By Jim Butcher (Official Webpage)
Buy it Here: Fool Moon
I reviewed Storm Front a few days ago, though I read both books about two or three months previous. I noted how I enjoyed the novel to a point, but it didn't really have that hook or catch to keep me going. I liked the idea (wizard in Chicago solving supernatural mysteries), but the book just didn't sink in.
Well, it was in Fool Moon that the series really sunk its teeth into me (horrible werewolf pun intended). While I won't go so far as to say the book is fantastically great (it isn't, it's just slightly above average), it did have the one thing the first book was missing, something completely crucial in long series like these:
It had a hook, and I wanted to read more.
I still do, in fact. As I'm writing this I'm finishing the audio recording of Grave Peril on my iPod, and already have Summer Knight (the book following) on my iPod, and even checked out Death Masks (the fifth book in the series) from the library in anticipation.
I have Dresden Files fever. Congrats, Jim Butcher. You won.
Now, on to the review of Fool Moon.
The premise for all the Dresden books could be easily stated in a nutshell: Harry gets called up on some crazy murder/premonition/etc. He rushes out, only to get beat up. He then keeps investigating, finds nothing is as it seems, and gets beaten up a few dozen more times (and in this book he even loses his magic). Then, in the end, there's a desperate struggle and Harry manages to come out.
That's the basic idea. But don't think that doesn't make them any less entertaining.
The monster of the hour in Fool Moon is werewolves. There's a wide variety of the creatures, with names I can't summon up to recall at this moment, but just know there's the puppy-dog ones (think Twilight) and the huge demon-dog monsters from hell ones. Of course, the once Harry's gotta take out is the latter. However, things get complicated as Susan, Harry's girlfriend-in-progress slash reporter from Storm Front, gets in on the whole mess. Add a werewolf pack that isn't as it seems, a psychotic drug and crazy FBI members, and a whole ton of gory killing, and you have one crazy story.
Now, I've said this was the book that made me finally want more Harry Dresden, and that is true. However, the book itself isn't as fantastic as I've made it out to be. Its leaps and bounds above Storm Front, for sure, but it still hadn't reached that "I can't put it down" status (which Grave Peril fully accomplishes). The fact Harry can keep going in some situation is unbelievable, and he often takes breaks when I think he should be fighting, and vice versa. He also has a terrible knack of being a total jerk to monsters he probably shouldn't be a total jerk to (something that continues in all the other books, if my friends are to be trusted), which makes him seem a little dumb.
So, why do I want more? It's hard to identify what really causes you to be sucked into a story, but there are a variety of things I can think of. First off, the characters, especially Harry, are extremely likeable. Not only that, but they have a fantastic synergy. Harry, with his snarky comments; Susan, with her determination but ignorance of the world she's digging in; Bob, a genius spirit in a skull who likes sex too much; Murphy, a hard-broiled female cop who both despises and relies on Harry. It's a great set up, and you just know that whatever Jim throws into this mess will work. Or, it would work, once Jim's writing catches up, which is starts showing signs of doing this time around.
Add on a bunch of secrets behind every character that would be dug up later in future novels, exciting action, and a magic system that is both intuitive and unique.
Fool Moon is a solid second installment, and it ends on a pseudo-cliffhanger (not frustrating, but making me want more) that works perfectly. I can now say this is a series certainly worth looking into if you enjoy urban fantasy, or hard-broiled cop stories with a snarky narrator and magic interwoven.
Expect a review of Grave Peril as soon as I finish it.