Between the Lines: Side Jobs, by Jim Butcher (The Warrior short story)

Side JobsBy Steve Rzasa

I don’t have a lot of room in my house for a book stash. That’s why it’s hard for books to find a home there. I don’t keep them unless they’re A) written by friends of mine, or B) ones I know I will re-read.

Jim Butcher’s done that. Harry Dresden is a great character, an everyman wizard detective, a guy who saves the day, but usually after great trial and tribulation. He’s far from perfect, but he’s a hero.

One of the Dresden volumes I re-read is Side Jobs, a collection of short stories published by Roc in 2011. It’s fun to grab it off the shelf in the (rare) moments of free time, to read through one or a couple condensed versions of Harry’s adventures. It was there I stumbled across The Warrior, featuring Michael Carpenter.

Michael is one of the few people chosen to wield Amoracchius, one of the Swords of the Cross, three legendary weapons forged from the nails that held Christ to the cross. They are powerful weapons that can harm supernatural beings. The Warrior features Harry working side by side with Michael as the latter endeavors to figure out who is threatening his family.

Turns out Michael is one of the best Christian characters in modern fiction.

He’s a man who doesn’t shy away from his faith in God during tough times, and even when he’s been nearly crippled, he doesn’t let the trials crush him. He depends on God. And when he faces an enemy who profanes that belief, he is bold and strong, without equivocation. He trusts that God has a plan when He entrusts a holy relic to Harry Dresden, who is a wizard and practitioner of arts the Church frowns upon:

“You abandoned your duty,” Douglas gasped. “The world grows darker by the day. People cry out for our help—and you would have the swords sit with this creature of witchcraft and deceit?”

“You arrogant child,” Michael snarled. “The Almighty Himself has made His will known. If you are a man of faith, then you must abide by it.”

“You have been lied to,” Douglas said. “How could God ignore His people when they need His protection so badly?”

“That is not for us to know!” Michael shouted. “Don’t you see, you fool? We are only men. We see only in one place at one time. The Lord knows all that might be. Would you presume to say that you know better than our God what should be done with the swords?”

Harry has great respect for Michael, because he is faithful in his beliefs but also how he lives his life. Michael’s a good, honest, brave man. Why? It’s his faith that leads him to live that life, a faith that’s reliant upon God. Harry doesn’t disparage Michael for it, which is refreshing.

Michael is far from a perfect character. When he gets the upper hand against the misguided and fallen Father Douglas, besting him in not only a battle of wills but might, he’s sorely tempted to kill Douglas for the pain inflicted on Michael’s family. It’s Harry who urges him back from the brink:

“He hurt my little girl, Harry.” His voice shook with barely repressed rage.

“He isn’t going to hurt her now,” I said.

“He hurt my little girl.”

“Michael,” I said gently, “you can’t. If this is how it has to be, I’ll do it. But you can’t, man.”

This has double impact when one realizes Harry has a very dim view of people who kill using magic, and his overseers, the White Council, are even more harsh. Here he’s willing to kill (it’s implied but never implicitly stated, I should add) so that his friend, who does not kill for vengeance’s sake, does not have to.

The story also contains a very hard-hitting reference to the power of prayer. Uriel tells Harry that just because Michael can’t wield a sword as a physical warrior, “don’t think for a second that he isn’t still fighting the good fight. It’s just harder for you to see the results from down here.” This hearkens back to Michaels comments directed at Douglas during their confrontation.

The Harry Dresden books are full of spells and wizardry, a reliance on the occult, which doubtless won’t sit well with many Christian readers. However, it is heartening to see a character such as Michael Carpenter inhabit its pages—a Christian depicted, not as a crazy or hateful person, but as someone who is kind, and brave, someone who cares a great deal for others and wants them to trust in God like he does.

Michael may realize Harry Dresden will never become a Christian, but that doesn’t stop him from maintaining a true friendship with him. It is, in a sense, his ministry.

Talk about unconventional.

***

Steve RzasaSteve Rzasa is the author of eleven novels and numerous short stories of science-fiction, fantasy, steampunk, and contemporary fiction. His work has won the ACFW Carol Award for Speculative fiction.

Steve received his bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University, and worked for eight years at newspapers in Maine and Wyoming. He’s been a librarian since 2008, and received his Library Support Staff Certification from the American Library Association in 2014—one of only 100 graduates nationwide and four in Wyoming. He is the technical services librarian in Buffalo, Wyoming, where he lives with his wife and two boys. Steve’s a fan of all things science-fiction and superhero, and is also a student of history.

www.steverzasa.com

2 Responses to Between the Lines: Side Jobs, by Jim Butcher (The Warrior short story)

  1. Teddi Deppner April 25, 2018 at 11:57 am #

    Thanks for this review, Steve! I’m a Dresden fan, though I’ve only read a few of the books. I’ll put this one on my TBR list (may take a while to get around to it, but I’d really like to read the story you mention here!).

  2. Julie D April 27, 2018 at 4:08 pm #

    Michael Carpenter is one of my favorite Christian characters in mainstream fiction. Not that there’s many to choose from, but he’s a good man and a well-rounded character. His interactions with Harry change from his first appearance, but in the end, Harry knows he can depend on Michael for anything. The most recently published book, Skin Game, has the most heartbreaking scene…
    Harry shows up on Michael’s doorstep after not seeing his friend for more than a year, (at least some of which Harry was believed to be dead). Harry says “I need help. I think I’m lost.”
    And Michael simply says, “Come in.”

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