Roc, 2000, 401 pages
Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden is Chicago's only openly practicing wizard. He is also dead broke. His vast knowledge and magical skills are unfortunately matched by his talent for making powerful enemies and alienating friends. With little more than his integrity left, he accepts an offer of work from Lt. Karin Murphy of Chicago's Special Investigations Unit. He wants to redeem himself in Murphy's eyes and make enough money to quiet his rumbling stomach.
Soon he finds himself pinned between trigger-happy FBI agents, shape-shifiting motorcycle gang members, a threatened mobster boss, and an heir to an ancient curse along with his primal fiance. Throw in environmental activists and a pair of young werewolves in love and you have something of Fool Moon.
Dresden fans insist the series takes several books to hit its stride. I don't know when it's supposed to become awesome, but the first two books have been passably entertaining urban fantasies with decent worldbuilding, so-so writing, and pretty lame characterization.
In Fool Moon, Dresden has to stop a murderous werewolf. It turns out there are several kinds of werewolves, and they all show up here. This is a moderately interesting spin, except basically what Butcher does is take all the different versions of the loup garou legend and say "They're all true!"
The returning secondary villain is Johnny Marconi, Chicago's biggest gangster and Harry's nemesis from the previous book, apparently destined to be the ongoing mundane antagonist to our hotshot wizard, as opposed to all the demons and dark wizards he's pissing off on the supernatural side.
Dresden's cop friend, Karin Murphy, is under investigation by Internal Affairs because of stuff that happened in the last book. The FBI shows up to investigate the killings, with their usual lack of humor, and lack of appreciation for so-called "wizards" babbling about werewolves.
Butcher's writing isn't bad in terms of dialog and even turns of phrase. The sequence in which Dresden himself experiences what it's like to be a loup garou was rather well done. On the other hand, the scene where he has a protracted conversation with his subconscious in order to drop a ton of exposition on the reader and spell out all of his deep, hidden insecurities, as well as make several deductive leaps that were apparently too hard to write into the actual story, was just lazy.
The weakness in this book was the same weakness as in the previous book - Dresden is supposed to a great wizard, with "darkness in his soul," but he's constantly broke, harassed, and mewling about women troubles. He makes a lot of speeches about how noble and chivalrous he insists on being, as if the reader is supposed to admire him for this. Meanwhile, the author still throws tons of beautiful women at him, many of whom are given conveniently contrivanced reasons to flash some T&A, so Dresden can continue to wax knightly. As in the first book, he alternates between giving gritty heroic speeches and being an absolute idiot and getting kicked around as a result.
The ending is obvious by the mid-point, but Fool Moon is still a decently entertaining story. The author is starting to hint that the supernatural is becoming more active and more of a threat to the mundane world, so I am guessing the scope of Harry's adventures will expand in future volumes.
I'll probably keep reading. But I'm already sick of the dance with Murphy, and sick of Dresden roaring like a lion and getting beaten down like a lamb.
Verdict: The Harry Dresden series is basically paranormal romance for guys. Fool Moon, the second book in the series, adds only a little bit to Dresden's world, and rehashes a lot of the plot devices and characterization from the first book. It's entertaining but nothing special; I have yet to understand why this series is so massively popular. 6/10.
Also by Jim Butcher: My review of Storm Front.
My complete list of book reviews.