Fool Moon by Jim Butcher

Book Two of the Dresden Files

ISBN: 1841493996

Published 2001, US; September 2005, Orbit UK.

Last month (September 2005) I reviewed (and was rather pleased with) Storm Front, the first book in this series. (see review ).

I have continued this month with the second in the series.

Fool Moon takes place six months after the events of Storm Front. Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden, Chicago’s only professional ‘wizard for hire’ has not been employed as a Special Investigations Squad by the Chicago Police Department since the events of Storm Front. His friend, police chief Karrin Murphy, has been giving him the cold shoulder, and Harry has been accused of working for local gangster John (Johnnie) Marcone. One October night, he gets a visit from Lieutenant Murphy about a murder – one that has been very, very messy and seems to be the latest in a series of gruesome events, which coincidentally happen at full moon. And there’s more moonlit nights on the way….

OK – this is Harry Dresden in werewolf territory – actually, as Harry finds out, not just werewolf territory, but werewolves, hexenwolves, lycanthropes and loup garou territory. (The book explains the difference!)

I arrived at this book after really enjoying the first. I guess that means that I began the book really wanting to know how Harry and his motley crew were after the first book. I was pleased to find that this book quickly got me back into Harry’s world. As expected, the second book in the series developed many of the things I enjoyed in the first. There is still the dry commentary and the sense of humour that I enjoyed in the first book. As this is the second book in a series however, a reader usually expects more. The characters and plot concepts have been set up in the first, so in order to keep a reader reading you expect development – to know more about the characters and their lives. Here Butcher continues to expand the backstory, which ties in nicely with things mentioned in Storm Front.

The book is still fun, though as you might expect with a series’ development, the book deals with a lot more weighty issues here: the importance of trust (something which Harry finds difficult to do and which clearly has consequences in this book); the burden of responsibility (and the fact that Harry has it. This means that BAD things happen, because Harry cannot afford to delegate it); and blood (lots here, not only in the visceral sense but also in the sense of brotherly and familial ties). Most of these themes were touched on in Book One, but clearly given more space to breathe here.

However, what I wasn’t expecting with this one was how bleak things have become for Harry – the feeling of fun noticeable in the first book takes a back seat to the violence and general weariness that permeates this book.

Though the first book had its moments of bleakness, this is a much darker book. There are events here which reach lower than I thought even poor old Harry could get. There are fewer chills, yet more violence and visceral events. The body count is huge. The beatings that Harry endures are even greater. It is clearly not one to read to cheer you up, though like many a good page turner, it is clear that good will out in the end, though clearly at a price.

The skill of the good writer is to keep you reading, despite the bleakness. I was pleased that this is something Butcher manages to do, though there are still some stylistic areas that were a little basic. The prose is straightforward, the pace very fast, which is rather entertaining and well done, keeping the plot moving without the reader needing to reach for the dictionary.

In summary, then, it was for me a quick and entertaining read, if not quite what I was entirely expecting. This is clearly a book for those who like their gore quotient high and for those wanting to read about  magic in a contemporary film-noir style. Though I doubt it, I did rather hope the next book will lighten up a little – just a little.

Definitely one for those who like their downtrodden detectives with magic thrown in. Despite my minor reservations, still worth reading, and I will continue to read the rest in the series.

Hobbit, October 2005




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