Spoiler Free Summary: Day One by Jim Butcher is the fourth story in the Unfettered II Anthology. Waldo Butters is about to embark on his first mission as a Knight of the Cross. Not too long ago, he was a somewhat reluctant associate of Harry Dresden. Waldo loves Harry, it’s just that Waldo is a bit of a scardy cat (understatement). Now he’s a Night of the Cross fresh out of training. Can he truly step up to be a hero in his own right?
Character: I probably would have paid for the whole anthology to get me a piece of the Dresden world. In a way, I sort of did. Waldo is a fun character, and I’ve liked seeing his growth through the books. He’s earnest, and that makes me want to root for him even before you add the fact that he wields one of the three blades. He’s proactive, but the interesting thing is he’s still not quite a star on his own, and this story shows that.
Exposition: This is wonderful when you consider the first person narrative. Waldo’s an interesting character, so it stands to reason that he’s a fun guy to listen to. Having read all of the Dresden books, I have a bit of trouble separating this book as a stand alone. I worry that those who don’t know the story will feel a bit lost. It’s self contained well enough, but this is clearly for fans of the series and not what I’d use to introduce someone to the series.
Worldbuilding: As a part of a series, we have what we need in the Dresden world. We get a new spooky villain, and we can move on. As a stand alone, we get what we absolutely must know in regard to the Knights and Waldo. It doesn’t have the same skillful world building the last story had, but it’s a much better story overall because the characters move and grow. I feel that sort of comparison is important. If writers are trying to pick which is more important, aim for characters that connect to readers and grow rather than meticulous worldbuilding. Sure, it’s great to have it all, but doing so is usually pretty hard to do in shorter fiction.
Dialogue: This has all the clever banter and wit I like in dialogue. Note: I’m a pretty simple guy to please in that regard. Butters has a unique voice, and it felt good to see him. If any were to accuse Butcher of aiming for too much snark, I couldn’t argue, but I also wouldn’t care. You get what you get, and I wanted more Dresden.
Description: Butcher is probably underrated in this. There’s an art form to providing description that is detailed enough to activate the senses but vague enough to challenge the imagination. Butcher has a mastery of this. The challenge is greater when you have a suspenseful or horror angle. In those genre’s what you leave out is every bit as important as what you put in. I always get the right mix of both with Butcher, and this story is no different.
Overall: Given my bias for Butcher’s work, this was easily my favorite story, and as a fan of Dresden, it was worth the price alone. I don’t know that I could say the same is true for people who don’t love Dresden. I can objectively say it is one of the most entertaining stories in the collection. It also gets me excited for the new release coming out July 14. So get that TBR shelf cleared and ready!
Thanks for reading