After my first experience with Jim Butcher's writing in Storm Front, I was rather hesitant about taking on any more of the series, but I figured I ought to give the writer a fair shake and try the second one, Fool Moon.
Time has passed since we first met Harry Dresden, Chicago's only professional wizard. Bad thing for Harry is that business has dropped off since the events in Storm Front, and autumn is here. Unfortunately, money is something that Harry just can't conjure up for the bills and rent and food, and he's getting that lean and hungry look. So when his sometime apprentice, the lovely Kim Delaney, asks him to interpret some magical symbols for her in return for a good meal, Harry can't resist.
But when something is very very off about those magical symbols, Harry decides that the best thing to do is to warn Kim off of them. Whatever she working with, it's far too dangerous, and even Harry is getting nervous over this one. But Kim isn't one to take advice and she flounces off in a huff. About that same time, Lt. Karrin Murphy from the police turns up, and oh, boy is she upset, and drags Harry off with her to get his take on a very grisly takedown.
Problem is, the murder scene is none other than The Varsity, a property of notorious Gentleman John Marcone, Chicago's current crime boss. Harry has run into him before, and he doesn't want to renew the relationship if he can help it. Problem is, the victim is Spike, one of Marcone's henchmen, and it looks like something very mean, very furry, and very angry has taken him down. Things get worse, quickly, when the FBI shows up, and there is a rash of very brutal murders taking place in Chicago.
This time, Harry is truly neck deep in trouble, for he's quickly figuring out the unnatural source of the bloodletting, and it isn't pretty. Seems that there are not just one, but several gangs of werewolves haunting the city's nights, and there's not too much he can do to stop them, especially when it seems that everyone is very determined to get Harry out of the picture, preferably as an entree or two for a wolf pack...
I do say, this second novel in the series is fairly good, with a fast paced, energetic plot that ranges from a great deal of action and spell-throwing to a few minutes of contemplation here and there. The writing is tight and full of descriptive passages and with a few moments of heart-stopping terror.
A great touch is Butcher's delving into the various myths and legends about werewolves, from having a vicious curse laid down on you -- by a saint, no less -- to shapeshifters, to those known as the loup-garou, and finally, a particularly nasty variety called hexenwulfen. Each sort has their own rules and methods of taking them out, and that's what made this so interesting to read. Sometimes a silver bullet is the only thing that can stop a werewolf, and sometimes -- not. Harry is also not quite so much of a depressive sort this time, and there is considerably less time spent on playing the hunchback in the gutter and self-pitying whining going on, thank goodness. Done well, that sort of character can be fun, but the wallowing in a misery pit can get wearying very quickly.
Of course, there are some new and interesting characters here, from the mysterious and sensual Tera, a woman who is just as deadly as she is beautiful; Parker and the Streetwolves, and the group of FBI agents who come to ruin the party. Unhappily, a few characters from Storm Front aren't in here very much, including two of my favourites, Bob and Mister, which was a shame, as they do provide some much needed levity into the mix, and by the end, this book does need some lightening up. Neither is Morgan, Harry's dreaded shadow.
And now for some problems, one that I think comes from inexperience rather than conscious fumbling on the part of the author. The first is that nearly all of the women are sexy, beautiful, and hot to trot. And Harry keeps getting distracted by them, from his subconscious itch to nail Lt. Murphy, his current sometime lover, Susan, a reporter for a psychic newspaper, the aforementioned Tera, and even Kim. I would think being a wizard would take a bit more concentration than that, but every time one of these lovelies show up, there has to be something mentioned about hair, general beauty or appeal, or the fact that Harry wouldn't mind being in bed with them. It's a sad, sorry trait that I find in most fiction, and rather annoying and dull to read constantly -- it's something more to suit fiction geared at a teenaged boy in puberty, and it would be nice to see a bit more adult level of thought now and then. The second big problem is that Harry is a Timex watch in this one, getting constantly stomped, beaten, shot at and other means of inflicting pain. I don't know if the author has ever endured severe body trauma, but I can tell you that you can't just bounce back up and rejoin the fray. Ask anyone who's been on a morphine drip when the machine runs out.
Still, there were a few things that redeemed this one for me, and shoved the rating into a solid four stars. One was the shootout in the police station -- the feel of terror was quite real there, and I had to keep turning pages to find out what happens next. To me, that tells me that the author has got the pulse of the story, and this sequence worked. Another was the effective use of legend here, and the gradual revelations of what it would take to stop the varieties of werewolves running about. It did make sense, and helped to keep the plot twisting and turning.
Overall, this one gets four stars. It's not a great story, but it's a very solid one for those craving a bit of paranormal adventure in their reading. Recommended.
The Dresden Files:
Fool Moon -- you are here
Ghost Story -- due April 2011
Side Jobs: Stories from the Dresden Files
Fool Moon: A Novel of the Dresden Files
2001; ROC, New American Library
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