As noted in my review of the first The Dresden Files novel, Storm Front, I was surprised by how compelling it was. Storm Front had a breakneck pace and one of the most compelling main characters I have read in a long time. With these qualities etched into my mind, I eagerly picked up a copy of Fool Moon to see if Jim Butcher could maintain the greatness he introduced in Storm Front.
Fool Moon begins with a person brutally murdered during a full moon, the murder so gruesome that the FBI is brought in to investigate. The FBI cannot figure out what could have killed the victim, so Chicago’s only openly practicing wizard, Harry Dresden, is brought in to investigate. Harry believes this murder is the result of a werewolf gone awry. It is up to Harry to track down the culprit while dealing with the FBI intruding at every step. Harry’s case eventually puts him in line with a gang of werewolves and a gaggle of pubescent werewolf wannabes. It appears that Harry can never catch a break.
The dark side of the moon
Clearly, the major plot theme of this novel is werewolves. Of course, werewolves are a staple of the urban fantasy genre, and there really is not much new to the formula here, though there is a bit of novelty regarding the various wolf forms and such. Even though the werewolves are not particularly new, the battles between them and Harry can be quite ferocious and visceral. Due to the fact that werewolves are inherently vicious, Harry has to fight in a more explosive manner than in Storm Front. This adds a certain weight and tension to the battles because you never know if Harry will emerge unscathed.
In Storm Front, it was clear that Butcher wanted to place a laser focus on Harry since he would be the primary voice carrying the following novels. In Fool Moon, we gain a little bit more knowledge of the surrounding characters, such as Lieutenant Murphy and Harry’s love interest, Susan. Although we are given a bigger taste of the supporting cast, it is more of an appetizer than a full meal. We do get a glimpse of the pack of werewolves known as the alphas. The alphas are quite a delight because they are a pack of youngsters who obtain wolf powers and are trying to ensure Chicago is safe.
If Storm Front is a refreshing summer night breeze, Fool Moon is more akin to recycled air with a whiff of foulness. I do not mean to say that Fool Moon is a bad novel; the issue is that it treads on much the same ground as Storm Front, but to a lesser extent. Fool Moon uses a lot of the original characters, but it does not add much oomph or pizazz to their characterization. To avoid spoilers, it is a bit hard to elaborate on this portion, but you will find yourself pining for something new. If Fool Moon is read as a standalone title, this redundancy is not an issue, but if read after Storm Front, it can induce a bit of a déjà vu experience.
Why so serious?
I will apologize in advance for some of the venom in the following sentences, but here is where I will present most of my gripes. Storm Front was serious enough, but had quite a bit of deliberate tongue in cheek humor to it. Fool Moon suffers from its attempt to be serious and present a mature tale when it simply cannot. An apt example of this is the romantic element: the romance reminded me acutely of young adult romantic relations. The sex scene was poorly written and simply was not believable. This novel also suffers very much from the fact that it acts as though this is the final novel in the series. Final novels tend to have an emotional impact because the readers have been with the characters for a long time and have an attachment to them. However, in Fool Moon, we have only been with Harry and pals for one novel, so the emotional impact falls flat.
Why should you read this book?
Fool Moon does suffer from a fair amount of issues ranging from redundancy to poor characterization, but this does mean that it is all bad. If you are looking for a fun and entertaining weekend read, you honestly cannot do much better. Just be warned that if you have also read Storm Front, you might experience a bit of déjà vu.