Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Book Review: Fool Moon

Fool Moon
by Jim Butcher
Roc, 2001
Buy it at Amazon or Barnes & Noble
Recommended by Mike Thompson and Mike Grace

Fool Moon is the worst kind of book to review. As much as I want to tear it to pieces on a few technical levels, I just can't because I had so much fun reading it. Then again, if you've ever read a Jim Butcher novel before, you pretty much know what you're in for.

If not, here's how Jim Butcher's Dresden Files series works: Harry Dresden is a wizard in modern day Chicago. In fact, he's the only wizard-for-hire in town. While Harry has great magical talent, his business sense is lackluster, so he's always taking odd jobs either for the local police force or the occasional wealthy private citizen. His adventures put him at loggerheads with dark wizards, demons, and the criminal underworld, while exposing him to an ongoing love triangle between a beautiful journalist and a scrappy police lieutenant.

As you can imagine, Harry's adventures are pulpy at best, trashy at worst, and  the kind of book you could very easily read in one sitting if you have a few hours to kill. 

For what it's worth, Jim Butcher is a fairly talented writer, and has a real knack for action scenes, strong characters, and natural dialogue. He's also highly educated and shows it off at regular intervals with references to Shakespeare, Germanic opera, and pop culture from Dracula to Star Trek. Both Butcher as unseen director and Harry as narrator have appealing voices and amiable personalities.

The plot, this time around, involves a series of grisly murders that Harry must investigate, aided by the Chicago police force and an adversarial FBI team. Due to the murders' proximity to the full moon and a number of canine imprints on the bodies, Harry suspects a werewolf as the culprit, and the investigation begins. As expected, there are good guys, bad guys, betrayals, plot twists, and plenty of sex and violence along the way, but it's nothing you couldn't figure out once all the major players have been introduced.

The biggest problem with Fool Moon - and let's not beat around the bush, it's a fairly sizable problem - is with Harry himself. Harry is a bit of a Mary-Sue. He's not an egregious offender, of course - he's not all-powerful, he loses plenty of fights, and he gets banged up pretty badly during his investigation. However, he often keeps the truth to himself, withholding vital information from friends - especially female ones - that, by all rights, might save their lives, or the lives of others. However, Harry feels justified in every deception and rule-bend. If this comes back to bite him in later books, feel free to disregard this whole paragraph, but Harry's dishonesty in the name of chivalry is not a great character trait when played as a positive quality.

Still, Fool Moon is an enjoyable read from start to finish, and keeps the momentum going for The Dresden Files series at large. Since urban fantasy is not my forte, all I can say here is that if you're interested in the genre, you could do much worse than Jim Butcher. Start with Storm Front, as it's the first entry in the series, and should give you a good idea what to expect. 

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