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The Best of the Dresden Clones

The Best Fantasy Books Similar to The Dresden Files
All these books are in some way similar to The Dresden Files while still being completely unique.  Butcher's Dresden seemingly created an entire subgenre of Urban Fantasy -- one of the more popular genres in Fantasy.

There's dozens and dozens of these types of books now -- with most of them ranging from terrible to mediocre. Still there's a handful that are delicious reads, every bit as good (arguably BETTER) than the books that definitely inspired them (The Dresden Files). 

I've decided to cook up a dedicated list to help you folks find books similar to The Dresden Files. So if you are hungering for some more Dresden-like action, feast on these reads.

The Alex Verus series is about as close to Dresden you are going to find without the series actually being about Dresden. Hell, even Butcher is listed as a blurb stating 'Dresden would approve.' What more can you say than that. It has a lot of similarities -- a mage character who grew up trained as a 'dark mage' then ran away where he's not quite a good guy but not a bad guy either. 

Alex and Dresden are quite similar in this regard. The difference is the Alex doesn't actually have any traditional powers. Rather, he's a probability mage who's able to look through the near futures and pick the best one. This creates an interesting dynamic the whole way through. And with over 5 books out now, this series has proved itself. Highly entertaining and quite a bit darker than The Dresden Files, I highly recommend it as the next best thing over Dresden. Actually, I would say Alex Verus is better than Dresden as it takes more risks and is a much darker series on the whole.

For another book with a lot of similarities to The Dresden Files, try reading Fated by Benedict Jacka. The premise is pretty interesting and does quite a bit to set itself apart from the rest of the other books in the genre. The protagonist is a mage with only one power -- the ability to see into the future; he lacks the dramatic powers that other mages have. However his prescience allows him to pull off operations with 1 in a million chances of succeeding. Butcher himself recommends this novel as being similar to The Dresden Files on the cover blurb.

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The Dirty Streets Of Heaven

(Tad Williams)

(Bobby Dollar)

Tad Williams decided to get in on the Urban Fantasy craze and the Bobby Dollar novels are the result. Let me just say,thank you Tad!

These are Urban Fantasy that play with the Heaven and Hell conventions, turning them into something quite new. It's a new twist and works.

The Bobby novels are some of my favorite Urban Fantasy thoroughly enjoyable reads, fantastically written, packed with interesting and well-developed (yet flawed) characters the whole way through.Williams is known in the fantasy world as a writer who knows how to write awesome prose and even better characters (at the cost of pacing, though). Fortunately, Bobby Dollar seems to distill the best of Tad Williams (characters, plot, and writing) without the major flaws (slow, pedantic pacing). Bobby has some similarities to Harry Dresden -- he's a wise-cracking character who always seems to have a knack forgetting on the wrong side of trouble. If you love Dresden, you'll certainly love Bobby Dollar.

There are three books out so far and each book keeps getting better (and arguably darker). This is a series you really do have to invest in the first was so so, the second was good, and the last one is great.

Books in Bobby Dollar Series (4)

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The Devil You Know

(Mike Carey)
(Felix Castor)
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Award Nominations:2007 BFS

Read Mike Carey's Felix Castor series for something just like Dresden in style and form, yet completely different. The blurb states it's 'every bit as good as Jim Butcher' and this is no exaggeration. It is just as good and arguably better. Every character is complex, nothing is as it seems, the world is dark and dreary. The Caster series really does hearken back to those classic detective noir novels, but merged with fantasy. It's a good combination that absolutely works.

Pound for pound, I would argue as close as you are going to get to The Dresden Files without being a complete rip-off. You've got the hard-boiled detective noir thriller story merged with the supernatural. The hero is a freelance exorcist (not a wizard) in the vein of Harry Dresden though with a much lower power level. The world created is a world completely haunted by ghosts, a world divided between who can see these hauntings and those who cannot. The appearance of the restless dead has change the world...and created new opportunities.Exorcists, you see, are the front line defense against the world of the dead. And our broke, downtrodden hero, Felix Caster, is one of the best.

As a whole, the Felix Caster books are a bit slower paced than Dresden with a bit more of the whole 'detective whodunit' thing going on in every book, but it does deliver the goods. The Alex Verus books are more directly comparable to Dresden than Felix Caster, but Felix Caster is definitely up there while still having it's own personality.

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With a Martin-esque plot and Jim Butcher pace, The Axe and the Throne is a definite "must read" for even the pickiest fantasy fans.

In his stunning debut, Ireman has built the type of world so vivid and engrossing that leaving it at the end is agony. In spite of leaning toward grimdark, where authors often enshroud every scene in depressing darkness, there is no lack of cheerful moments or brilliant scenery. Yet the pangs of near-instant nostalgia that come after you put down a book like this have less to do with the inspired setting, and far more to do with those who inhabit it. 

From savage, unremorseful heroes, to deep, introspective villains, the cast of this story is comprised of believable characters capable of unthinkable actions. And it is these characters -- the ones you wish you could share a drink with or end up wanting to kill -- that forge the connection between fantasy and reality. Keethro, Titon, Ethel, Annora. These are names you will never forget, and each belongs to a man or woman as unique as they are memorable. 

No book would be complete without a its fair share of intrigue, however, and there is no lack of it here. Each chapter leaves you wanting more, and Ireman's masterful use of misdirection leads to an abundance of "oh shit" moments. Do not be fooled (or do -- perhaps that's part of the fun) by storylines that may appear trope-ish at first. This is no fairytale. 

Available on Amazon & Audible, Barns & Noble, iTunes, Google, and Kobo.

Of all the books on this list, Sandman Slim is probably the darkest and most brutal. But it's disturbingly good a story about a sort of Harry Dresden character who comes unhinged, due in part to long stint being tortured in hell.

Sound interesting? It is.

There's a lot of similarities to The Dresden Files but one that's got a lot of dark humor and visceral action is Sandman Slim. Like Dresden Files, it combines hard-boiled detective fiction noir with the supernatural. You can readily see the influences from the noir detective fiction of the past (Raymond Chandler, Sam Peckinpah) and the dark and stylish mob-ridden settings you find in Hong Kong cinema. It's a mix that just works all around.

Indeed, think of this as a fusion between Raymond Chandler and the Dresden Files.

If you haven't read it, DO. It's quite a bit different than Harry Potter (as different as it is similar), yet there are elements of similarities there. I hazard a guess to say if you love the action, drama, and darkness of The Dresden Files, you'll get a kick out of Richard Kadrey's books. These books are dark though. If you are looking for happy go lucky Urban Fantasy where everything always turns out and everyone walks away without a scratch, read something else.

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Jan 2015

Another series in the vein of Dresden but quite a bit darker and far less over-the-top power levels that's (now) infesting The Dresden Files. How can I describe this series? Think Dresden but if Dresden was an ex con, pissed off, more ruthless, and with a fraction of the power.

Jim Butcher even recommends it the Twenty Palaces novels, which says something right there.

What I love about this series is that the main character is not some super powerful hero as is usually the case, but merely the underling who gets pushed around by more powerful people.

A different, yet very interesting perspective from the usual. Overall, the protagonist is very much a Dresden-like character though one occupying an underling position rather than a top dog position. The character faces a lot of similar situations to Dresden and ends up in situations where he has no hope in hell of winning, yet finds a way to survive -- if barely.

Read for a more violent and darker version of Dresden. My only complaint is the author only has three novels out and it's been a few years since the last one.

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Something From The Nightside

(Simon R. Green)


Simon Green Nightside is a series that's very, very similar to The Dresden Files, though eventually it becomes a much more over the top in terms of powerful characters. Indeed of all the items on this list, Nightside really steers into the 'power up to infinity' territory where the protagonist steadily gets more and more powerful with each novel. At some point it becomes ridiculous and the author writes himself into a corner because he makes his character too strong.

However, the series is well worth reading if you like Dresden.

It's comparatively as dark but with more elements of horror in the story. The narration has that sarcastic edge that Butcher imbues into The Dresden Files. You might think of the protagonist John Taylor as a British version of Harry -- probably the most similar in terms of characterization to Harry Dresden I've seen yet and there's a lot of humor in the books. The hero is sort of a supernatural private detective and operates in London where the supernatural coexists right alongside the natural world. 

Books in Nightside Series (14)

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Sweet Silver Blues

(Glen Cook)
(Garrett, P.I.)

Give Glen Cook's "Garrett, P.I." series a read. A detective with some ESP powers. Has the dark noir humor that make The Dresden Files interesting but with a unique setting (a fantasy landscape that merges with the science fiction). Very much unique and written by the author of The Black Company, which should be enough to have you picking this up on that alone! A very much underrated Urban Fantasy.

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Rivers Of London

(Ben Aaronovitch)
(Peter Grant)
Jan 2015

Ah, detective urban fantasy but with a decidedly police procedural bent. If you like the idea of Dresden but hate the over-the-top, break all magical rules on a whim aspect of Dresden, then Peter Grant's Rivers of London will be your savior. It's basically about a detective who stumbles upon the hidden existence of magic during the course a strange murder investigation and ends up becoming an apprentice wizard-in-training for a special supernatural brand of the British police force.

This one merges traditional police procedural detective fiction with Urban Fantasy and does it very well indeed. There's nothing quite like it to be honest if you want a more traditional detective police story mixed in with some Dresden, this is the one for you. It's far less action orientated though, so keep that in mind.

Books in Peter Grant Series (5)

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And for a Harry Dresden clone that's still a bit different, you might try The Iron Druid Chronicles by Keaven Hearn. It's got many trappings similar to The Dresden Files: the character is a 2000-year-old druid (rather than a wizard), he's got a magical amulet he uses for protection,there's a wise-cracking sidekick (a dog instead of a skull), and various supernatural friends and powers (werewolves, vampires, witches, and ghosts)interact with the main character. The main character is so similar to Dresden that it's kind of bothersome at times; I'd call it Dresden Lite. It's quite popular with the Urban Fantasy folks. It's not as dark as some of the other Urban fantasy reads, however.

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Jan 2015

How to describe this one? It's kind of like Brandon Sanderson and Jim Butcher got it on in a library and this was their literary love child. There is really no easy way to explain this one. But, there's a lot of zaniness, a whole lot of action, a caste of colorful characters, an interesting magic system, and pretty much every sort of urban fantasy creature you're used to in a Dresden novel tossed into the plot. A surprisingly good read and there's a certain similar feel to a Dresden novel. 

Books in Magic Ex Libris Series (4)

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