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Fool Moon by Jim Butcher
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Apr 25, 2009

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bookshelves: fantasy, mystery, urban-fantasy
Read in April, 2009

Jim Butcher achieves something that no other authors of urban fantasy have done (at least not the ones I've read); he expresses how wonderful it is to be producing magic in a world like ours.

I don't expect characters to be jazzed about their magic skills in a classic fantasy world, where magic is like bowling and everyone knows about it, most people have dabbled, but only a few can bowl anywhere near a perfect score.

Nor do I expect wizards to remain wide-eyed about their skills if they find themselves separated from Muggles for long periods, so that they are surrounded by magic and their only influence is magic. After all, knowing how to throw a slider loses its coolness when you're one of a pitching staff where everyone's got a slider and something more.

But in an urban fantasy setting, where the magical world is our world with magic in it -- a world with zombies and Coke, or vampires and Dancing with the Stars, or demons and Battlestar Galactica -- the protagonists can't always be seeing their talents as curses or handicaps or illnesses. Some character somewhere has got to like what they're able to do.

Enter Chicago wizard Harry Dresden.

Here's what he thinks about his skills: "The potion had worked. I was inside. I had to suppress an urge to break into a soft-shoe routine. Sometimes being able to use magic was so cool. I almost stopped hurting for a few seconds, from sheer enjoyment of the special effects. I would have to remember to tell Bob how much I liked the way this potion worked."

Now that's more like it. That's enthusiasm. That's joy. That's a man who knows that supernatural talent is about the best thing you can have in a modern city. And that's a recognition that being able to do magic is just plain cool.

This enthusiasm (dare I call it passion, as Harry does?) is at the core of Harry Dresden, and it is the best reason (amongst many others) for me to keep reading The Dresden Files.

I know guys like Harry. They are the computer geeks who spend their days programming wonders and come home to play video games, or the math geeks who spend their days dreaming up lofty theorems then come home and play speed chess. Harry's talent happens to be magic, but by grounding his skills in the lovable body of an everyday geek (albeit a badass geek), the kind of geek we all know and understand, Butcher makes everything about his Chicago -- the city, the people (especially Harry) and the magic -- as accessibly realistic as an urban fantasy-noir can be.

Furthermore, as an inveterate Indiana Jones fan, the constant references, intentional or otherwise, to Raiders of the Lost Ark are enough to keep me happy even when Harry Dresden miraculously pulls off his self-proclaimed mission against ridiculous odds that are compounded by bloodloss and bruising and beatings that would put a normal person in the hospital, which is, of course, another reference to Indiana Jones, making me love Dresden even more.

This is only the second book of The Dresden Files, so I don't want to go too far in my praise -- I am expecting better stories to come -- but as fantasy-noir entertainments go, Fool Moon is top notch. It is exciting, action packed and pulpy with just the right amount of cheek.

The Dresden Files is the perfect series if you need a break from the cerebral, but don't want to immerse yourself in drivel.

P.S. At this point in the series I completely hate Murphy. I know that is heresy for fans of The Dresden Files; I know she is beloved and has a history with Harry that grows and deepens, but right now I can't stand her. At this point (and I really do hope this changes in future books), she is pig-headed, abusive, closed minded, inflexible, self-righteous, and just plain mean. She is the one element of Fool Moon that I genuinely disliked. Too bad Harry didn't hook up with Tera.
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