Publisher: Podium Audio (Audiobook – 5 July 2022)
Series: The Dresden Files – Book 17.5
Length: 3 hours and 22 minutes
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Prepare to dive back into the wild world of Jim Butcher’s iconic Dresden Files series with the latest impressive novella, The Law.
Readers of this blog might have noticed that I usually don’t go out of my way to read too many novellas or short stories and instead usually focus on full-length novels and comics. This isn’t so much a deliberate choice as I just prefer whole books I can really sink my teeth into. However, I had to make an exception for the latest Dresden Files novella that Jim Butcher just dropped, as I have been deeply enjoying this epic series.
The Dresden Files are a long running series of urban fantasy novels that follow protagonist Harry Dresden, a wizard who protects the people of Chicago from the magic beings and creatures they don’t even know exist. People may remember that I first got into the Dresden Files back in 2020 when I checked out the 17th entry in the series, Battle Ground. While I did enter this series late in the game, I still had an outstanding time with Battle Ground and it ended up being one of my top books and audiobooks of 2020. In fact, I enjoyed it so much that I went back and started reading the series from the beginning. So far, I have been able to read the first four Dresden Files novels, Storm Front, Fool Moon, Grave Peril and Summer Knight, all of which have been pretty impressive and captivating reads. This dive into the older novels, plus my lingering enjoyment of Battle Ground, ensured that I was ready and eager for any new Dresden Files content that came my way, and Butcher just delivered with his latest novella, The Law.
Set a month after the events of Battle Ground, The Law sees Harry Dresden and the city of Chicago still recovering from the invasion of the Titan Ethniu and her forces, which resulted in significant destruction. However, Dresden is primarily mourning the tragic death of his love, Karrin Murphy, and even his new responsibilities as lord of a castle and protector of Chicago isn’t enough to keep his mind off his loss. Determined to snap Dresden out of his funk, his friends decide to get him back to basics and introduce him to someone in need of a good investigator.
Enter Maya, a former prostitute turned tutor whose grassroots education company helps to supplement the education of Chicago’s working-class children. Working hard, Maya has managed to turn her tutoring business into a viable, if low-profit, franchise that prioritises helping as many children as possible. However, Maya’s past life is about to come back to haunt her in the form of her former pimp, Tripp Gregory, who initiates a bogus lawsuit against Maya’s company for a ridiculous sum. Unable to afford a lawyer and desperate for help, Maya has no choice but to turn to Chicago’s resident miracle worker, Harry Dresden.
Deciding to the take on the case and hoping to quietly warn Tripp away from Maya, Dresden soon discovers that sometimes the most dangerous opponent is a greedy idiot concerned only for themselves. Worse, Tripp and the case have unexpected connections to the magical world, with dangerous players taking an interest in its outcome. Forced to deal with old and new foes of considerable power, Dresden will need all his wit and will if he is to save Maya’s business and ensure that justice is found.
Well, that has gone a long way to convincing me to check out more novellas in the future. The Law was an epic read that took Butcher’s always outstanding Dresden File’s protagonist on a short, but extremely sweet, adventure. Bringing Butcher’s usual flair and style, while also expanding on events from the last book, The Law was a great read that gets a full five-star rating from me.
Butcher pretty much teaches a master class on how to do a short, concise and captivating story here in The Law as, despite its length, this novella had an impressive and fun narrative that I found to be utterly addictive. Not only does it serve as a great follow up to Battle Ground but it showcases some amazing character work while presenting the protagonist with an intriguing new adventure. The story is so much fun, and I loved how it started as seemingly non-magical job and then morphed into something more dangerous and problematic as Dresden finds that it has connections with the magical world that forces him to deal with some of Chicago’s key players, including some old enemies. Bringing a small but enjoyable amount of legal thriller aspect to the series’ usual urban fantasy crime fiction style, The Law goes in some fantastic directions, as Dresden attempts to placate all the players while also serving his client. There is a great bit of action, a ton of humour, some intriguing revelations, and even some pretty dark moments, which combine extremely well to create quite the impressive narrative. I loved how Butcher wrapped the entire novella up, especially with that one conference scene near the end, and the reader comes away very satisfied and entertained with the entire affair. I cannot emphasise how great this story was, and I was so damn enthralled by it that I nearly finished it in an entire sitting.
One of the things that I particularly liked about The Law is the way that it serves as a bridging novella between Battle Ground and any future entries in the series. Butcher spends a lot of time in this story looking at the aftermath of the previous novel, especially as Battle Ground featured that epic battle that saw Chicago nearly levelled. As such, Butcher packs The Law with a ton of callbacks to the events of the last book, and there is a huge focus on how the various characters are dealing with the aftermath, especially Dresden. There is also a very fascinating look at the rebuilding that is occurring during this time, as well as the current state of the citizenry, many of whom are traumatised or damaged because of a battle most of them couldn’t even fully comprehend. I really appreciated seeing the various figures featured in The Law remembering or trying to understand the events of Battle Ground, whether they are a magical person who lost someone, a normal person who went through hell, or even one of Dresden’s Knights of the Bean, who now bear a dark connection with the protagonist. Some of the details that came out as a result are deeply fascinating, and there are even a few hints about where some potential future storylines might go, such as increased Government awareness of magic (you see evidence of them covering up the events of Battle Ground here), or the increased fear that might lead to humans attacking magic kind in the future. All of these are featured heavily in The Law, and I liked how it was well utilised for the current story, while also showing fans of the series how different the landscape of Chicago will be in the future. I would say that this focus on the aftermath of Battle Ground did make The Law a little less accessible to those readers who haven’t read the latest Dresden Files novel, however, I think that if you are interested in reading this, then you should definitely read Battle Ground first.
I also must talk about the great character work featured in The Law. Despite its shorter length, Butcher manages to fit a decent number of characters in The Law, and there are some impressive character arcs and development that occurs as a result. Naturally, most of this is focused on series protagonist and central point-of-view character, Harry Dresden, who puts on his usual brave face for most of this novella, bringing his usual insights and wicked humour to the new case. However, it soon becomes very apparent that Dresden is still heavily traumatised by the events of Battle Ground, where he lost so much because of the war. Despite his best efforts to hide it, Dresden is a wreck for much of the story, and it was quite confronting and moving to see him experience blackouts and emotional strains due to the tragedies he has experienced. I think that Butcher covered his protagonist’s trauma and grief in a pretty realistic way, and I liked how he tried to use an old-fashioned investigatory case as a coping method for Dresden. It was great to see Dresden going back to his roots as a private investigator after the chaotic and world-altering events of the last few books, and it was interesting to see how much the character’s powers, methods, insights and choices have changed as a result of everything he’s seen. The Law ended up being quite an intense and fantastic look in the recovering Dresden and readers will like seeing his emotional damage, his recovery, and even some of his darker moments that are contained within this excellent novella.
Aside from Dresden, The Law features an excellent array of supporting characters, who bring a lot to the narrative. Butcher made sure to include a combination of new faces and existing characters to fill out the cast, and I had a blast with how they were utilised throughout. Several of the funniest and most interesting recurring figures from the series had substantial roles here, including Bob, Gentleman John Marcone, and even Mab, and each of their appearances and interactions with Dresden were entertaining and fitting with their previous appearances. I enjoyed many of the great new characters that Butcher introduced here. Some of them, including a devilish lawyer with a shrouded identity, may come back in the future, and it will be interesting to see how they are utilised. I also enjoyed main antagonist, Tripp Gregory, mainly because he was so different that Dresden’s usual antagonists. Rather than being a magical creature or a major threat, Tripp is a normal and rather idiotic criminal, who has a surprising power: he’s too stupid to believe in magic and too self-centred to avoid all the trouble Dresden is bringing his way. Dresden’s reactions to having to deal with such a selfish and unusual opponent makes Tripp’s inclusion totally worth it, and I had fun seeing his arc unfold. These characters, and more, were awesome inclusions to The Law, and their unique inputs added a lot the quality and entertainment value of the entire novella.
Finally, a quick note on the audiobook format, which was how I enjoyed The Law. The Law audiobook has a very short run time of just over three hours and is a relatively easy audiobook to get through. I always find myself really getting into Butcher’s excellent stories in this audio format, and this continued here with The Law, and it really helped me enjoy all the novella’s fun and entertaining details. Probably the biggest thing about The Law audiobook was the choice of narrator. I was deeply, deeply shocked when I discovered that long-time Dresden Files voice actor, the legendary James Marsters, wasn’t narrating The Law, and instead Butcher himself took over and voiced the entire thing. Surprisingly, this ended up working out rather well and Butcher turned out to be a pretty competent and enjoyable audiobook narrator. Don’t get me wrong, he’s no James Marsters (a point Butcher makes up-front, after promising Marsters would come back for future novels), but he does a really good job considering his lack of experience. All the characters are given good, distinctive voices that fit their personalities and showcase their emotions and reactions perfectly. His voice for Dresden was particularly good, and Butcher captured his creation’s cocky nature and damaged inner self perfectly. While some of the accents he did were a little iffy, this was an overall fantastic performance from Butcher, and it was fun to see him contribute to his work in this way. The Law audiobook ended up being an excellent and impressive way to enjoy this fantastic story, and it is easy the format I would most strongly recommend.
Jim Butcher continues to expand his epic Dresden Files series in some fantastic ways with the new novella, The Law. Containing a compact, but highly impressive story loaded with some of Butcher’s best characters, The Law proved to be extremely entertaining and a lot of fun to get through. Serving as a perfect follow-up to the major events of the last novel, The Law was an excellent and powerful entry in this long-running series that is a must read for all Dresden Files fans.