Book Review: SMALL FAVOR (The Dresden Files)

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Book Review: SMALL FAVOR (The Dresden Files)Jim Butcher
ROC
2008

Wizard Harry Dresden’s life finally seems to be calming down. The White Counsel’s war with the vampiric Red Court is easing up, no one’s tried to kill him lately, and his eager apprentice is starting to learn real magic. For once, the future looks fairly bright. But the past casts one hell of a long shadow. Mab, monarch of the Winter Court of the Sidhe, calls in an old favor from Harry. Just one small favor he can’t refuse—one that will Harry Dresden between a nightmarish foe and an equally deadly ally and strain his skills and loyalties to their very limits. And everything was going so well for once…

It’s the tenth book in the ongoing Dresden Files series of novels, which means we’re two-thirds of the way through with what’s out there at the time of this writing. Just a little aside: On the Good Reads entry, there’s one reviewer that’s been keeping a tally of how many times the proclamation of “Hell’s bells” is made by Dresden. Here in Small Favor, it looks like it was said 21 times. Anyway, how goes this installment in the series?

Another year has passed, and here we start as Harry Dresden receives a visit by Queen Mab of the Winter Fae, calling in one of the favors Harry owes her. And this one entails being her emissary and protect John Marcone, the “gentleman” crime boss of Chicago that has played some considerable part in Harry’s life since the first book. This is no easy task, as he’s constantly attacked by the goatlike soldiers of the Summer Fae called the Gruffs. Then the Denarians show up again, as does Ivy the Archive, and then the party really gets started. The Archive is kidnapped, and everyone shows up on an island of really dark mojo for yet another explosive and wacky showdown. And not everyone gets out unscathed.

Aw, yeah, the Billy Goats Gruff. While the first couple make for some rather tense action scenes, the showdown (in a manner of speaking) with the third Gruff uses more of Dresden’s gift of wit in a way that’s just downright hilarious. That aside, though, the book hits all the standards that the series has, which at this point would normally mean things getting a bit stale and predictable. But, as reading Small Favors proves, things are stirred up in the narrative to keep things fresh. And the fate of one of the major side characters is quite shocking, to say the least.

Overall, another fun read, the momentum not slowing a bit. On to the next one…

Book Review: PROVEN GUILTY (The Dresden Files)

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Book Review: PROVEN GUILTY (The Dresden Files)Jim Butcher
ROC
2007

There’s no love lost between Harry Dresden, the only wizardin the Chicago phone book, and the White Council of Wizards, who find him brash and undisciplined. But, war with the vampires has thinned their ranks, so the Council has drafted Harry as a Warden and assigned him to look into rumors of black magic in the Windy City. As Harry adjusts to his new role, another problem arrives in the form of the tattooed and pierced daughter of an old friend, all grown-up and already in trouble. Her boyfriend is the only suspect in what looks like a supernatural assault straight out of a horror film. Malevolent entities that feed on fear are loose in Chicago, but it’s all in a day’s work for a wizard, his faithful dog, and a talking skull named Bob…

Book number 8 in the Dresden Files series. It was released the year after the previous novel (as most of these were), but since I was loaned all fifteen (at the time), and had the chance to binge-read them (to my young readers: “Binge Reading” is like “Binge Watching”, only with these things called “books” instead of “television shows”), I have to keep in mind that the events here take place almost a year after Dead Beat. And last time, things were topped off with a freakin’ zombie T-Rex. What surprises does this one hold?

Things kick off with Harry Dresden–who is now a fully appointed Warden of the White Counsel of Wizards (irony)–attending the trial and execution of a sixteen-year-old boy for going over to the dark side of wizardry. He’s then tasked with fiding otu why the Summer and Winter courts of the Fae haven’t attacked the Red Court vampires, and also to check out a spike in black magic usage in Chicago. Harry then finds himself investigating strange attacks at a local horror movie convention, which turns out to be perpetrated by supernatural predators called phobophages, and when he manages to get them to turn on the person who summoned them, discovers that it was the oldest daughter of Michael Carpenter–Molly Carpenter, who is kidnapped into the Nevernever. Meanwhile, turns out the Winter Queen is acting rather od, which is making everyone on both sides of the Fae nervous, and so Harry has no choice but to storm the Winter stronghold to rescue Molly and try not to bring the entirety of the Winter Fae upon him. He succeeds in one part. Try and guess which one.

Well, now, this one was interesting. First of all, the whole “fears coming to life” thing happening at a horror convention…sure, why not? So far, this is the only book where them phobophages appear; the concept of the creatures is rather intriguing, and it seems was an original concept by Butcher for the purpose of this story. But man, this is something I’d like to explore a bit, maybe flesh out in a short story or something. Anyway, interesting development with Molly, and quite a bit of deeper development with Charity Carpenter beyond Strong Willed Mother Who Doesn’t Like Harry. And not only does it seem that the whole Warden gig is permanent, but there’s a grander conspiracy going on than meets the eye. Such is the nature of conspiracies, one would presume.

So, overall, the series continues to be an intriguing one, willing to take some risks with the ongoing development of the overarching mythos and characters, while trying something new with old concepts. At this point, I think it’s safe to say that this is not a series that you can just jump on in the middle, but at least there’s an effort to explain a bit some of the back story stuff. Still, highly recommended, this is.

Book Review: PROVEN GUILTY (The Dresden Files)

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2-10 - Book Review: Dresden Files 8 - Proven GuiltyJim Butcher
ROC
2007

There’s no love lost between Harry Dresden, the only wizard in the Chicago phone book, and the White Council of Wizards, who find him brash and undisciplined. But, war with the vampires has thinned their ranks, so the Council has drafted Harry as a Warden and assigned him to look into rumors of black magic in the Windy City. As Harry adjusts to his new role, another problem arrives in the form of the tattooed and pierced daughter of an old friend, all grown-up and already in trouble. Her boyfriend is the only suspect in what looks like a supernatural assault straight out of a horror film. Malevolent entities that feed on fear are loose in Chicago, but it’s all in a day’s work for a wizard, his faithful dog, and a talking skull named Bob…

Book number 8 in the Dresden Files series. It was released the year after the previous novel (as most of these were), but since I was loaned all fifteen (at the time), and had the chance to binge-read them (to my young readers: “Binge Reading” is like “Binge Watching”, only with these things called “books” instead of “television shows”), I have to keep in mind that the events here take place almost a year after Dead Beat. And last time, things were topped off with a freakin’ zombie T-Rex. What surprises does this one hold?

Things kick off with Harry Dresden–who is now a fully appointed Warden of the White Counsel of Wizards (irony)–attending the trial and execution of a sixteen-year-old boy for going over to the dark side of wizardry. He’s then tasked with finding out why the Summer and Winter courts of the Fae haven’t attacked the Red Court vampires, and also to check out a spike in black magic usage in Chicago. Harry then finds himself investigating strange attacks at a local horror movie convention, which turns out to be perpetrated by supernatural predators called phobophages, and when he manages to get them to turn on the person who summoned them, discovers that it was the oldest daughter of Michael Carpenter–Molly Carpenter, who is kidnapped into the Nevernever. Meanwhile, turns out the Winter Queen is acting rather odd, which is making everyone on both sides of the Fae nervous, and so Harry has no choice but to storm the Winter stronghold to rescue Molly and try not to bring the entirety of the Winter Fae upon him. He succeeds in one part. Try and guess which one.

Well, now, this one was interesting. First of all, the whole “fears coming to life” thing happening at a horror convention…sure, why not? So far, this is the only book where them phobophages appear; the concept of the creatures is rather intriguing, and it seems was an original concept by Butcher for the purpose of this story. But man, this is something I’d like to explore a bit, maybe flesh out in a short story or something. Anyway, interesting development with Molly, and quite a bit of deeper development with Charity Carpenter beyond Strong Willed Mother Who Doesn’t Like Harry. And not only does it seem that the whole Warden gig is permanent, but there’s a grander conspiracy going on than meets the eye. Such is the nature of conspiracies, one would presume.

So, overall, the series continues to be an intriguing one, willing to take some risks with the ongoing development of the overarching mythos and characters, while trying something new with old concepts.

Book Review: DEAD BEAT (The Dresden Files)

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2-9 - Book Review: Dresden Files 7 - Dead BeatJim Butcher
ROC
2006

Paranormal investigations are Harry Dresden’s business, and Chicago is his beat as he tries to bring law and order to a world of wizards and monsters that exist alongside everyday life. And though most inhabitants of the Windy City don’t believe in magic, the Special Investigations department of the Chicago PD knows better. Karrin Murphy is the head of SI and Harry’s good friend. So when a killer vampire threatens to destroy Murphy’s reputation unless Harry does her bidding, he has no choice. The vampire wants the Word of Kemmler (whatever that is) and all the power that comes with it. Now Harry is in a race against time—and six merciless necromancers—to find the Word before Chicago experiences a Halloween night to wake the dead…

The seventh book in the Dresden Files series, and…gads, let me just go ahead and get the descript out of the way, here…

Here we are, a year or so after the events of the previous novel, a couple days before Halloween night, and the Black Court vampire Marva that made things toasty for Harry Dresden only one book ago has decided to blackmail him into finding a book called The Word of Kemmier within 3 days, or his cop buddy Murphy with be set up for the murder of one of Mavra’s minions. Since you just can’t find a copy of The Word of Kemmier on Amazon, and knowing that his supernatural equivalent of Wikipedia–Bob the Skull–used to belong to the necromancer who wrote it, he starts there. It doesn’t go well. Actually, scratch that–it goes as well as you could expect for Harry Dresden. Bob has a split personality, medical examiner and polka enthusiast Waldo Butters gets attacked by another necromancer, learns of another book everyone’s after, and it ends up there are actually three sets of necromancers looking to use both books to turn one of them into a minor god. And to stop this, Harry not only needs to help of the other wizard Wardens, Butters, his vampire half-brother Thomas, but also a reanimated Tyrannosaurus Rex. I’ll just leave it at that.

Okay, sure, the last book had flaming poo-flinging demon gorillas. Dead Beat raises the absurd-cool factor by way of a freakin’ zombie T-Rex. I believe the meme goes thusly: Your Argument Is Invalid. Outside of that, holy crap what a story–a bunch of necromancers wanting to become gods, Evil Bob, the summoning of the Elfking (the master of the Wild Hunt and not someone you’d want to cross, let along try and summon); all this and Harry might be losing it a bit in the head. And, he’s also made a Warden. Not exactly a good day, there. Though, I would suspect riding a freakin’ zombie T-Rex makes up for everything.

Why are you not reading this series? Read it now.

Book Review: BLOOD RITES (The Dresden Files)

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2-8 - Book Review: Dresden Files 6 - Blood RitesJim Butcher
ROC
2004

For Harry Dresden, Chicago’s only professional wizard, there have been worse assignments than going undercover on the set of an adult film. Like fleeing a burning building full of enraged demon-monkeys, for instance. Or going toe-to-leaf with a walking plant monster. Still, there’s something more troubling than usual about his newest case. The film’s producer believes he’s the target of a sinister curse, but it’s the women around him who are dying, in increasingly spectacular ways. Harry’s doubly frustrated because he got involved with this bizarre mystery only as a favor to Thomas, his flirtatious, self-absorbed vampire acquaintance of dubious integrity. Thomas has a personal stake in the case Harry can’t quite figure out, until his investigation leads him straight to Thomas’s oversexed vampire family. Harry’s about to discover that Thomas’s family tree has been hiding a shocking secret: a revelation that will change Harry’s life forever.

Sixth book in the Dresden Files series, and this one probably has the greatest opening committed to the written page. And also a plot setup that could have turned into a Marx Brothers routine, but then…well, here’s my lil’ synopsis of the story…

After rescuing a bunch of puppies that were kidnapped by a bunch of flaming poo-flinging demon gorillas (which is, actually, not the weirdest thing I’ve had to write out loud), Harry discovers one of the puppies decided to stick around. And Harry Dresden doesn’t have time to return the stray bundle of furry cuteness, as his White Court vampire buddy Thomas Raith has hired Harry to investigate a series of bizarre deaths on the set of a porno shoot. It looks to be magic-based, which is bad enough; things get a bit more complicated, though, when another vampire from the White Court shows up as a replacement actress, and decides to kill both Harry and Thomas for being involved. But, then that’s put to the back-burner when an attack by Black Court vampires happens. Lord Raith tries to assassinate Harry with Death By Snu-Snu, but is saved by Thomas, who reveals a bit of Harry’s family line. Harry is framed for the murder of another actress at the shoot, but that doesn’t last too long as the perpetrator is not very bright. Then Harry, Murphy, the professional hitman acquaintance of theirs, and Harry’s wizard mentor take out a nest of Black Court vampires, while only getting a little bit french fried.

First of all, if I didn’t have you by “flaming poo-flinging demon gorillas”, then you’re reading the entirely wrong blog. Also, you probably wouldn’t be the kind of person I’d be personally associating with anyway, so chances are you’re not reading this blog to begin with. Second of all, this story was another one that happened to make me read through a bit faster than normal. Yeah, this is something that could have turned into shark-jumping slapstick-y wackiness (especially with one bit of plot twist that was spoiled in the previous paragraph); but instead, it furthered the overarching story involving the vampire courts, fleshed out quite a bit on the mythos that Butcher is building, and still maintained quite a bit of action with the customary twists and turns that marks a jolly good multi-layered mystery. Also, DRESDEN GETS A PUPPY! Mister’s not gonna be happy. In any case, another good romp thus far.

Book Review: SUMMER KNIGHT (Dresden Files)

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2-4 - Book Review: Dresden Files 4 - Summer KnightJim Butcher
Roc Publications
2002

Ever since his girlfriend left town to deal with her newly acquired taste for blood, Harry Dresden has been down and out in Chicago. He can’t pay his rent. He’s alienating his friends. He can’t even recall the last time he took a shower. The only professional wizard in the phone book has become a desperate man. And just when it seems things can’t get any worse, in saunters the Winter Queen of Faerie. She has an offer Harry can’t refuse if he wants to free himself of the supernatural hold his faerie godmother has over him—and hopefully end his run of bad luck. All he has to do is find out who murdered the Summer Queen’s right-hand man, the Summer Knight, and clear the Winter Queen’s name. It seems simple enough, but Harry knows better than to get caught in the middle of faerie politics. Until he finds out that the fate of the entire world rests on his solving this case. No pressure or anything…

So, here we have the fourth book in the Dresden Files, and let’s see if our protagonist Harry Dresden gets a chance to breath, let alone get some rest from the constant wackiness that he’s been put through in the past three books. Hmmmm. It looks doubtful.

Things kick off with a visit from Mab, who just happens to be the Winter Queen of the Sidhe (that’s the Unseelie Faeries, the likes of which you should hope to never run across), who informs Dresden that she just purchased his debt to his Faerie Godmother (you remember, from the previous book), and as such wants him to pay off this debt by doing three favors for her, the first of which happens to be recovering the stolen mantle from the Summer Knight that was recently murdered. Since getting involved with Faerie politics is never really a good thing, Dresden tells Mab to suck it. But then, his motion to “suck it” is shot down by the White Court of Wizards, who–because of that little incident that started a war with the Red Court vampires–informs Dresden that he will accept the roll of Mab’s Emissary as his trial, otherwise he’s going to be stripped of his title as Wizard and then handed over to the Red Court as a peace offering. Then he receives a visit from an old flame, who just happens to be the Emissary of the Summer Court, runs into some changelings with ties to the Faerie, discovers that the Summer Queen is planning on waging war with the Winter Court at Midsummer, meets up with the Elder Queens, and suddenly finds himself entangled in a war he must survive. Will he make it through? Well…this is only the fourth book in a series of fifteen, you tell me.

Okay, so there was a lot to take in while reading this, and sometimes I thought I would have to begin making a flow chart just to keep up. The ongoing story of Harry Dresden just keeps getting more and more complicated, especially now that the Faerie seems to want to come in and play, and his ongoing persona non grata with the White Court of Wizards. Overall, very good book, very complex but engrossing. Nicely done.

Book Review: GRAVE PERIL (The Dresden Files)

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2-3 - Book Review: Dresden Files 3 - Grave PerilJim Butcher
Roc Publications
2001

Harry Dresden has faced some pretty terrifying foes during his career. Giant scorpions. Oversexed vampires. Psychotic werewolves. It comes with the territory when you’re the only professional wizard in the Chicago-area phone book. But in all Harry’s years of supernatural sleuthing, he’s never faced anything like this: The spirit world has gone postal. All over Chicago, ghosts are causing trouble – and not just of the door-slamming, boo-shouting variety. These gosts are tormented, violent, and deadly. Someone – or something – is purposely stirring them up to wreak unearthly havoc. But why? And why do so many of the victims have ties to Harry? If Harry doesn’t figure it out soon, he could wind up a ghost himself…

The third book in The Dresden Files series of novels, this one expounds quite a bit on the world that professional Wizard Harry Dresden lives in–namely, the supernatural side of Chi-town. Though, I’ve yet to see Chicago referred to as that in the series yet.

We’re introduced to new character Michael Carpenter, a Knight of the Cross that’s helping Dresden take care of a sudden rash of malevolent ghost encounters; they both are rushing to a hospital to take care of a particularly macabre one that sings newborns to death. Something is happening to make the barrier between the physical mortal world and the spirit world–the Nevernever–weak enough to have not nice things come through easier, and after almost getting caught by his Faerie Godmother, he makes the connection between this and a literal Nightmare that seems to be stalking his friends and associates for whatever reason…a reason that points to a previous case that Dresden and Carpenter helped close with the Special Investigations unit of the Chicago PD. And all of this ties into the local society of Red Court vampires and their personal beef with Dresden. Yeah, it had to be the vampires. As long as he doesn’t try to start a war with them…wait. Ah, crap.

So, Grave Peril is pretty much where The Dresden Files finally hits its stride as being engrossing dark urban fantasy noir. Not only are we taking pretty much immediately into the action of things, but it’s a nicely taunt action at that, and in the course of things we’re given more fleshing out of Harry Dresden’s world, both in Chicago and beyond. We finally get a glimpse inside the Nevernever, we meet with Harry’s literal Faerie Godmother (who I always imagined as Ruth Connell, who played Crowley’s mother on the show Supernatural), the three major Vampire courts in play (the Red Court, the White Court, and the Black Court), and the introduction of Michael Carpenter as one of the Knights of the Cross, wielding the sword Amoracchius. Gads, I love this character. And yes, I know, he’s described as being Caucasian with blonde hair and blue eyes, all Catholic ubermench and all…but pretty much from the get-go, I pictured him more as Denzel Washington. And I feel no need to update my mental picture files on this. In my head, Michael and his family is African American, and that’s that.

Yeah, it was with this third entry into the Dresden Files where I found myself a bit more than just a curious novice, and began tearing through the books with reckless abandon. If you’ve made it this far into the series, then kudos. You know what I’m talking about.

Book Review: FOOL MOON (The Dresden Files)

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2-2 - Book Review: Dresden Files 2 - Fool MoonJim Butcher
Roc Publications
2001

Lost Items Found. Paranormal Investigations. Consulting. Advice. Reasonable Rates. No Love Potions, Endless Purses, or Other Entertainment. Business has been slow. Okay, business has been dead. And not even of the undead variety. You would think Chicago would have a little more action for the only professional wizard in the phone book. But lately, Harry Dresden hasn’t been able to dredge up any kind of work–magical or mundane.But just when it looks like he can’t afford his next meal, a murder comes along that requires his particular brand of supernatural expertise.A brutally mutilated corpse. Strange-looking paw prints. A full moon. Take three guesses–and the first two don’t count…

The second book in The Dresden Files series manages to get one of my least favorite supernatural monsters out of the way: Werewolves. Yeah, not a big fan of werewolves in horror fiction, and I really don’t know why, other than they never really clicked with me. Maybe it’s because I never enjoyed having to read The Call of the Wild in elementary school and was given never-ending grief for being reluctant to read it. Oh, yeah, and the fact that wolves don’t scare me.. Seriously, growing up on a farm where your Uncles preferred large dogs, some Malamutes and Huskies, tends to sap your fear of wolves in literature and other fiction media. Anyway…

In Fool Moon, we open with Dresden unsuccessfully trying to convince a protege’ that messing with building a Three Magic Circle trap is not a good idea for someone so young (or at all, for that matter). Then he’s called to help investigate the mauling death of one of “Gentleman” Johnnie Marcone’s men, some wolfish paw prints found near his body. Dresden follows the blood scent (with magic, natch) to a gang of college-age werewolves that are being lead by a chillingly cold lady by the name of Tera West and go by the name The Alphas. The FBI get involved, send Dresden to check out a biker gang called the Streetwolves about the murder, which turns out to be a setup, as the bikers are also werewolves. Dresden then receives a tip that the killings are connected to one Harley MacFinn, and just as he’s about to check things out, he’s arrested due to there being a murder found at MacFinn’s place…the body of which just happens to be the protege’ from the beginning of the story. Dresden is then busted out by Tera West, who turns out to be MacFinn’s fiance’, and tells him that he needs to get MacFinn in the containment circle, as he’s not just any kind of werewolf, he’s a loup-garou, which is French for “Scary Werewolf the Other Scary Werewolves Are Afraid Of”. Unfortunately, ignoring his pleas to the contrary, the police arrest and jails MacFinn, meaning he’s there when the moon rises and he super-wolfs out and kills most of the police force unfortunate enough to be working the night shift. So now Dresden has to A) evade capture by the cops and clear his name, B) evade also the Streetwolves, who have a death mark on him, C) convince the Alphas that he’s trying to help them, D) somehow manage to find, capture and contain MacFinn without getting shredded to bits…oh, yeah, and E) prove that the FBI that’s been “helping” aren’t on the up-and-up. That just about takes care of that, I think.

Overall, I think that, even with the whole werewolf angle, Fool Moon was a rather good story. Certainly a bit better than the first book (which is not a slam, by the way); there were a lot of red herrings and twists in the story, certain characters got a bit more development, we’re introduced to The Alphas (who do feature in future stories), and I think the biggest twist isn’t the reveal of the FBI’s shenanigans, but with just what Tera West is in relation to her nature. Hint: you’re never going to figure it out…unless you read the spoiler on the Wikipedia page. So don’t. Anyway, very good read, and a bit of an improvement. On to the next one, then.

Book Review: STORM FRONT (The Dresden Files)

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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.