Book Micro-Reviews: Dresden Files, Codex Alera
The Dresden Files (series)
Author: Jim Butcher
Genre: Modern Fantasy
The Dresden Files series follows Harry Dresden, a private investigator in Chicago who also happens to be a wizard. Each of the books follows along the prototypical mystery/whodunit framework, presenting 2-3 seemingly unrelated events that each carry the possibility of death/cataclysm before a resolution at the end. Despite each books’ fairly standard formulaic structure, where the Dresden Files series really shines is with its down-to-earth characters, the witty/hilarious dialog, and straight-forward style. I was at first put off with the “kitchen sink” approach used when presenting the supernatural (demons, fairies, vampires, oh my!) but again, the writing definitely saves what might otherwise come across as convoluted.
Overall, I feel pretty good in recommending this series. Compared to a lot of other fantasy series out there, the Dresden Files are considerably less dense but no less satisfying. I am definitely hoping that book 15 (and beyond) comes out sooner rather than later.
Codex Alera (series)
Author: Jim Butcher
When a friend recommended this series to me, the only thing I knew going in was the following paragraph from the Wikipedia entry:
The inspiration for the series came from a bet Jim was challenged to by a member of the Delray Online Writer’s Workshop. The challenger bet that Jim could not write a good story based on a lame idea, and Jim countered that he could do it using two lame ideas of the challenger’s choosing. The “lame” ideas given were “Lost Roman Legion”, and “Pokémon”.
Reading that will either intrigue you or turn you off immediately, but let me just mention that the Codex Alera series won Jim Butcher that bet, in my opinion.
The series itself follows the life of Tavi, a particularly clever boy who nevertheless was born without the ability to use magic in a world where everyone has an elemental familiar. As with Jim Butcher’s other series, the Dresden Files, the Alera books lean towards a sort of detective model that is very much Butcher’s style; you can definitely expect a lot of long trains of logic and counter-logic. It is not all cerebral however, as there will frequently be 10+ page fight scenes that may or may not leave you at the edge of your seat.
Overall, I enjoyed these books. Like many fantasy series, I felt it started somewhat slow and required a bit of acclimation to the world being presented. I was hooked by the second book though, enjoyed the natural progression, and quickly finished the rest thereafter.