Review: Storm Front by Jim Butcher

Okay, bear with me — I'm still new here.

Before I managed to jump on board as a Real Wench (tm), I was tapped to do a review of an urban fantasy series I read and enjoy: The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher. But, as I've said before, I hate new books. I know, *gasp, shock*, how can this be?!? I've been an extremely prolific reader since I was about seventeen. I'm not telling anyone how long ago that was, but suffice it to say that since then, I've read thousands of books, and after a while... I stopped taking risks. Too many disappointing books when you're not particular. And, since I'm prone to reading anything that will hold still long enough for me to read it, I found a lot of duds. I operate, in general, on recommendation alone anymore. And not only that — I operate *skeptically* on recommendation alone. I'll get a recommendation, and I'll sit on it for months, waiting to see what else this person liked, if I liked any of the other things they did, get a sense of whether or not I'm going to get burned... You see the problem. Same start for Harry Dresden.

However, with novels set in Chicago, this was fairly easy for me, as I grew up in the city's suburbs — the geography makes sense, and I'm familiar with the general turn of phrase and nuance that is common in the area. Then, I enjoyed other things recommended by this person, like the very early Anita Blake novels, while they were still dark and urban fantasy. And finally, I figured I'd just give it a shot. After all, I'm not committed to the whole series if I start, right?





Storm Front introduces us to the slightly alternate-universe world of Chicago. Everything is fairly much the same — except for Harry. Chicago's, possibly the entire nation's, only openly practicing wizard. The novel sets up as a murder mystery, a gang war, and a missing persons case... which rapidly all go awry in a world with vampires, faeries... and possibly many other 'hidden' creatures.

HERE THERE BE DRAGONS SPOILERS

Storm Front opens interestingly enough — we do get an introduction into alternate-universe Chicago, to Harry, and to the general situation. But, not much for a slow start, we're dropped right into the murder mystery. See, Gentleman Johnny Marcone — a local gangster — loses a man to a gruesome murder. A classy, upscale hotel, beautiful girl, obvious seduction scenario, save for the sudden corpsification of both the man and the woman. There's no way this was done by anyone "the regular way," though, so Harry is called in.

Now once seeing the scene, Harry has a problem. He needs to figure out how it was done — without getting caught figuring out how it was done! See, Harry has The Doom Of Damocles hanging over his head, and a perpetual shadow in the form of Warden Morgan of The White Council of Wizards. Harry is, effectively, on wizarding probation — overseen by Warden Morgan. If Harry is caught figuring out this spell, Warden Morgan is within rights to call the Council together to petition for Harry's immediate execution. Harry's got something nasty in his past, and Morgan is on his tail to keep him from sliding into black magic — which is what seems to have caused the deaths of Johnny Marcone's man Tommy Tomm, and his girl Jennifer Stanton. Interestingly, however, Gentleman Johnny doesn't want Harry looking into this at all.

Anyhow, we exit the murder scene and find ourselves headed into the missing persons case. Monica NoLastName is looking for her husband, who has packed a bag and left. That's why she can't go to the police, you see, but she's certain there is more to his departure than a simple abandonment. Given that Harry's living pretty well hand-to-mouth these days, he agrees to take this on, in addition to his work with the Chicago Police Department.

However, this brings us to Harry's next Big Problem. Technology? Yeah, it doesn't like magic very much. Anything made after about World War Two tends to bork up when Harry gets too close. So... no computer for our researching wizard. What's a guy to do? Easy! Pull out your air spirit in a skull! This is Bob. Bob is incredibly old, and has a fabulous memory, acting as an interactive knowledge repository for Harry. This allows him to research, to make potions, and... well, to set Bob free long enough for a romance-novel-loving air spirit to spawn an all-night orgy on a local university campus.

The action tends to be non-stop, once it really gets going. I find that Dresden Files novels (and Storm Front is no exception) hit a lull around chapter four. After that point, though, the remainder of the story flies by and I wonder how I ever managed to put the book down all those chapters ago. These novels aren't a lighthearted read, but they are engaging and incredibly detailed — without getting bogged down in the same details. Each character has a fleshed-out personality, and it's rare to find any character with more than a bit part for whom you can't remember an affiliation, family member, or motivation. The plots are easy enough to follow, and while most of the twists are sort of side-branches you can see coming, there are a few doozies that will surprise the hell out of you!

All in all, The Dresden Files books (beginning with Storm Front!) are absolutely worth the time to read, even if you're not typically a series reader. They are definitively not a romance read by any stretch (though there is a thread of adult relationship — not euphemistically, either — running throughout the book), but the characters are fun, engaging, and very real feeling. I'll keep right on recommending them, as long as Jim Butcher keeps putting out quality books.

I give Storm Front and The Dresden Files 4 lips!!



Comments

  1. Love your post Care! Ahm,I have the first book on my kindle, my book pile is getting out of hand, I have so many books I need to read and almost no free time.

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