Midnight Enchantments: Harry Dresden
By Devon Ellington<strongi
I’d heard about this JIm Butcher series for years. It was one of those I figured I’d “get around to” reading “someday.” Sort of like a round tuit, those potholder like things we used to give each other back in the 80’s and 90’s, when someone would say they were too busy and would “get around to it.”
Then, one of my students recommended the series, telling me she enjoyed it and thought I would, too. The next time I went to the bookstore, I picked up STORM FRONT. My student was right!
What makes Harry Dresden such a terrific character? He’s unique, he’s memorable, and he’s a good guy. Sure, he’s unusual — a paranormal detective who’s also a licensed wizard. He’s even in the phone book — a great detail. The guy has skills. He’s got talent, too, but he doesn’t do things by half-measures. He’s good at what he does because he puts in the work. He’s also got a wry sense of humor, a strong sense of loyalty, and doesn’t hesitate to do what needs to be done when those around him flinch. He’s someone you could just as easily sit and have a beer and burger with in the local bar, or go demon hunting with, should the need arise.
Chicago, the setting of the books, is also an additional character. It’s a slightly alt-Chicago, but the streets are both familiar and strange, and the geography sings. His father was a stage magician, so not only does Harry use magic in his work, he also knows how to weave in illusion when necessary. The way Butcher uses the two systems in tandem rather than in opposition makes for lively action. His mother was a wizard, but we don’t have much information about her in the early books. As with most wizards, he’s got an arsenal of tools at his disposal, as well as drawing on the elements. He seems to trust the tools, more at this point, although I hope that will be one of his areas of growth in the series (I’m just a few books in). He’s under the watchful eye of the White Council — who’d be more than happy to kill him if he steps out of bounds.
His relationship with Karrin Murphy, a cop and his sometimes partner on cases, is fascinating and unconventional. There’s a lot of deep emotion there, but neither seems willing to take a risk on the other. Considering how often they’re nearly killed together, it’s understandable. I don’t really understand why he’s involved with Susan Rodriguez other than she’s a fun sexual partner– I find her more annoying than alluring or feisty — but I’m willing to stick with the books to see how it unfolds. Harry may not always understand the women around him, but he likes and respect women, and that keeps the stories from falling into gender cliches.
Butcher is great at melding the natural world with the paranormal, telling us unique, unusual stories, driven by sparkling dialogue and memorable characters. Strong, intelligent female protagonists have been on the rise in this genre over the past few years. Every once in awhile, it’s nice to also focus on a male protagonist who’s also strong and quirky and intelligent and fun.
–Devon Ellington publishes under a half a dozen names in both fiction and non-fiction. She will present her Dialogue Workshop at the Write Angles Conference on the Mt. Holyoke Campus on October 22. Visit her website at www.devonellingtonwork.com