Tag Archives: The Dresden Files

Review: “Trailer Park Fae” by Lilith Saintcrow

Title: Trailer Park Fae
Author: Lilith Saintcrow
Series: Gallow and Ragged  #1
Rating: ****
Publisher/Copyright: Orbit, 2015

As we’ve established, I’m a sucker for urban fantasy. This book was no different, even as it expanded my boundaries a bit. The Fae play a role in the Dresden Files, but this was my first time with something Fae-centric. Gotta say, I can’t wait for the next book in this series to come out, and I think I might look up more of Ms. Saintcrow’s work.

To all appearances, Jeremiah Gallow is just a simple construction worker down on his luck, and that’s just what he wants you to think. Formerly the half-human armormaster for the Queen of Summer, Jeremiah walked away from the world of the Fae years ago for the love of a mortal woman. It’s been five years since his beloved Daisy was killed in a freak car accident, but Jeremiah has no intention of returning to the world of the fickle Fae….until a Faery damsel in distress looking strikingly like his dead wife crosses his path and embroils him once more in the ever-shifting politics of Faery.

This was an incredibly fascinating book, and I loved every minute of it. It is not, however, always an easy read. The prose is beautiful, faintly echoing Shakespeare’s Faery, but like the bard it can get distractingly convoluted at times. I didn’t mind, it just means that if you’re planning to read this you might have to work a little on occasion. On a related note, there is almost zero outright info-dumping, so if you’re unfamiliar with legends of the Fae you might find yourself a bit off balance on occasion. You can usually pick stuff up from the context, but again, that takes a bit of work. There’s a brief glossary at the back of the book for Faery terms, very useful for connecting Saintcrow’s archaic (and I presume faithfully ancient) spelling. The book is pretty dark, without the splash of snark and wit that I’ve grown accustomed to in my urban fantasy, but that’s not so much a fault in the book as it is a problem with my expectations. The plot takes a little while to really get going, largely because so much time is spent establishing the characters, but that extra work definitely pays off and once the plot builds up a head of steam the twists come fast and furious. Some I saw coming, others blindsided me. Bottom line: I absolutely cannot wait for the next book so I can meet up with these characters once again.

CONTENT: Occasional R-rated language. Some frank if not outright-explicit sexual content and discussion. Strong violence, often disturbing. Rampant magic, though I wouldn’t quite deem it occultic.

This is a longer version of a review I wrote for the Manhattan Book Review.

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Review: “The Dresden Files: Fool Moon” (GN Adaptation) by Jim Butcher, Mark Powers, & Chase Conley

Title: Fool Moon Volume I/Volume II
Original novel by: Jim Butcher
Adapted by: Mark Powers
Artist: Chase Conley
Series: The Dresden Files
Rating: ****
Publisher/Copyright: Dynamite, 2011/2013

By now, I shouldn’t really have to explain my absolute love of Jim Butcher’s masterwork, The Dresden Files. I think I’ve made that abundantly clear on a repeated basis, whether reviewing the last couple books in the series (Cold Days, Skin Game) or either of the previous graphic novels–the prequel Welcome To The Jungle and the adaptation of the first book in the series, Storm Front. And now we come to the graphic novel adaptation for book two: Fool Moon, again in two parts that I will review together here. The general consensus among fans of the series is that the first two or three books are merely good, while every book after that goes up in awesomeness by something like an order of magnitude, and I largely agree. It’s been quite a while since I read the actual novel version of this (which means it’s time to go back and re-read the entire series!), but from what I remember this seemed pretty faithful to the book.

Harry Dresden is having a bit of a rough patch. I know, what else is new? With their friendship still strained by the lies he told to protect her back in Storm Front, Murphy has been calling him in for jobs less and less, which means that Harry is having to scrape the bottom of the barrel to find money for rent. All the same, Chicago has been mostly quiet on the supernatural apocalypse front, and for that Harry is grateful. Alas, it can’t last. People are dying at every full moon, and even a rookie would know what that means–there’s a werewolf in town. Harry had better figure out what’s going on quick, before more people end up as dog food….but that’s not going to be easy with “Gentleman Johnny” Marcone on his tail, along with a crew of suspicious Feds watching his every move, Murphy still not sure she trusts him, and a lycanthropic street gang out for his head. Why can’t it ever just be simple? Oh, right….because that’s no fun….

Like I said above, this was pretty faithful to the book. The only thing really missing was Dresden’s snarky humor as he narrates, and I’ll admit that I missed it a bit. The real downfall here though, and what cost it that fifth star, is the artwork. It wasn’t atrocious, it wasn’t even really objectively bad, but I didn’t like it. Partially, yes, it’s the fact that I still miss the stellar work of Ardian Syaf. I recognize that, and I need to get over it. But then, I don’t tend to be a fan of this particular style of art anyway. There’s also the fact that half the time I can only tell Murphy from Tera based on their clothes, and the female characters tend to be over-sexualized even when that’s not a part of their character. Susan, I get that. That’s how she is. Tera, likewise. As much time as she spends without clothes on shifting back and forth or as a distraction, I can see why she would be sexualized. I’m less understanding of Kim’s neckline–that’s not the kind of relationship she has with Dresden–and I highly doubt that Murphy would dress quite so provocatively (even if she’s fairly conservative compared to the others). There’s never quite anything that would send the book into Vertigo territory (were this DC), but the shadows and foreground objects get quite a workout keeping this book PG-13.

CONTENT: Brief R-rated language. Some gory violence. No outright nudity, thanks to incredibly-convenient shadows or foreground objects, but so close it’s almost no difference. Also….Dresden’s a wizard. There’s gonna be magic. You’ve been warned.

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Review: “The Dresden Files: Skin Game” by Jim Butcher

Title: Skin Game
Author: Jim Butcher
Series: The Dresden Files #15
Rating: *****
Publisher/Copyright: ROC, 2014

You should probably know by now: I’m a huge Dresden fan. Jim Butcher has an uncanny ability to top his previous achievements each book, and this time is no exception. Obviously, this review will contain spoilers for previous books in the series.

Right. It was revealed at the end of Cold Days that Dresden had some sort of parasite in his head that was causing his recurring headaches, and that it will eventually kill him if left unchecked. Demonreach, the sentient island/monster prison located in the middle of Lake Michigan, can use its bond with Dresden to keep the parasite suppressed for the moment, which is why Dresden has been living there alone for the past year. Unfortunately, time is running out. If the parasite isn’t dealt with soon, Harry will die. Mab, queen of the Winter Fae and Harry’s boss since he accepted the mantle of Winter Knight to save his daughter, offers a solution…after he completes a mission for her. That mission? No less than helping one of his Archenemies pull off a heist from the vault of Hades himself. Nicodemus heads the Order of the Blackened Denarius, a group of thirty fallen angels who are each tied to a particular silver Roman coin (Yeah, THOSE coins) and form a symbiotic relationship with whoever holds that coin. The Denarians are locked in an eternal combat with the Knights of the Cross, a trio (usually) of knights who each wield a sword forged with a nail from the cross (Yeah, THAT cross) in the hilt. Harry has crossed the Denarians before, even owned one of their coins for a while, but so far he has always come out ahead. This time? This time he’s got to help Nicodemus get his hands on one of the holiest relics in the world, and refrain from any treachery until after their objectives are met. This time, there may be no way out….

You’ve gotta love a good heist. Ocean’s Eleven was good, but robbing the Underworld itself? That’s the ultimate challenge. Will Dresden and his temporary allies succeed? Can Dresden thwart Nicodemus plan without breaking Mab’s orders? And given Nicodemus’ track record for flawless honesty, what on (or under) Earth is the real play here? You’ve gotta read on to find out! I will say that this was every bit as excellent as you would expect, and I stayed up way too late multiple nights in a row reading this book. Dresden is as snarky as ever, and after the last several books it was good to see a bunch of his allies again. One of the main strengths of this series is the secondary characters, every one of whom is interesting in their own right. You’ve got Karrin Murphy, former cop and arguably Dresden’s closest friend. Michael, crippled former Knight and one of the few men on the planet who are truly and unequivocally Good. Waldo Butters, Chicago coroner and budding supernatural vigilante, also the current holder of Bob, the spirit of intellect who formerly served Dresden. For the past several books Harry has walked a lonely road, and it’s good to see his friends again. Now he just has to keep from getting them killed….

CONTENT: R-rated language, not gratuitous but still present. Strong violence, sometimes very disturbing. Some fairly explicit sexual content this time, but I would argue that it was included for good reason. Since the main character is a wizard, I think the “occult content” is a given, but I urge you not to let that discourage you from this series.

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Review: “The Dresden Files: Storm Front (GN Adaptation)” by Jim Butcher, Mark Powers, Ardrian Syaf & Brett Booth

Title: Storm Front Vol. I: The Gathering Storm/Vol. II: Maelstrom
Original novel by: Jim Butcher
Adapted by: Mark Powers
Artists: Ardrian Syaf (Vol. I-II) & Brett Booth (Vol. II)
Series: The Dresden Files
Rating: *****
Publisher/Copyright: Dabel Brothers, 2009/Dynamite, 2011

Okay, I’ll just say this up front and get it out of the way: you should totally be reading the real books, not these graphic adaptations. However, I’ve read the real thing, and so now have no compunctions about reading the graphic novel. To clarify, this is a graphic novel adaptation of the first novel in the series, published in two volumes and reviewed here as one unit.

When the Chicago PD have a case they don’t know how to explain, they give it to Karrin Murphy and the Special Investigations division. When Murphy thinks there may actually be something supernatural going on, she calls in the only practicing wizard in the Chicago phone book–Harry Dresden. This time, there’s a couple of corpses in a gore-splattered hotel room, their hearts exploded from their chests mid-climax. One is a high-class hooker, one of Madame Bianca’s girls. The other is the right-hand man of Chicago’s local mob boss. This was obviously the work of a powerful wizard–the problem is, Harry’s the only one around who fits the bill. Now Harry has the council watching his every move, and any attempt to recreate the spell used to kill the hitman and the hooker may be enough to seal his doom. On the other hand, if he can’t figure out what happened, the city will soon be gripped in a war between the mob and Madame Bianca’s vampires. In addition, he has another seemingly-unrelated case to distract him, and a beautiful tabloid journalist vying for his attentions. Can Harry unravel these tangled plot threads and figure out what’s going on? Go read the book and find out!

Granted, it’s been a while since I’ve read the original novel this is adapted from, but this seemed incredibly faithful. Jim Butcher seemed to think so in his introduction, anyway. The writing was good, which can partially be laid at the foot of adapter Mark Powers but I think belongs mostly to Jim Butcher’s original novel. The art, however, is the reason I picked this up in the first place–keep in mind, this is adapted from a book I’ve already read, so it wasn’t too high on my priority list. Ardian Syaf, the same artist from the prequel Welcome To The Jungle, continues his stellar work here. Characters I’ve been reading about for years jump off the page almost exactly how I imagined them, and I have to say it’s been a great experience. Where the first volume  falls short is in it’s bonus story in the back, an adaptation of the first ever Dresden short story Restoration Of Faith. It wasn’t a particularly strong story to begin with (by Butcher’s own admission), and the graphic treatment isn’t kind. It’s adapted by Grant Alter with art by Kevin Mellon, and it just doesn’t stack up. Important information is never given, a character just appears out of nowhere when it’s time for him to show up with no introduction, and the villain’s defeat is almost incoherent–if I hadn’t read the story before I would have no idea what happened in those two panels. The art isn’t particularly horrible, but it’s not good either. I would almost tell you not to bother with this so-called bonus story, and just find the original in Butcher’s Dresden anthology Side Jobs. Midway through producing the adaptation, it appears the original publisher (Dabel Brothers) either went out of business or sold the property to Dynamite. This obviously delayed some of the production, and artist Ardian Syaf got a better offer from DC. You know, one that actually involved working and getting paid instead of waiting for the paperwork to be settled. I don’t like that he left, but I can understand it. The powers that be replaced him with Brett Booth for the remainder of the second volume, and I suppose Booth did okay. Had he been on the book from the beginning, I would have been fine with it. As it stands, however, the switchover was jarring, unannounced, and a little disappointing. Will I keep reading these? Of course! It’s still Dresden….its just that Syaf’s art was what pulled me into this in the first place, and now that’s gone.

CONTENT: Mild language. Some gory violence and creepy creatures. Some non-explicit sexual content, including a set of corpses still locked in a very sexual position and some discussion of prostitution. Occult-wise….Harry’s a wizard. You know up front what you’re getting into with this one….

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Review: “The Dresden Files: Welcome To The Jungle” by Jim Butcher and Ardian Syaf

Title: Welcome To The Jungle
Writer: Jim Butcher
Artist: Ardian Syaf
Series: The Dresden Files
Rating: *****
Publisher/Copyright: Dabel Brothers, 2008

I’m a huge fan of Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files. You may not have picked up on this, since there’s only really been one book in the series come out since I started doing this review blog, but I await each new release for this series with a fervor previously reserved for new Star Wars books. For me, the start of the series was the Dabel Brothers comic miniseries Welcome To The Jungle. Conveniently, this miniseries/graphic novel (depending on whether you’re reading the individual issues or the hardcover collection) acts as a prequel to the first novel. Now, whether you’re a longtime Dresden reader or are only just discovering the distilled pure awesomeness that is this series, I highly recommend tracking down a copy of this one.

When the Chicago PD have a case they don’t know how to explain, they give it to Karrin Murphy and the Special Investigations division. When Murphy thinks there may actually be something supernatural going on, she calls in the only practicing wizard in the Chicago phone book–Harry Dresden. This time, there’s a dead guard at the Chicago zoo. Throat ripped out by a beast with maniacal strength, blood everywhere…including the gorilla cage, which is why the official story is that the gorilla did it. But something doesn’t fit…namely, the gorilla was still in his cage with the gate locked when the body was found. Now unless Harry can figure out just what went down the innocent ape will be euthanized and the killer will go unpunished, free to pursue his or her devilish plot….

I can’t praise this enough, honestly. The writing is pure Butcher, as good as you would expect from having read the Dresden Files novels. There’s all the wry asides, self deprecation, vile monsters and supernatural action that Butcher can throw at you, with the added bonus of being able to visualize the characters and situations. The visual element of the story is really put to full use, especially in the sequence where Harry is running through his list of creatures capable of the violence at the zoo. Also, Harry is freaking tall! It’s one thing to have him tell you this, but to see the way he towers above all the other characters is pretty fun. This is completely consistent with the books too, which is nice. I’m not a huge fan of the collection cover, honestly, which is why I went with the cover to one of the individual issues for the top of the post.

CONTENT: Mild language. Violence, sometimes disturbing and bloody. Mild sexual innuendos, nothing too explicit. Occult content….well, Harry’s a wizard. There’s quite a bit of magic, usually operating through Harry’s pseudo-latin spells. My favorite is “flickum biccus,” his spell for lighting the candles about his apartment. There’s a Black Dog, from Celtic mythology, mention of vampires and other stock fantasy creatures, and the implication that Greek mythology has at least some grounding in reality.

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