This was a concept I’ve been tossing around for a while. Working in the book store people always gave me the title of their favorite books, and wanted something similar, so I was constantly trying to compare books. Our computers had a fun little function where it did that for you, so it was interesting to see what the computers pieced together.
Now, on that tangent, a long, long time ago a friend found out I was reading Harry Potter (this was before the last book even came out) and said if I like harry Potter, I’d like this series called the Dresden Files. It took me many, many years but I eventually picked up the first Harry Dresden. After plowing through the first several books I couldn’t understand HOW one book was compared to another, there was literally NOTHING similar. Literally, both main characters are named Harry, and they’re both Wizards. That’s it, the only similarity.
So, I thought it would be fun to start a Versus series with comparing the very first “If you like that, you’ll like this!” I ever dealt with!
Before we delve deeper into the actual story, the biggest difference is the books themselves. Harry Potter is classified as 9 – 12 (though “adult fiction” versions have been released so adults don’t feel so embarrassed reading them in public – I wish I was kidding), whereas the Dresden Files is a Sci-Fi/Fantasy. Potter is read through a third person’s point of view, where Dresden is 1st person. This gives both books a very different feel, and allows for Dresden to be as sassy as he wants to be.
Both our characters are named Harry, but Harry Potter is a 11-year-old, and Harry Dresden is in his 30’s. Potter is a child from Britain; whose parents were killed by an evil Wizard and to protect him, sent him to live with his cruel Aunt and Uncle. Dresden lives in Chicago, where he works with the police on crimes that are a little to weird for their paychecks, and runs his own business for people who need a Wizard to solve their problems. His mother was killed when he was a child, so his single father raised him. After his father’s death Dresden is sent to live with his Uncle, where he learns about his magic and how to use it properly. Admittedly, both characters are somewhat similar. They have a lot of the same traits (as do most hero-type characters) determination, strength, honesty, what have you. And later in the books Potter does get quite the sassy attitude. But Dresden has a bit of an edge because of his age, and the fact that although Potter has been through a lot in his short life, Dresden has been through more. This is already aimed at two different demographics. Not saying that each age group can’t read either book, but I wouldn’t recommend Harry Dresden for anyone in the 9 – 12 range.
Now, we can’t talk about Wizards without talking about the most important part; the magic! We all know how magic works in the Harry Potter world: swish and flick, and it’s Levi-OH-sa, not levio-SA. Potter’s magic is based on spells that were created and handed down, only being used through the magic of a wand. Most of their magic is wand and incantation, but there are potions, made from odd magic-based ingredients (gillyweed anyone?). Dresden’s magic is the complete opposite spectrum. Magic comes from within, and the only time a wand (or blasting rod) is used, is as a tool to focus their magic through. Dresden is good at LARGE magic, mostly for blowing stuff up, so if he needs to do a spell with a much smaller radius, he funnels it through his blasting rod. Wizards use incantations, but the language is their choice. Some use ancient latin to sound better, others use their own language, and some just use gibberish! Harry’s most common spell is “Flickum Bicus” …and if you think hard enough, I guarantee you can tell where it’s from. They aren’t using handed down spells, they are creating their own, sometimes using other people’s spells and spellbooks if they want to try something new, or are in a situation the spells they created can’t help. And their potions are completely different. I really loved how Dresden did his spells, it kind of rooted the story more in our reality, giving it a “what if?” feeling. He doesn’t use some obscure magic creatures blood, or a magically growing full moon mushroom. He uses ingredients that require all our senses, and usually uses pop as a base. He uses money in a love potion, or sunlight in an energy drink. And because Dresden is completely broke his spells seem completely thrown together and desperate, but lets his natural strength come through!
Potter is a boy thrust into the limelight because of surviving a killing curse. The books follow his life through school, and the slowly growing power of his greatest enemy. Even though they are kids books, they are absolutely phenomenal. They bring up issues many adult aimed books won’t even touch, and has created a generation of open minded, politically savvy, and creative children. Children who know the media lies, and that being different (in colour, sexual preference, nationality, etc) isn’t bad. Dresden doesn’t hit notes like that, but that doesn’t make it less of a book. Dresden is a Wizard for hire that works with the police in cases containing magic or anything occult. Dresden has to deal with werewolves, vampire courts, fairy courts, evil hidden in the Wizard council, and just all around bad luck. Dresden hits a different note through this; he’s not rich, not overly handsome, not overly strong or athletic, but he’s smart. And determined. Those factors get him through any situation thrown at him. He shows that you don’t have to be “special” to make it through life, you have to be determined and face any challenge head-on without giving up. Even if life kicks your ass the first few times.
Now, the point of this review wasn’t to say if one was better than the other. It was to compare because all these years, I had no idea how one could be compared to the other. And if someone is interested in reading one series because they like the other, I don’t want them to be disappointed because they are nothing alike.
I found Harry Dresden actually closer to the Anita Blake Vampire Hunter series. Anita’s series is a female lead, and has a hell of a lot more sex, but at it’s root they are very similar. Both are written through the characters eyes, and both characters are quite spunky and sarcastic. Anita is a Necromancer for hire, who works with the local police on cases involving anything supernatural (though her cases are a little more bloody and gruesome). And Harry Potter is much closer to Percy Jackson – a demi-god raised by a single mother who spends his summers at a half-blood camp learning to harness his powers and inevitably saving the world.
I hope this review was interesting to everyone!