2-1 - Book Review: Dresden Files 1 - Storm FrontJim Butcher
Roc Publications
2000

Harry Dresden is the best at what he does. Well, technically he’s the only at what he does. So when the Chicago P.D. has a case that transcends mortal creativity or capability, they come to him for answers. For the “everyday” world is actually full of strange and magical things—and most of them don’t play well with humans. That’s where Harry comes in. Takes a wizard to catch a—well, whatever. There’s just one problem. Business, to put it mildly, stinks. So when the police bring him in to consult on a grisly double murder committed with black magic, Harry’s seeing dollar signs. But where there’s black magic, there’s a black mage behind it. And now that mage knows Harry’s name. And that’s when things start to get…interesting. Magic. It can get a guy killed.

I admit, I’m not really much for trying out new things when it comes to my literary pursuits. That’s not to say that I’m not open to checking out a new (to me) author, or genre type. It’s just that, left to my own devices, I usually gravitate to the familiar writers and authors that populate my overloaded bookshelf. It normally takes someone I know strongly urging me to look into a new author to get me hooked. Such was the case for this Dresden Files series.

I knew the Dresden Files was a series of books prior to being made into a short-lived Sci-Fi television series (that was before the channel became SyFy). Having never seen the television show, let alone checked out the books it was based on (my television watching habits are pretty much the same as my reading habits…also, I didn’t have cable), it wasn’t until now when I started reading the series. And even then, it took one of the Exalted Geeks lending me his collection—fifteen novels and one collection of short stories—to get me to start doing so. Which lead me to have to do some major reshuffling of this year’s reading cue. The rest of the Doctor Who novels are just going to have to wait a few weeks, I’m afraid.

Anyway, the first novel of the Dresden Files series—Storm Front—introduces us to the character of Harry Dresden, a young-ish and brash wizard (with hawkish good looks) that makes his living as a private investigator of the supernatural. Business is kind of slow, when one day he gets a couple of hits: first by a lady who wants Dresden to look into her husband’s possible obsession with the occult and wizardry, and then from the Chicago police department to investigate a murder involving an associate of a local mob boss and the escort he hired that night, both with their hearts exploded out of them in the throes of passion. Seems there’s a rogue wizard taking out certain people in fantastically nasty ways. And while Dresden closes in on the suspect, he also has to contend with the employer of the slain mob enforcer, the various magic-based hits the rogue wizard is throwing at him (like an acid-spitting demon, for instance), a rather cantankerous Lieutenant from the police department investigating the murders, all the while being dogged by a probation officer from the White Counsel of wizards to keep an eye on him due to previous…shall we say, unavoidable circumstances. Yeah, this doesn’t make things easy for the guy.

Overall, as the introduction of the world of Harry Dresden, it wasn’t too bad. My understanding is that Jim Butcher wrote this as a response to what the teacher of a writing class he was taking said about formula stories:

When I finally got tired of arguing with her and decided to write a novel as if I was some kind of formulaic, genre writing drone, just to prove to her how awful it would be, I wrote the first book of the Dresden Files.
— Jim Butcher in “A Conversation With Jim Butcher”, 2004

And then he got published, and continued to write the books. Hilarious. As far as the story, though, Storm Front is a pulp noir wrapped in a dark urban fantasy with its tongue set firmly in its cheek. If you’re familiar with the Anita Blake Vampire Hunter series, then this is nothing new. I’ve heard may people say that the series doesn’t really pick up until after the third book or so, but to be up front…I’ve read worse than this. Way worse. It held my interest, had some nice twists and turns, and if I had any kind of complaint, it would be that it’s a bit heavy on disposition. But then, this is the first book, and told in first person. Again, I’ve read (and personally written) way worse than this.

So, would I recommend reading The Dresden Files? Yeah, I would. Do I recommends starting at the beginning? Well, yeah, because having read all of them last year (and just now getting to the reviews), while the explanation of the whole setup is always touched on, it’s just easier to keep track of all the stuff going on. And Storm Front is a good place to start. Naturally.

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