Sunday, July 29, 2012

Review: Fool Moon by Jim Butcher

Fool Moon (The Dresden Files #2)Business has been slow. Okay, business has been dead. And not even of the undead variety. You would think Chicago would have a little more action for the only professional wizard in the phone book. But lately, Harry Dresden hasn't been able to dredge up any kind of work, —magical or mundane. But just when it looks like he can't afford his next meal, a murder comes along that requires his particular brand of supernatural expertise. A brutally mutilated corpse. Strange-looking paw prints. A full moon. Take three guesses —and the first two don't count...

If Storm Front was Butcher flexing his writerly muscles Fool Moon is a great sequel where the author is clearly finding his stride and becoming more comfortable with the characters and the world he has created. It is definitely better in terms of writing and gives the reader a taste of what's coming in the Dresden Files universe. Wondering what kind of sign of things to come I'm taking about? I'm talking about werewolves. Butcher doesn't have just one kind, they're all different, there are different ways they are made and different ways to kill them. I really enjoyed how the usual lore was incorporated into the story and made unique in this way without really repeating anyone's work.
Whenever I read a sequel I always worry that the author will be heavy-handed in revealing the backstory, so before I even started Fool Moon I wondered how it was going to be handled here. I really shouldn't have worried, Mr. Butcher made sure that if a new reader picked up the book they wouldn't be completely lost and that a reader who's observing the sequence wouldn't be bored with the flat recounting of what happened in the previous installment or an roll call of who's who.
Having read three books in the series so far I can tell that every one has a theme that's related to the real world. Storm Front was about two criminals wrestling over control of the illicit drug trade in Chicago, Fool Moon is about law enforcement going rogue with dire consequences for everybody. The author is again very creative in the way he sets up the premise and for this series the execution is excellent. I could really see the metaphors he's drawn and appreciated the issues he raised.
This wouldn't be a Dresden Files novel if there wasn't enough wisecracks to fill two non-Dresden Files novels and if the action didn't move at breakneck speed. Butcher delivered on both counts and in the process made sure to add in some pretty intense fight scenes and a real Oh-oh moment. I have to say, I really like adventure that's written by men, if it doesn't go overboard on the violence it's a lot more satisfying than the action from women writers that I've read so far. There's more grit and less hand-wringing. It's not all testosterone-charged exploits though, there are a couple tender moments thrown in to please the fair sex, and as one such representative I can attest that they hit the spot.
My main gripe with this book is that a) Harry needs to give himself a break every once in a while and b) things were starting to feel formulaic in terms of plot development: I could clearly see the developing pattern of "start working on the case, get beat up, make two potions, continue working on the case, drink potions at two separate opportune moments, save the day while barely avoid getting killed". I really enjoyed the book regardless (there was so much going on that I forgot to watch for patterns) but worried about how things would go in the third book of the series once I was done. I'm not telling how all that turned out though, you'll just have to wait till next Sunday. Aren't I a veritable Sheherezade? ;)

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