Wednesday, July 21, 2010

One of the things I do over on Livejournal is maintain a community called 365shortstories. My intent, every year, is to read a short story per day. Needless to say, it doesn't always work out -- and the years where I even come close, I don't actually read a story per day. I'm going to start cross-posting my story reviews here as well, but I'm not going to go back and port them all over. I'll pick up with the current one, and all the previous reviews can be found at

This past business trip I slacked off on the short stories (even though I brought a bunch with me) in favor of a novel and a history of fictional character crossovers, both written by friends / acquaintances. Got home from my trip today, hit Barnes & Noble, and saw that the latest P.N. Elrod-edited urban fantasy anthology, Dark and Stormy Knights, had been released. And since you can't spit into an UF anthology without hitting a Jim Butcher short story, of course I picked it up:

243. Even Hand by Jim Butcher. Before now, the only Dresden Files short story not narrated by / starring Harry Dresden was the Thomas Raith novella Back-Up. But after the events of the novel Changes, I'm not surprised to see a Dresden Files short story that does not feature Harry. I suspect we'll see a few more of this type of story in the next few months. This time out, Butcher casts the spotlight on Harry's sometimes-grudging-ally / mortal nemesis (as opposed to all of his immortal nemesises ... nemesisi .... nemesese? neme-never-mind ...) Gentleman Johnny Marcone. It's a welcome, first-person look into this very complicated, very deadly man whom Harry may despise but whom he can't help but respect. And not only do we get a good glimpse into some of Marcone's pet peeves, we also get at least one juicy little tidbit about red-headed sidekick Hendricks that makes him a bit less of a one-note heavy. The story revolves around someone coming to gangster Marcone for help, because he's the nearest signee to the Unseelie Accords, the agreement that maintains some form of civility between the various supernatural races / realms in the Dresdenverse. And that's about all the background you need to know, and about all the spoiling you'll see in the story. Butcher goes out of his way to not mention recent book events, so this story is a good "feeler" for what the Dresden books are like in terms of the world-building. It's not a good "feeler" for the voice of the novels, though. Butcher does a great job of making Marcone sound like Marcone, so gone is the pop-culture-laden patter of the novels. Marcone is far more straightforward (but not succinct) than Harry is. One character even makes a comment about Marcone's lack of sense of humor. I recommend The Dresden Files to everyone, and I definitely recommend this particular story, which might now be one of my favorites.

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