboot. And he has a really good sense of when to bring old villains (just the really big ones, mind) back into the fold, as well as when to finally get rid of them. I think getting to be a witness to such growth from a writer is just the big ol’ cherry on the delicious sundae that is this series. Really, picking up the next one is like returning to your favorite restaurant. The only problem is they’re so good and they read so fast, you’re always finished way before you want to be. And then there’s another year at least before the next one comes out.

Anyway, what to drink with these? Well, I have a couple of suggestions. First, for the beer lovers among you. One of Harry’s favorite things in the world is to go to McAnally’s Pub and have one of the man’s homemade ales. It’s up to you what kind of ale you want; if you love it, that’s the feeling I’m going for. Bonus points for having a steak sandwich to go with it.

For those of you who aren’t into booze…well, Mac has you covered there, too. He serves a homemade lemonade that is simply delicious. The secret? Make your ice cubes out of the same lemonade so the flavor isn’t diluted as the ice melts. Plus, it’s rather like having a bunch of little ice Popsicles to suck on, and who doesn’t love a good Popsicle?

The last recommendation I have comes from later in the series, so I won’t explain why it works too much, but, for those of you who really prefer a glass of wine to go with your reading, I present unto you Ice Wine. It’s a type of dessert wine produced from grapes that have been frozen while still on the vine. Because the sugars don’t dissolve, the process results in a deliciously sweet wine that’s perfect for those of us who think wine is just too damn sour. (Listen, I am not classy enough for wine. I think most of it is gross. But even I like Ice Wine. Really, I’m a Scotch kinda lady. Ron Swanson, eat your heart out.) Basically, as the series progresses and Harry becomes entangled within the politics of the Faerie Courts more deeply, the choice becomes quite apropos. Trust me…I’ve read all fifteen books and the short stories. I know what I’m about.

Buy the book (Storm Front, book One):

Buy the booze (my Ale recommendation):

Buy the booze (the Ice Wine):

Well, that’s it for me today! I swear I started this when it was Friday. My how the time flies when you’re searching for the perfect images. Anyway, see you Sunday! Tomorrow, it’s A with the Shakespeare Report! Assuming we didn’t write ourselves out about the Bard last month.


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