“Side Jobs” Review

Side-jobs-by-jim-butcher

Once again, I apologize for being late on this one. I had hoped to have most if not all of the Dresden series read before I go on my trip by the 16th, but that just hasn’t happened. I will be reading “Ghost Story” and hopefully blogging about it before I leave, however. With that aside, let’s talk about the anthology book, “Side Jobs.”

Now, given that this is a collection of short stories set throughout the series, I don’t want to run down each and every little one or this blog would be majorly long. Instead, I’d like to talk about some of my favorites and least favorites presented here. There are a total of 11 stories of varied length and, for me at least, most of them are good. Whether they’re filling a gap between stories or acting as further character development, all of them have something to offer. However, the first two stories, “Restoration of Faith” and “Vignette”, were easily the weakest to me. The former was one of Butcher’s earliest (as in teenage years) writings and it shows. I did like a few details in it (like what Harry was doing long before becoming the wizard we see in “Storm Front” and him meeting Murphy), but overall it was clearly the weakest story of the bunch. “Vignette” was a bit stronger, being a story about Harry and Bob trying to settle on an advertisement for Harry’s detective agency, but it was meant to be a pamphlet-sized short story and it definitely is. It was basically fluff, albeit decently written fluff.

As for some of the stories I liked, I’m going to change things up and make a small list. That list changed as I read through each story, and while I did enjoy the werewolf-centric “Something Borrowed” (more Billy and Georgia AND Buffy references? Yes, please!) and the reappearance of some nasty Black Court vampires in “It’s My Birthday, Too”, these next three are my top faves:

3) “The Warrior” – This story takes place after the events of “Small Favor” and brings Michael and his family into center-stage when pictures of them are sent to Harry. Michael is eventually forced into action when his daughter is kidnapped and teams up with Harry to find out why. After all that happens in “Small Favor,” it was nice to see Michael again and enjoy his interactions with Harry. When he meets the kidnapper near the end, the moments following it were very well-written and poignant to his character. The story itself overall was pretty strong and there’s a nice message at the end to drive the whole thing home.

2) “Love Hurts” – Prepare for bias! This story takes place before “Changes” and features Harry and Murphy teaming up to stop someone who’s been forcing people to fall in love. I love this story for two main reasons: A) It takes place at a carnival, which is always a fun setting to picture, and B) Murphy and Harry get a little taste of the love spell and get to indulge in their feelings. I’ve loved the prospect of these two getting together (even if it never actually happens), and this was the closest I got so far of that being possible. The story itself was good overall and I just loved how much it highlighted what a good police team Harry and Murphy make.

And finally, 1) “Aftermath” – This story takes place in the aftermath of the cliffhanger from “Changes” and is written in Murphy’s point of view. New factions of baddies are trying to muscle in on the Red Court’s territory, and Murphy, along with Billy, ends up investigating a series of disappearances that could be related to said baddies. Of course, I love it for Murphy’s perspective alone, but it’s also a pretty fleshed-out story to boot. It gives a bit more insight into Billy’s life than even “Something Borrowed” did and also gives us an idea of how Murphy would handle situations mostly on her own that normally Harry would be involved in. I’m glad I read this first before going into “Ghost Story,” if only because it made for a great filler piece between that and “Changes.”

Overall, “Side Jobs” is definitely a book fans will appreciate. While not all of the stories were my cup of tea, the majority of them were well-written and had interesting scenarios. I’m glad I read it, though I’m looking forward to jumping right back into the series next week.

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