If there’s one thing to be said about writing, it’s that you get better with practice. A lot of writers have a number of books under the bed, in the closest, somewhere, which will never see the light of day. I’ve collected one of these skeleton books so far, and I don’t regret writing it. My first book taught me more about writing than anything I’d done before, just as Eastlight taught me even more. I truly believe that Eastlight isn’t due for that pile. Why do I believe in my book so much? I’ve followed all the steps, read all the blogs, paid the dues, and done everything I can to make it the strongest book possible. I’ve gotten critique from honest parties and rewritten it over and over, hammering it into the book it is now. And if I can’t find representation, or it doesn’t sell, then I’ll just finish the next book and keep the process going until one catches an agent’s eye. With practice, I improve, and each book I write teaches me more about my craft.
I’m definitely seeing an upwards progression in quality as I read through the Dresden files series. I enjoyed the first two books, but the third really hooked me, and the fourth, Summer Knight, really seemed to bring all the elements to just the right boil. Characters reach a maturity in the fourth volume, the world gets fleshed out, and Jim Butcher does a superb job of overlaying the supernatural onto the material. He’s got me anxious for the rest of the series, and I’d start the fifth tonight if I had it in hand. There’s not a lot to say here that I didn’t put forward in my review of the first three, but I’ll say that I highly recommend the series, particularly if you’re wanting to see urban fantasy done right. Butcher clips off some of the elements I found a bit silly in the first two volumes, like potions made from mundane items such as coffee, and plunges full hilt into his take on the faerie mythos. The stakes get upped for Harry Dresden and his world. Butcher adds a ticking clock to the mix, nicely increasing the tension and forging a real page turner. Old allies return and Harry solves his mystery with a deft combination of magic and mental gymnastics.