Published by ROC, a Penguin Publisher, January 2001
Note: Book 2 of the Dresden Files Series
The growth of the Harry Dresden character is both expanded and diminished in this book, and Jim Butcher finds some of the most solid themes of his next books in this story. The mystery in this book is not very good, in all honesty, if you haven’t at least figured out what evil baddie creature that Harry will be combating in this book by the end of the first paragraph, then you need to leave the sci fi/fantasy section and go over to the literature or non fiction sections or read the yellow pages instead. Within the first couple of chapters you determine the murder weapon, but there are a lot of leads to follow, more than usual, in fact, and Harry gets pulled in many different directions, and if it wasn’t for Mr. Butcher’s commitment to continuity, there seem to be many places that the story could derail and dash itself to pieces.
Harry’s character first shows himself to really be a “heavy hitter” in this book, with several combat scenes where Harry really cuts loose and starts throwing around fireballs (which is the whole point of wizards, if a wizard can’t throw a decent fireball or equivalent, then they get their ‘Awesome’ status revoked and have to go hang out with clerics, gnomes and other useless fantasy archetypes) and his battle with one of the monsters at the police station is the first glimpse of how hardcore a gun-slinger Harry really is. For three chapters in the middle, Harry pulls out the stops and throws down and gets his butt thoroughly mauled for it. And later in the book, once again, Harry throws down with spectacular effect, only to get smacked down for the effort. In fact, the terrible exhaustion, crippling feelings of guilt, and weariness that become a hallmark of this character are really brought to the fore. Mr. Butcher does an excellent job of building sympathy for Harry, and the reader may find themselves rooting for the underdog more than they did in the first novel.
There is very little ‘detecting’ in this book as much as ‘investigating’, so expect to move from one suspicious group to another, rather than using evidence to discover the perpetrator. This does not detract from the story, but playing the ‘whodunnit’ round robin can feel repetitive, and it can be easy to get lost in this. Luckily for the reader, Mr. Butcher provides enough engagement from his fantastic secondary characters. If there is anything that Mr. Butcher excels at, it is his secondary and tertiary characters, readers really come to enjoy reading about them, and you can never quite get enough of them. Mr. Butcher also expands on the characters of Murphy and Bob, fleshing them both out, especially Murphy, making them more three dimensional. This book is certainly not my most favorite of the stories, but it is completely necessary to read if you plan to continue the series, and the plot and characters make it a strong read all the same. It is undoubtedly more polished than Storm Front, and shows Mr. Butchers ability to pull off what is sometimes the hardest thing to do in his line of work: a viable sequel that doesn’t suck.
I’d Say: Nitpicking notwithstanding, if you liked the first one, you’ll like this one
Note: This review was originally published on Oct 10, 2011 on my now defunct book review site, Readerway.