If you’re a fan of urban fantasy, chances are that you’ve consumed all of the Dresden Files series and are anxiously awaiting the next installment. Good news: Jim Butcher is currently working on the 16th title in the series, to be called Peace Talks. Bad news: he’s still in the process of writing it, so you’ll have to wait for him to write the dang thing, then edit the dang thing, then publish the dang thing. The process can take well over a year (unless you’re James Patterson; then you can crank out them at a clip of about one book every 45 minutes). What is any geeky reader to do with no release date in sight? Instead of rereading the entire series (again), try a couple new urban fantasy series that any Butcher fan is sure to love.
First up is the Alex Verus series by Benedict Jacka. This series boasts the explicit stamp of approval from none other than Mr. Butcher himself. He says of the series, “Harry Dresden would like Alex Verus tremendously – and be a little nervous around him. I just added Benedict Jacka to my must-read list.” High praise indeed.
Alex Verus is a mage (i.e. wizard) in London. Verus is an independent mage, as opposed to a Light or Dark mage. Light mages run the Light Council, the bureaucratic agency that controls all of Britain. They enforce magical law, oversee the apprenticeship program that trains new mages, and actively work to keep their world a secret. While Light mages value order above all else, Dark mages only respect power. If you have the power to take something, then it is within your right to do so, and the fault lies with those who are too weak to defend themselves.
Verus was apprenticed as a teen to a powerful Dark mage, and he barely escaped with his life. As a result, the Light mages don’t trust him, and the Dark mages don’t respect him. But Verus likes being underestimated. As a diviner, or probability mage, Verus is uses this to his advantage. He doesn’t have the flashy power or brute strength that many mages have (like Dresden, that flashy brute). But he can see the future. More specifically, he can see all the possible futures that might occur given any number of random and not so random factors. All he has to do is seek out the future with the outcome he desires and backtrack to see what is needed to make that future a reality. It makes cracking passwords and dodging would-be assassins easy. For example, if he wants to know how powerful a fellow mage is, all he has to do is focus on the future in which he attacks said mage, and then see how he or she would defend him- or herself.
Unfortunately, Verus develops a reputation in both Light and Dark circles. His skills and lack of affiliations often make him a target. But the people who try to hurt him always seem to end up dead (or missing and presumed dead). All Verus wants is to be left alone, but both Light and Dark mages drag him back into their schemes again and again.
The next series that can satiate your Dresden withdrawals is The Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne, which SFFWorld likened to a mix of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods and the Dresden Files. Sounds fun, right?
Atticus O’Sullivan is the last Druid on earth. Druids came to be when Gaia, the slow-moving consciousness of the earth itself, decided that she needed protectors. A sorcerer had tried to take in the earth’s power and instead killed a portion of it (and himself), creating the Sahara desert. Gaia wanted to make sure this never happened again. She taught chosen humans to tie themselves to her essence, thus giving them the power to protect the earth from those who would harm it. From these chosen Druids, a few rose to godhood through the belief and prayers of the people, creating the Irish pantheon. These gods were forced from the earth during the Iron Age (magic + iron = no magic) and mostly stay in their own plane of existence.
And so Atticus is the last of the Druids on earth. He’s also over 2,000 years old. Not that you can tell. He looks like any other college kid in Arizona. Except as a master druid, he can tap into the power of the earth to do things like heal himself, gain speed and strength, shapeshift, and cast spells. Much of Atticus’ long life has been on the run. Not only from the Roman gods, who joined forces with vampires in order to wipe out the rest of the Druids, but mostly from Aengus Óg (ANGus OHg), the Irish god of love who is actually not a very loving guy.
Atticus has stayed alive mostly due to the aid of the Morrigan, the Irish goddess of war and death. And the fact that he has bound a cold iron amulet to his aura, making it nearly impossible to use magic against him. This is how he earned the nickname “Iron Druid” among the Fae (the offspring of the Irish gods), who can’t touch him without turning into a big ole pile o’ dust.
When Aengus Óg tracks Atticus down to his current hiding place in Tempe, Arizona, Atticus decides that he’s done running. With the help of all the friends he’s made, from Icelandic werewolves to Navajo trickster gods to his talking Irish wolfhound, Atticus takes a stand. And unwittingly sets a series of events in motion that might just end the world…
So there you have it: two excellent series on which to slake your thirst for Dresden-eque reading. Where to begin?! Well, Alex Verus is set in a world that is much more similar to Dresden Files, but Iron Druid has more humor and a much larger variety of supernatural creatures (though Verus *is* pretty tight with a giant talking spider named Arachne…but she doesn’t crack jokes like Atticus’ sausage-loving hound, Oberon). I’ll leave you to decide where to begin.