Mon
Feb 11 2013 3:00pm

The Dresden Files Reread: Side Jobs Pt. 1

The Dresden Files Reread: Side Jobs Pt. 1We’ve covered twelve of the books in The Dresden Files so far (and there are two more novels to go), but first it’s time that we cover the various short stories that Jim Butcher has written in the Dresden Files Universe. The majority of those have been collected in the book Side Jobs.

 

A Restoration of Faith

This story takes place before the events of Storm Front, while Harry’s working for Ragged Angel Investigations in an effort to get his PI’s license. They’ve been hired to find a missing girl, one Faith Astor, ten years old, and Harry recovers her only to find out that her parents reported her kidnapped. They’re a wealthy family and a kidnapping looks better than the girl running away.

Nick, the PI, advises Harry to let the kid go, but Harry’s in a bad part of town and won’t leave the girl. Nick agrees to pick them up if Harry can cross the bridge to meet him. Harry heads over with the girl (whose name is Faith), but they run into a troll armed with cleavers that tries to make off with Faith. Harry bluffs his way out of the situation, but they are unable to cross.

Harry and Faith have a heart-to-heart, about how she ran away and hates living with her parents. But Harry gives her a ring that lights up when she thinks of the things she loves and urges her to think of them when things are bad. Then they attempt to cross the bridge again. They are attacked by the troll again, but Faith gets away and a young female cop, a certain Officer Murphy, helps to attack the troll. Harry manages to get hold of one of the troll’s cleavers and cuts it open, turning the massive troll into a bunch of small, tiny trolls. Faith tells Murphy that Harry didn’t kidnap her and she offers to go with Murphy.

Butcher mentions that it was one of his earliest short stories, but it’s notable for showing the first meeting between Harry and Karrin Murphy, and for showing a bit of Harry preparing to become a PI.

 

Vignette

A short piece, also available for free on Butcher’s website, this one is a discussion between Harry and Bob. They discuss Harry’s ad in the yellow pages with Bob pushing for something with a bit more flash. This was intended as a promotional piece and sets up what Harry does and why (because someone has to). It also gives a good sense of the relationship between Bob and Harry, one of my favorite relationships in the series. Not much new here, though.

 

Something Borrowed

This story first appeared in the anthology, My Big Fat Supernatural Wedding, edited by P. N. Elrod. It involves the wedding of Billy Borden and Georgia and takes place between Dead Beat and Proven Guilty (and is referenced in the latter).

The story begins with Harry being fitted for a tux for Billy and Georgia’s wedding. Kirby, who was to be Billy’s best man, got injured in a fight with a ghoul, forcing Harry to step in. At the fitting, Harry runs into Eve McAlister, Georgia’s stepmother. She drops the fact that Georgia is late and not answering her phone. After Harry sends her packing, Billy asks Harry to check on Georgia since she hasn’t been answering her phone. Harry checks first with Kirby at the hospital, then at Billy and Georgia’s apartment where he finds the place torn apart. He calls Murphy for help and asks her to bring Bob’s skull.

Bob checks the apartment for any mystical residue and finds out that faeries have been in the apartment. Harry tries to call Billy, but the connection is poor and Billy only manages to say that Georgia’s at the resort for the wedding. Harry uses one of her hairs to track her and finds out that she’s in the opposite direction from the wedding. Murphy susses that a faerie has taken Georgia’s place. Harry suspects they want to use the power of the wedding ceremony to get revenge on Billy and Georgia for helping Harry in the final attack of Summer Knight.

There are only three hours to go until the wedding and Murphy agrees to help Harry. They jump into the car and take off, tracking Georgia. He discovers Georgia’s in Undertown and Murphy accompanies him down there where they find Georgia, unconscious, on a stone slab surrounded by water. Harry investigates the water and is attacked by shellycobbs, crustacean-like creatures from Faerie. Harry attacks them with fire, but there are too many. He holds them off with fire and sends Murphy to grab Georgia, then they beat a hasty retreat, heading for the resort. Harry figures the culprit is Jenny Greenteeth, Maeve’s sidekick, since he remembers her having shellycobbs back in Summer Knight.

On the way, Harry asks Bob about the sleep spell that Georgia is under. Turns out it’s tied to her lifeforce. Only a kiss from her true love (Billy) will wake her up. Of course, if Billy kisses the fake Georgia, then he will no longer be able to awaken her. Murphy speeds up.

At the wedding, Eve tries to stop Harry with some professional goons. They take him down, but he uses his fire to set off the fire sprinklers. The running water grounds out Jenny Greenteeth’s glamour and she’s revealed for who she is. She tries to take on Harry and Billy, but Harry fights her off and she goes instead after Murphy and Georgia. Billy and Georgia get there just in time to see Jenny Greenteeth drown Murphy in a bowl of punch. Harry urges Billy to kiss Georgia and takes on Jenny. But Jenny is strong and she beats Harry around the room before repeating the punch bowl trick with him. But before she can kill him, Billy and Georgia appear, in wolf form, and make short work of the faerie. Harry performs CPR on Murphy and saves her.

In the end, Billy and Georgia are married at Father Forthill’s church.

One of the better Dresden short stories, in my opinion, it deals nicely with the ceremony of weddings and the importance of kisses, weaving such classic elements as the evil stepmother and the sleeping princess into something worthy of The Dresden Files.

 

It’s My Birthday, Too

This one is from the anthology Many Bloody Returns, edited by Charlaine Harris and Toni Kelner and takes place between White Night and Small Favor. The story picks up with Harry and Molly cleaning up after a case. Molly mentions that it’s Valentine’s Day and Harry is reminded that it’s Thomas’s birthday. Molly mentions that she’s figured out that Thomas and Harry are brothers, which seems like a foregone conclusion, but also confirms that Harry is not good at keeping that a secret.

Thomas isn’t at home, he’s at a nearby mall, so Harry offers to swing by with Molly in tow. When they get there, the mall is closed, but people are inside, and Harry notices a downed security camera and a couple of suspicious looking people. When they get in, though, they find out they’re not vampires, it’s just a night of LARPing at the mall and Thomas is there under the guise of a hairdresser with a woman he works with, Sarah.

Molly catches sight of a security guard getting killed by something strong and fast. The streetlights go down next, and then the power in the mall before Harry can get through to Murphy. They instead head for the security office. But before they can get there, something throws a car through the entrance. As they’re getting oriented the PA comes on and Drulinda, a former player of the LARP, who was made fun of, comes on. Harry thinks she’s going to go Carrie on everyone. It turns out that Drulinda is now a Black Court vampire.

Harry has Molly keep up a veil and then takes her shoes. He heads upstairs to Shoegasm, where he had previously set up a family of Cobbs (essentially faerie cobblers like from the fairy tales). They don’t want to get involved, but Harry starts breaking up shoes and also offers them the Carpenter household whose shoes they can fix. Harry stresses he’s always dealt fairly with the Little Folk and when he also mentions pizza, they agree. They give Harry info on the vampires (there are four—Drulinda and three security guards she turned). One of the guard vamps is outside and Keef, the lead cobb, shows Harry a way to reach him.

Harry approaches the vampire stealthily and uses earth magic to increase the gravity around it. It flattens the vampire (almost literally), and Harry disposes of it with some powdered garlic from the mall’s food court. He distracts a second guard vamp with Thomas’s birthday present and then takes it out with the same gravity trick and Thomas uses the opportunity to hit another of the guards. Harry burns the vamp with a hasty “fuego” but it doesn’t take the vampire out. The vampire gets on top of Harry, but Thomas pulls it off and stakes it.

Then Drulinda wades into the battle and Thomas does his best to take her on, though not very well. She’s just out of his league. Harry deals with the second flattened guard, who isn’t quite dead, using garlic again, and then Drulinda comes against him. He uses his pentacle, his talisman of faith, to push her back. But she grabs one of the LARPers and offers to trade her for Harry. Harry, of course, agrees, though oddly silently. Drulinda jumps on him, which is when he spits powdered garlic into her face. As she falls back, Harry wields another “fuego,” burning Drulinda up.

As Harry and Thomas drive off, Harry realizes that he left the present back in the mall. He tells Thomas that they were Rock’em Sock’em Robots. Thomas asks why, and Harry admits that his first Christmas in the orphanage he saw them on television, two brothers playing, and he wished that he had a brother to play with.

In my opinion the ending makes this story. The action in the mall is fairly straightforward, but the beginning with Harry training Molly and the ending with Thomas give us some more insight into Harry and his world. Plus we see Harry being a good guy with other of the Little Folk. And it features a rare use of Harry’s earth magic.

 

Heorot

Originally from the anthology, My Big Fat Supernatural Honeymoon edited by P. N. Elrod, which had as its focus, logically, honeymoons. It takes place between White Night and Small Favor. Harry gets a call from Mac of all people, asking him to meet him at a Chicago tavern. Harry shows up and notices (because he’s very observant) that it’s the night of a homebrewing festival. Mac tells Harry in his taciturn way that a woman is missing. The cops seem unwilling to help her husband, so Harry steps in.

The husband’s name is Roger Braddock. His wife, Elizabeth, was with him at the homebrewing festival until she disappeared. And tonight is their honeymoon. Harry is inclined to think she fled, but she left her purse behind. Harry finds a brush with some hair on it, one of his favorite ways to track people.

A big beefy guy named Caine shows up, threatening Roger and asking where his keg is. Caine is another homebrewer. Caine insults Elizabeth, and Roger tries to throw a punch. A fight is only averted by the arrival of a cop.

Harry heads out back and performs the tracking spell. But as he’s tracking Elizabeth, Caine and his flunkies jump Harry, thinking he had something to do with the missing keg. Harry takes a few hits, but with Mouse’s help he’s ultimately victorious. Just as he finishes, Ms. Gard, Marcone’s head of security, comes up to him, looking for his help. Turns out she knows all about the girl. She’s after the thing that took her. A team-up!

Harry tracks Elizabeth to Undertown. Gard explains, after lots of pestering, that the creature is a grendelkin, specifically the spawn of Grendel, from Beowulf. The theft of the keg of Caine’s mead seems to indicate that the grendelkin wants to impregnate Elizabeth.

As they navigate through Undertown, they come across signs of malks, which we’ve seen before (Grimalkin). They hunt in large packs so fighting them doesn’t seem wise and they’re unlikely to negotiate. Gard draws out a rune that is supposed to work with Harry’s illusion magic to disguise them to get past. It works, but there are way more malks than anticipated, and Gard only had one rune.

Up ahead Gard senses the creature and that he’s about to breed. She lets out a scream of berserk rage and charges ahead. Harry enters the cavern behind her to find Elizabeth naked and tied up. The grendelkin, which looks like a large, hairy human, attacks them. It’s incredibly fast and strong and nails Harry with a thrown rock. It also throws Gard pretty easily. It seems the two of them have history going back a ways. Harry wises off some more, then tries magic, thought the grendelkin seems unaffected. Then he smacks it in the junk with his staff. Before he can free Elizabeth, though, it grabs him and prepares to rip off his arm. Only using the pointy end of Elizabeth’s haribrush to stab the grendelkin saves him.

Then Mouse reappears, the horde of Malks trailing behind him. Harry unleashes an illusion spell, making the grendelkin look like him and vice versa. He tells the malks to get Harry and they attack the grendelkin while Harry frees Elizabeth. He sends her out with Mouse and then goes for Gard, losing the illusion in the process. He blasts the grendelkin and the malks with a shower of bone, then sets fire to the place. Before they leave, Gard breaks a rune of Sunder and the place comes down after they leave. They meet up with Mouse and Elizabeth and head back to the bar.

There, Gard confirms that she’s a valkyrie, one of Odin’s daughters, and that she has been alive for hundreds of years. She also appears to be a descendant of Beowulf. She tells Harry that her name is Sigrun and gives him a kiss.

Again, a pretty simple story, but notable for filling in Gard’s background. That she was a valkyrie was hinted at in the novels, but it’s said explicitly here. It’s also notable for Harry using illusion magic. It’s not a skill he relies on much (and it’s become Molly’s specialty), but here he muddles through. In fact in many of these stories he uses magic he doesn’t often use in the main books.

So, those are the first few stories in Side Jobs. What did you think of them? Let me know in the comments. And tune back next week for the next few stories in the collection.


Rajan Khanna is a writer, narrator and blogger who shares Harry’s love of beer and would love to taste some of Mac’s brew. His website is www.rajankhanna.com and he tweets @rajanyk.

6 comments
Emmet O'Brien
1. EmmetAOBrien
"Heorot" and "Something Borrowed" are fun, though "Heorot" felt a bit to me like beating readers who were slow to figure out about Gard over the head (and also calling the young couple Braddock kept giving me flashes of The Graduate.) The others in this first half did fairly little for me, save that the troll in "Restoration of Faith" is I think the only example in the entire series of getting many Faerie from one Faerie of any sort that does not involve changelings, which is an interesting datapoint. "It's My Birthday Too" feels to me to be just a long dull fight scene with minimal context.
Kasiki
2. Kasiki
First should be pointed out that while they are a part of the dresden world, they are in no way nessesary for the continuity of the novels. It is part of what made the short stories so good. If nessesary then people would feel slighted into having to buy the anthologies well before "side jobs" was announced, and Butcher probably would have lost some readers as a result.

Also with Butchers writing scheduel, he decided that writing 2 dersden files a year was a little monotonous. In many ways the short stories are a gift to his readers to tide them over while he wrote a "Codex of Alera" book before getting back to Dresden.

You got to respect a man who tries his best to be good to his fans.
Emmet O'Brien
3. EmmetAOBrien
Kasiki@2:First should be pointed out that while they are a part of the dresden
world, they are in no way nessesary for the continuity of the novels


I'd argue that at least one of the stories in the second half is vital to novel continuity, and indeed Proven Guilty has a very visible gap if you've not read "Something Borrowed".
Matt Hiebert
4. Blackhand
I read the first novel and enjoyed it. Need to give the rest of these a chance.
matt
5. graftonio
The only thing that really disappointed me about Side Jobs was that the Marcone story wasn't in it.
Kasiki
6. Kasiki
EmmetAOBrian@3- A one liner in a book is hardly vital. Also given the previous history Harry had with the fae(both known and infered in the novels), it is easy to simply assume the basic point of what happened and not recieved any of the details.

Are the stories fun? yes. Do they add back story to characters or foreshadow what to expect in the next book? yes. Are they needed in order for the story to move on. No. And that is the point. for the die hard fans- they must have their fix of Harry. For most of the rest- They went on not knowing that there were short stories (or the amount of them) and really didn't miss a thing.

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