Parkour, Bitches!

I want to be Jim Butcher when I grow up.

Here’s why.

Today I finished reading the most recent Harry Dresden novel, Skin Game, which if you’re not already immersed in the series (you heathen) is the fifteenth novel in The Dresden Files, which began with Storm Front back in 2000. Over the past few days, I’ve been sitting on my couch laughing, whooping, or leaning forward in tense anxiety as I pored through the latest adventure featuring Harry Dresden and his allies. Fifteen freaking novels in this series, people, and Butcher is still able to hook me just as effectively. And like a true master, he’s able to keep me guessing – there are twists in this book that I never saw coming. Or I was just too delighted to try to predict them.

Jim Butcher does something with this series that few authors I’ve come across are able to accomplish, in that he combines all of this:

  • His characters have heart. They matter. I spend half of his novels terrified that one of them is going to die, because Butcher isn’t afraid to kill characters, but also doesn’t slash and burn whole droves of them. The deaths are precise and meaningful, which makes them all the more terrifying.
  • The action is tense. I get more wound up between chapters of a Dresden novel than I do watching something like Die Hard for the first time.  Skin Game, for example, is over 500 pages in paperback form, and not a single scene is wasted. When it’s downtime for the characters, there is always some sort of pivotal character development – whether it’s Harry’s relationship with Karrin, or his friendship with someone, or his own self-doubt. And then it’s back to the action, sometimes without warning.
  • As a lot of other writers have commented on, his world stays consistent. The forms of magic and the creatures that exist broaden, but Butcher doesn’t break his own rules. In a series as long as this, that’s almost unheard of. But he’s done it so far.
  • And finally, damn if his novel’s aren’t fucking hilarious. Besides being a truly honorable person who’s hardest on himself, Harry Dresden makes me laugh more than any other character in fantasy (though Glokta from The First Law comes close). He gripes when too much goes wrong, hurls witty one-liners at enemies, self-deprecates at every turn, and then does stuff like dodge threats like a wild rabbit while screaming “Parkour!” That, as much as everything I’ve already described, keeps me turning the pages.

If I can pull off a novel even half as wonderful as what Jim Butcher does, I will consider myself a success. To do it as often as Butcher has done is probably impossible, but I’m going to try anyway. Because there’s one thing that I have in common (I think) with both Harry Dresden and Jim Butcher: whether it’s magic or writing, we do it for the love of it. There’s no other way to explain the sheer amazing quality of The Dresden Files. So with that in mind, it’s back to wordsmithing for me.

Parkour, bitches!

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