Book Review: Ghost Story (The Dresden Files) by Jim Butcher

I did something terrifically stupid by making an assumption that wasn’t true. Somewhere between hearing Dresden fans rave about the books and using the internet to answer a question, I decided that it didn’t matter what order the Dresden Files were read in.

Short answer: It does.

Slightly longer answer: The book still stands up on it’s own, but you miss hoards of character development and relationship backstory which sucks some of the deeper meaning out of it.

Do I regret my decision to dive into the story where I did? Yep. The longer I think about it, the more I realize just how badly I’ve shot myself in the foot. I’ve robbed myself of all those fabulous ah-ha! moments as the story unfolds. Bad author, no cookie. Feel free to chastise me in the comments.

The Story

Harry Dresden is Chicago’s first and only Wizard PI. In Ghost Story, he is stripped of all of his usual tools needed to solve cases. He can’t use his magic, can’t interact with the physical world, and can’t even talk to the people he needs to get information from. Even still, with all of this drastic change, he’s got a huge problem to solve and not much time to solve it.

Three of the people he loves most are in danger. To save them he has to solve his own murder. To make matters worse, there is a huge power vacuum left in the world from Dresden’s actions in the previous book. Several nasty entities are rushing into position to take advantage of this opportunity and are creating chaos and havoc at every turn.

My Review

As my first foray into the Dresden Files, Ghost Story was probably the worst possible place to start the story. That didn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it. It simply means I’m still kicking myself for not asking an actual Dresden fan where I should start (for those just joining us, it’s at the beginning).

Judging from the thin slice of the Dresden universe I enjoyed, the fans are right. There’s a lot to cheer for here. The characters are fun and unique, the settings gritty and realistic, the narrative voice entertaining, and the overall story is just the right amount of twisty to keep me interested.

I can’t judge Ghost Story against the other books in the series because I did a dumb. But, from the reviews and articles I’ve read, many fans weren’t crazy about the book compared to their love for the other books. Part of this might be the drastic change in Dresden himself where the most entertaining and compelling parts of his character were taken from him and he was forced to flounder in a new and unexpected way.

For me this universe was a new interesting place to explore and I didn’t have any expectations that I hoped the story would meet. I enjoyed the story enough to most likely pick up the other ones, in order this time, and dive into the world the way it was meant to be experienced.

Recommendations

Start at the beginning. No, really. If you’ve never read any of the Dresden Files, don’t start here.

For being a gritty, crime-solving, Wizard PI novel, it’s a pretty clean read. Swearing and intimate content were at a dead minimum if there was any. Dresden’s preferred swear is “Hell’s Bells” if that’s any indication. There are a handful of graphic injuries and intense fight scenes, none of which bordered on horrific for me, but were present.

I’d recommend this for those who like urban fantasy and a story that seems straight forward on the surface, but gets deeper and more complicated the further you dig in. For the graphic stuff and story complexity at the end I’d recommend this for readers no younger than 15.

If you saw urban fantasy and thought sexy vampires would be featured prominently in the story, you’ll be sorely disappointed.

I give Ghost Story 4/5, a good read and entertaining, but I didn’t leave it thinking “Wow.”


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