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Dresden Files books 1-15 (Particularly Cold Days and Skin Game)
Straight up - This series is amazing. Butcher has the gumption to do things to his characters, subvert classic tropes (like Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy), and have his characters face real consequences. This is one series where the characters change and evolve- something that became particularly striking to me when I read the first book (as I had skipped it). I will echo what everyone here has already said: the series in the first two books hasn't yet grown into its own. When it does though, the characters become some of the most defined- with their own complex histories and motivations that have only been rivaled in decades-long series such as Doctor Who and Discworld.

Butcher himself is a master of plot- especially in pacing and raising the stakes. There is not a book where Harry isn't at least 3/4ths dead, magic drained, and trapped into a corner with no way out (sometimes worse). And Butcher keeps you on the edge of your seat the entire time. Characters earn their moments of awesome- some of the most exciting and fulfilling moments you will ever read. Changes, in particular, has this in spades.

That being said, after Cold Days, I had some trepidation when picking up the fifteenth book in the series- Skin Game. After the spectacular Changes, and the heart-wrenching Ghost Story, Cold Days, for me, had fallen a bit flat. Upon reflection, I believe this had to do mostly with the editing, as Butcher failed to balance the plot-sensitive revelations, character (particularly in regards to Harry), and pacing. Given enough revisions, these issues could have been handled, but I was nonetheless uncertain if they would be handled in Skin Game. Delightfully- they were. Harry- now back in Chicago- is working with higher stakes than ever before, and with interesting character and motivational dynamics within his group. My one possible complaint is that the ending felt a little bit like a Deus ex Machina (though to be fair- Butcher used the same narrative trick that he did in Changes, so I shouldn't have been surprised).

All in all- if you have any trepidations about checking out this series- ignore them. It will be one of the best fantasy series (or series in general) that you will ever read. Humor, plot, character, stakes- it has it all.
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Storm Front: A typical potboiler.
Once upon a time, an amateur writer enrolled in a writing class to learn more about the art. While a member of this class, he, frustrated with his teacher's advice, intentionally wrote a novel to be utterly formulaic and derivative.

That novel then got published and, in my ignorance, I purchased and read it.

Storm Front is not, despite its author's intentions, a dreadful book. As we at TV Tropes have often said, Tropes Are Not Bad, and neither is formula - there's a reason why these patterns persist, and it is because they are reliable ways to create a good story. But like most hack writing, it is rarely surprising, barely original, and never insightful. You will not be smarter, wiser, or better educated in any sense after reading this book; you will merely be an hour or two older. A pleasant hour or two, possibly, but that's all.

(I say "possibly" - meaning Your Mileage May Vary - due to the protagonist's reactionary attitudes towards women, a cringeworthy scene halfway through with a "love" potion, and a plot-driven lie.)

If troperiffic urban fantasy is your thing, I won't stop you, but there are better ways to spend your time.

Edit 2011-02-18: A recurring theme in the responses to this is, "Read the whole series!" As a devoted reader of webcomics, I can understand the idea of Growing The Beard, and there was at least one truly excellent action scene in the book — but all I can evaluate is what I read, and on its own I do not believe Storm Front withstands critical scrutiny.
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Dresdenthirst!
HEY! Do you wanna feel SO MAGICAL? Try The Dresden Files! It's a series for people who need GRATUITOUS AMOUNTS OF MAGIC. With all new volumes like TURN COAT! It's like adding detective fiction to A MAGICAL STORM. Sound the alarm! You're gonna be UNCOMFORTABLY EXCITED! What's that? You want something for summer nights? Well how about SUMMER KNIGHT? Made with magic! REAL MAGIC! Reading! AAAAAH You'll be good at it! It's an urban fantasy series for men! TIT-ERATURE! These aren't your dad's puns, these are magical puns! DRESDEN PUNS. Urban! Fantasy! Urban! Fantasy! Fire magic! Wind magic! Demonic magic! More magic than YOUR LIBRARY HAS ROOM FOR. You'll be reading so fast that everyone else will be like SLOOOOOW DOOOOOOWN and you'll be like FUCK YOU! And smack them in the face with your FANTASY BOOK. It's full of so much magic! Magic! Casting spells ALL THE TIME! Magic running! Magic potions! Magic fighting! Magic shooting! Magic duels! Magic sarcasm! Magic reading chapters! You'll read so many chapters! FOUR HUNDRED CHAPTERS. Give The Dresden Files to your children and they'll start reading BOOKS! Make your children read ABNORMALLY FAST. They'll read as fast as LIBRARIANS! People will see them reading and think they're LIBRARIANS! They'll read as fast as LIBRARIANS alongside actual LIBRARIANS and there'll be so many books they'll go back to THE LIBRARY. Hey! Go with the sure thing! Don't gamble on your literature! DREEESSSDEEEEEN! Try The Dresden Files! The book series that will make you AAAAAAH BOOKS AAAAAAH

But seriously, ever since a friend loaned me the first volume of The Dresden Files and I read the entire thing in one night, I've loved this series. The characters are interesting, the plot twists are exciting, the inner monologues are hard-boiled and badass, and the series as a whole is just great. The first two volumes aren't the best, but the series really comes into its own around the third or fourth book, and it only continues to go uphill from there. If you're a fan of urban fantasy, a fan of detective fiction, or just a fan of books in general, I wholeheartedly recommend The Dresden Files.
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Afhasujfgudfgaouigfouisdgfdydfy
Yeah, that's my title. It's because trying to explain why I love The Dresden Files so much makes my brain do exactly that. That's what happens to my mind the second I think of this wonderful series. It is literally my favorite book series, and Butcher my favorite author. I am a very avid reader, so this kinda says a lot.

First off there's the fact it's in first-person, which I love. I've always been a big fan of the viewpoint, and this series is a grand example of it's sheer might. Dresden is a brilliant narrator and being inside his head allows for some of the funniest moments in novel history. The universe is incredibly well-thought out, with so many different factions and monsters, each with a tie to some mythology. The magic system is brilliant. I don't know what to type on the subject of the characters because honestly it might have the best cast ever. It is also hilarious, one of the funniest series ever written.

I find it hard, if not impossible to be objective with this series. It is one of the few franchises that molds perfectly into my brain so that I cannot be rational with them. (Another is the Haruhi franchise) They simply push all of my love buttons at the same time, to the point I can hardly type this sentence because all I want to do is jump up and down while squeeing, then run to the nearest human being so I can blather for hours about whatever detail of the series comes to mind. I am truly a Dresden fanboy. If you have not given this series a try yet, and you are capable of reading English, you are doing yourself a disservice. Please go to your nearest library or bookstore and rectify it by getting Storm Front. Here, I'll help you out the door. VENTAS SERVITAS!
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A 13 book (with spinoffs and additional material) journey from Average to Awesome
The first book of the Dresden files was written to prove a point. That the author couldn't write. Thankfully, it failed. The first book is decent, purposefully troperiffic, the second is an improvement, with greater character development. The 3rd and 4th really make the series though. The Inspector Javert like character becomes more human, the main love interest suffers a fate that means she would be better off dead, and is a recurring, and very important plot point, until Changes, book 12, the main character gets a lot darker and more ruthless, as well as more dangerous and one scene towards the end is full of Chekhovs Gun and myriad examples of Chekhovs Gunman.

The 4th book begins to explore the Black Council plotline that runs through the entire series, and the main characters depression of the fate of the aforementioned love interest. The rest continue in this vein, steadily getting better, with subtle callbacks and ChekhovsGuns, and new characters appearing, old characters being developed further, secrets being revealed, and all of this told with very liberal helping of snark. The narrator is the straightest and funniest example of deadpansnarker I have ever seen, providing a little light in the darkness. Supporting fleshed out characters act as foils for the protagonist, calling him out on his behaviour sometimes, and keeping him human, while retaining an intriguing individuality and lack of flawlessness.

Despite its faults, or even because of them, this series is a triumphant example of Urban fantasy, with a depth, humour and complexity that occasionally rivals Doctor Who.
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Dresden Series (Storm Front through Changes/Side Jobs)
This series is fantastic! Having said that, I will echo the plethora of comments that state that this series really comes into its own in the third book (Grave Peril). Does this mean you should skip the first 2 books? I wouldn't, as the first 2 books are not that bad, they just aren't great like books 3-12+.

Wizards, Necromancers, Vampires, Werewolves, Faeries, Assassins, Demons, Ghouls, Mobsters, Angels, Cops, Ghosts, a Chlorofiend, Fairy-tale characters, and a confused pizza guy all make for an amazing series!

As many others have pointed out this series is trop-a-licious. What starts out as some fairly simply story telling in the first two books turns into a page-turning all-nighter in the third book as new characters are introduced and plot-twists begin to strengthen and take shape. By book 4 not only will you be hooked, but you're going to need a caffeine drip, because the story in book 4 pulls in more characters and a fair amount of plot twists that leaving you grasping for the next book in line... and when you get to Changes (book 12) you get smacked with a 2x4 in the face by Butcher, and get to read short stories (that actually add to the series), until book 13 comes out July 26, 2011!

If you like Urban Fantasy this is a must read series. Lots of magic, lots of action, and a WHOLE lot of sarcasm make this a must read... finish the first two quickly and then get some extra sleep... you're going to need it!

(PS- If you haven't read Butcher's other series, The Codex of Alera, you're also missing out!)
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