The Dresden Files Reread and Review: Fool Moon

Fool Moon cover

We’re back with another in depth review and analysis of my favorite urban fantasy series, The Dresden Files. This time we’re taking a look at Book #2, Fool Moon. Spoilers ahead, as always.

Once more, I am inspired to bow down to Jim Butcher right off the bat because of his stubborn refusal to use info-dump or exposition dumps for the first chapter of the book. I subscribe heartily to the idea of “in media res” and not boring any newcomers with the main character giving you their entire life’s story as soon as you flip to page one. I’ve always admired how he can open the book with Harry’s sharp wit and endearing self-deprecation while still introducing plot threads, new and old, and gently reminding us of the wizard’s role.

Now that I’m done being happy about Butcher’s writing style, I can concentrate on my gross sobbing because this is one of the books where Harry and Murphy are at odds with each other. They haven’t spoken in a month and there’s a great deal of tension between them—and not the good kind. Murphy calls Harry in on a grisly murder where all signs point to a werewolf. And then to make matters worse, the FBI butts in and starts causing hell for them, particularly the one crazy ass agent who tries to shoot Murphy while escorting her off the crime scene. Ah, a day in the life of Lieutenant Murphy. She never gets a break.

Sam You brave little soldier

Still, the good thing is that the conflict between Harry and Murphy throughout this book is grounded in realism. After Harry helped curbstomp the bad guy in the previous book, the ramifications for both of them is what caused the rift. Internal Affairs started looking really hard at Murphy, so she couldn’t call Harry in for the werewolf murders without I.A. shifting focus onto him, which could put him in jail. Plus, there’s Harry holding back information to keep Murphy from getting killed. It’s kind of delicious considering both of them are mad at each other for protecting one another. Do you see why I have trouble not shipping them? Stupid adorable babies.

As I mentioned in my review of Storm Front, Harry and Murphy’s friendship is really what has always helped set The Dresden Files apart from other series. For instance, after the heated confrontation with the FBI, Harry and Murphy get back in the car and Harry takes Murphy’s keys so she can’t just drive him home without saying anything. He confronts her about the rift between them and that’s very rare. A lot of characters would be passive aggressive about this sort of thing—which, to be fair, Harry does have a little moment right when they are reunited—but Harry is direct about the tension between them and it’s a really nice departure from the norm. He also promises to try and give her as much information as he can, though he notes that it’s still impossible to tell her everything at this point.

We get some wizarding and Harry finds the first batch of suspects—a group of young werewolves led by a woman who was following Harry and Murphy from the crime scene. Murphy manages to catch up to him and he tells her to wait before trying to investigate them, since his instincts tell him they aren’t to blame for the murders.

Harry gets some information from the air spirit Bob and heads to S.I. headquarters in the morning, where he happens to bump into Susan Rodriguez—the hotshot reporter he’s been casually seeing. I think with this interaction I started to figure out why I’ve never been hot on Susan. The relationship he has with her is purely based on attraction, whereas with Murphy (mind you, much later on) it’s all about mutual respect and friendship. Susan is beautiful and assertive with her sexuality, which is a weakness for Harry, but not for me, so all the heavy flirting she throws his way just slides right off me. I’m not a guy, and so Susan doesn’t offer anything to me because she’s all about being attractive. We’re told she’s smart and tenacious, but most of what we’ve seen of Susan has been off-screen, and so I think it lessens the impact of how important she is as a character. Like “Gentleman” Johnny Marcone, Susan is a character who feels obligatory to me. She’s supposed to be there, rather than naturally occurring like 90% of the other supporting characters. Thus, this interaction does nothing for me other than reminding me Harry is a sucker for a hot lady who has a Type A personality.

Additionally, I had a startling realization that Susan is also a pretty big distraction, both literally and figuratively. Whenever Harry gets around her, he’s always flustered and can’t focus because he finds her so alluring. However, unless I’m mistaken, Susan hasn’t really been able to help Harry achieve a goal at this point in the narrative. Now, she does so later in this book and in the series, but Susan’s been more of a problem than a solution in Harry’s life. This is realistic, but it’s also kind of annoying to know that they aren’t going in the same direction and she blocks things for him in a way. But again, that’s just a personal bias. She has plenty more involvement in the story and maybe I’ll finally like her as we continue onward. (But don’t hold your breath.)

After nearly getting chomped by some werewolf suspects, Harry bumps into Marcone, who tries to bribe him into helping him investigate the murders that have been directed at some of his employees, so to speak. This interaction, I admit, is vastly interesting to me because this is one of those rare scenes where Harry and Marcone are completely at odds. Often, Harry has been forced to walk on eggshells around Marcone because he’s so dangerous, but this time he just candidly calls the guy an animal and tells him to take a hike. I like that. I like it a lot. It shows that Harry’s temper is most definitely a character flaw—trust me, it gets him into trouble plenty of times—but it also makes him even more endearing. Harry is not a perfect guy, but you really root for the way he goes after Marcone here. Harry hates corruption, but even more, he hates that Marcone tries to dress up the fact that he’s a criminal and a murderer with this air of false sophistication. He’s a thug in a nice suit, essentially, and Harry calls him out on it.

Once the showdown with Marcone ends, Harry does pursue the tidbit of relevant info Marcone gave him and then we get a really fantastic reveal that the demon he’s interrogating knows about his mother. Harry’s past has been revealed in small chunks since the first book, and if I’m not mistaken, this might be the first big piece we get about Margaret Dresden. We know she was a powerful magic practitioner, but she died during Harry’s birth, so the poor dear never got to know her. Harry’s backstory is shrouded in mystery and bucketloads of pain, and it’s yet another thing that makes us sympathize with him so much. Harry carries this quiet but powerful ache inside him because he has no surviving family members that he knows of, and it’s heartbreaking when you can tell he wants to bargain for the info about his mother with the demon, but he knows it would land him in a world of trouble if he did.

Annnnnd then we get to the scene that feels like Jim Butcher is playing Surgeon Simulator and I’m the unlucky bastard he’s “operating” on.

Murphy calls Harry up to another murder, but unfortunately, Harry discovers that Kim Delaney, a casual friend and acquaintance, has been murdered because he wouldn’t tell her how to finish a spell she was using. Murphy puts the pieces together and goes berserk, kicking Harry’s ass before finally arresting him. A lot of folks in the fandom aren’t fond of Murphy’s actions from this point onward, but I think it’s still within her character to have this kind of reaction. Harry specifically promised not to hold back information and he did so, and now someone else is dead. Add that in with Murphy already being stressed out over Internal Affairs being up her ass and their strained friendship and her reaction, to me, sounds about right. Plus, as I’ve said before, Butcher takes great pleasure in smearing our hearts into paste beneath his boots, so he made sure Harry is all but broken after this scene. I tried to hug my paperback, honestly. Poor baby.

To Harry’s luck and detriment, the spouse of the bad guy he’s hunting, Tera West, breaks him out of the back of the police car and they escape, though poor Harry is injured even further. Tera is definitely an interesting character among the many minor or one-book-only characters we’ve met throughout the series. She has such alien actions and dialogue that make her unique. I like that Harry is absolutely not having most of the nonsense she puts him through because he recognizes that she’s dangerous and there is something quite off about her.

This brings us to the confrontation of Harry and the potential killer, MacFinn, who is actually someone trying to control or get rid of the curse that turns him into a loup-garou. It’s one of the better mysteries in the series because you can feel the tension as Harry tries to figure out if MacFinn is on the up-and-up.

Susan reappears, as I assured you she would, as Harry’s ride since Murphy and the FBI are still hot on his trail. I’m happy she’s his support system and she did something plot-relevant instead of slinking around and flirting with him. But I still don’t find myself feeling fond of her. Don’t worry, I’m not going to go blaring Avril Lavigne or anything.

Sadly, though, shit hits the fan in a big way soon afterward. MacFinn was arrested by the Murphy and her cops trying to escape the forest and transforms while in the precinct. It is one of the most pants-shittingly scary moments in the series entire run. Butcher leans more for fantasy than horror later on, but this bit is strictly horror, and boy, does it send chills down your spine as you read. Worse still, among the casualties is Carmichael, Murphy’s partner, who dies saving her life. It’s as rough as it sounds, which kind of sets a tone for the series where you know Butcher’s not going to pull any punches.

Luckily, Harry and Murphy and a handful of others survive, and Susan swings in to take Harry home to recover. It’s here that we’re introduced to a very weird, but strangely cool concept. When Harry takes a beating to the point of unconsciousness, he finds himself talking to Id Harry. Id Harry is his instinctual side, who is a very abrupt, candid, borderline rude summation of Harry’s often neglected inhibitions and desires. He brings up a brilliant point that Harry’s desperate desire to protect Murphy is what could get her killed and even though it would put her in danger, he has to trust her with the truth finally. He brings up other good advice for Harry to consider before he has to exit stage left. I like Id Harry because he’s kind of like a cheat code. He provides a break in the action as well as some much needed plot fuel. It’s a risk, and I’m sure some people don’t like that it is a way to easily convey information and drop new plot points or foreshadowing, but I still find him interesting enough to excuse it. (P.S. Id Harry notes that Harry should ask Murphy out sometime, but regular Harry remains clueless. I just wanted to point it out. This will be important in later reviews.)

And then he, you know, throws himself out of a moving vehicle. Jesus Christ, Harry.

The passage leading up to that is nothing short of hilarious. I continue to turn Hulk-green with envy that Butcher can write such gut-bustingly funny scenes when Harry is in mortal danger. This time, the biker gang of wolves Harry was snooping around have come back for revenge. Things go from bad to worse when he’s too battered to beat them and gets himself kidnapped and finds out the FBI is in on the scheme, and so is Marcone.

Harry does get his butt saved a lot in this book, I admit. It’s both good and bad. It’s good because it shows how human and inexperienced he is, and how he’s capable of getting in over his head. It’s bad because, I’m not kidding, Harry gets rescued a TON of times in this novel, whereas in the other ones it’s a tie between him figuring a way out and coming up with a plan, and sheer dumb luck.

We also get a love scene between him and Susan, and again, I just am not feeling it. I have a theory, personally. I think Harry and Susan have passion, not quite love. Love is layered and multifaceted. To me, Harry and Susan are passionate, but not right for each other, and perhaps that’s why their romance leaves me cold. To his credit, though, I really love the passage of Harry showing some true vulnerability, and the scene where Susan dresses him. It’s a powerful, emotional scene, and even though I’m not crazy about Susan, I adore it.

Naturally, their plan to stop Denton and his goons go south and Harry gets captured again (are you seeing a theme here?) We do get a really tiny but sweet friendship building moment as Harry shelters Murphy with his coat while they’re trapped in the cold pit waiting for the bad guys to finish them. Luckily, they manage to cobble together a small plan, with some help from the betrayed Marcone, and skidaddle for the final big battle.

The great thing about the finale for this one is that it weaves back into the beginning with the Book Ends trope in a big way. It’s Harry and Murphy facing off with the loup-garou all while the two are in the middle of the biggest fight of their entire friendship. That, to me, is a huge hurdle, to save someone’s life when you’re so pissed off at them that you don’t even want to meet their gaze. It works. It really, really works.

Overall Grade: 3.5 stars out of 5.

Next up we have Grave Peril, which means diving into ghosts and the like, which is right up my alley. See you next time, darlings.

Comments (5)

  1. […] time, we’ll be diving into Fool Moon on my Dresden Files reread and review. Don’t stay out too late, kiddies. The monsters mostly come at […]

    • Bonnie, I hadn’t thought of it as being a poilsbse story question. (I say a because the larger story question of the book had already been set up.) My impression was that the MC was just being capricious. Maybe that’s part of her personality and if I had read other books, I would know that. However, coming to it cold, it felt more like the MC had to behave in that way to advance the plot, so the author had her realize it didn’t make sense and then do it anyway.And yes, if I actually cared about the character, I might have kept reading to see if, upon reflection, she understood why she made that choice.At least it gives me another tool. I still need to remember to use it, to ask, Do my characters’ actions make sense?

  2. I’ll admit to being very fond of Fool Moon. I enjoy the relatively swift pace at which everything goes, and I particularly like the Alphas and Tera. Plus it’s the only time I’ve felt Marcone had glimmers of an actual personality. Though on my reread I actually felt a little better about Susan than I did the first time- her and Harry’s connection isn’t super-profound, but I think you can see it deepening, and I do like that it’s there because I find Harry better in the early books when he’s got some vulnerability. And I have to admit hindsight is clouding my judgment a bit, because knowing what eventually comes for Susan makes me feel really bad seeing her before everything goes to hell.
    The Harry/Murphy stuff hurts in this one because the wedge that drives them apart does seem fairly natural to their characters- Harry hasn’t yet gotten his wakeup call that he can’t do everything himself and Murphy is not someone who deals well with having her trust seemingly thrown her face. It feels bad because it feels like a genuinely fracture friendship, and those have their own pain and ache that I think Butcher captures well.
    I can’t wait for the Grave Peril recap… ghosts and vampires and quite a few really important characters in that one. It’s weird to see them with hindsight, I can tell you.

  3. Hi anon,You are right.But I’ll let my kid read whatever he / she likes.As long as he / she enyojs reading, he / she will read more. And when he / she reads more, he / she will acquire the ability to judge between good or bad.Come on, most HK kids just don’t read!:)Sherry:咦,樓上的anon說這本書很trashy呢,未想到受歡迎到這個地步我倒不那麼”驚”一個人如果有閱讀能力/寫作能力/發現問題的能力,基本上已能解決大部份人生煩惱,你說是嗎?PL:既然如此,那你還是幸運的:)讀與吃:我也懶呀,但又羨慕人家本事…都是那一句:子非魚,焉知魚之樂?daniel:我不知道什麼是”鳳翔改改”rico lee:haha…is it not obvious enough?

  4. […] you’ve been reading my reviews, or hell just the introduction to this review, then you know I’m not a fan of Susan Rodriguez. I […]

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