What if Harry Potter grew up and became Dirty Harry? This was my introduction to The Dresden Files by a very good friend of mine. To be honest with you... he had me at Harry Potter.
What are The Dresden Files?
The Dresden Files is a fantasy book series by Jim Butcher. The series follows the wizard, Harry Dresden, and his life as a private investigator in Chicago. Most of his customers come to him for help finding lost objects or relatives, but Harry also assists the police with cases that they aren't equipped to handle.
Why I love The Dresden Files
To tell you the truth, these books are incredible. There are 15 of them and almost all of them could have a place on my top 5 fantasy books. Which is a dilemma.
The world Butcher creates is both vast and fascinating. Every faction of fantasy folk is included somewhere or other: vampires, werewolves, fairies... you name it. The series builds up the same way Breaking Bad episodes did, (almost) every book builds the story into something bigger, better and more tense than it was before.
The books themselves are all relatively short. I listened to the audiobooks and they range from 8-18hrs as the series progresses: about a third of some fantasy I have listened to. Which is nice to see. To top it off, the audio versions were voiced by James Marsters, also known as Spike from Buffy!! He is just as excellent as you think he would be.
If you like fantasy even a little, I cannot recommend these books enough. I am not here to give you a review or even an overview of the plot. In fact, I am going to try to not spoil any of it with the rest of the article, bar a couple innocent quotes. This isn't a review; it is a recommendation.
The Dresden Files portray everyday life so well that you can't help but take things from it. So I am going to make my recommendation by discussing themes from the series, teasing out some life lessons we can all use.
Never Give Up
Everyone is down on pain, because they forget something important about it: Pain is for the living. Only the dead don't feel it.
Pain is a part of life. Sometimes it's a big part, and sometimes it isn't, but either way, it's a part of the big puzzle, the deep music, the great game. Pain does two things: It teaches you, tells you that you're alive. Then it passes away and leaves you changed. It leaves you wiser, sometimes. Sometimes it leaves you stronger. Either way, pain leaves its mark, and everything important that will ever happen to you in life is going to involve it in one degree or another.
Jim Butcher - White Knight, The Dresden Files Book 9
Consistently throughout the series, Harry finds himself thrust into mortal peril. Butcher crafted an excellent world where the threats cover the entire villainous spectrum, from suspenseful big bad, to holy fucking shit there is a nuke in the room with me. Butcher knows how to get a readers’ heart racing, and you definitely feel each moment alongside Harry.
Side note - I love series where the author is okay putting their characters in real peril. I hate it at the same time, but my brain tingles with excitement when a character gears up for a mission that seems impossible.
As Harry faces these threats he is outmatched a number of times. Whilst this is sad for Harry, it is certainly true to real life: we all lose sometimes. Each time, just as consistently as they knock him down, Harry gets back up. The dude will not stay down. I lived through these moments with Harry and I am better for it. On more than one occasion I have unironically said - "What would Harry do?" There is only one answer: get up and carry on.
We all need resilience to get through life and the more sources of inspiration the better. The next time you are down and don’t know how to get up, you can definitely look to Harry Copperfield Dresden.
Ask For Help
“Son. Everyone dies alone. That's what it is. It's a door. It's one person wide. When you go through it, you do it alone. But it doesn't mean you've got to be alone before you go through the door. And believe me, you aren't alone on the other side.”
Jim Butcher - Dead Beat, The Dresden Files Book 7
Harry has a team of near-superhero friends that are introduced as the series progresses. As he deals with the plots and misdeeds of his foes, his friends are always there to help him out. Foolishly, sometimes Harry tries to go it alone to protect his friends from danger. This seems like a good reason, if a little arrogant: Harry wants to handle things himself. Whenever he goes it alone, he ends up worse off than when he started.
I hope all of this sounds familiar to you because it did to me. I too have a circle of awesome friends - all of them are superheroes to me - but sometimes I need help and don't have the wherewithal to tap into my network of super pals. Burying your head in the sand is never the answer and we should reach out to our friends sooner rather than later. Asking for help is tough and admitting we need it can seem impossible, but everyone can feel like a burden or a nuisance when asking for help. Just like Harry’s reasons, that excuse is bullshit.
Your friends will be there if you ask, just like Harry’s are. Don’t worry about being a burden, asking for help does not mean you need to be rescued. We all need our friends to help right our course every so often, to help us be the best versions of ourselves. If Butcher’s stories showed me anything, it’s that a person is most themselves when they are in good company. Always, and I mean always, ask your friends for help.
Reasons to be excited about The Dresden Files
Tired of fantasy trilogies? Always getting to the third book and wanting more? The Dresden Files is more like a long running TV series, that has amazing writing and great character development.
The series has 15 books in it so far - so there is a fair bit waiting for you. There may even be more by the time you read this...
There are two new additions coming to The Dresden Files in 2020. Two!! I love new releases (who doesn't) because being a part of the buzz just as something comes out is awesome. It’s maybe the best time to start the series, if any of this sounds appealing to you.
I am a big proponent of our power as consumers to vote with our money. In this case, your money could not be going to a sweeter human. Jim is a prolific author and you can pretty much guarantee a new book from him every two years. He regularly updates his website with progress on the next installments or to shout out his fans for some amazing artwork - you can find that at www.jim-butcher.com. If you are interested I would also recommend watching this video interview he did with Daniel Greene - he was really open about his writing process and very humble about his success reiterating the themes discussed above; resilience and co-operation. I love it when people share their passion with the world and I really get that vibe from Jim.
Get the Dresden files
You can pick up a copy of the Dresden files from a number of retailers, or as an audio book.
I hope you do pick up this series and that you enjoy it. Even if you decide not to, you can still take these lessons with you.
- Never Give Up No matter what it is you are facing, always keep your head high and carry on. Take breaks and look after yourself, but when you are ready get back to it.
- Ask For Help Try this if you want to test the power of this lesson: next time you have a problem, no matter how small - text your friend about it. See what happens and make sure to remind that friend how much you appreciate them.