Book Review: Storm Front (Dresden Files #1) by Jim Butcher
Jim Butcher has been on my “to read” radar for quite some time. Fellow science-fiction and fantasy friends in Denver raved about his urban fantasy series, mainly because of all the terrible things Butcher does to his protagonist.
And when I heard Butcher on a panel at the Phoenix Comic Con, many audience questions centered around the fate of poor Harry Dresden. Fans love this character and root for him. I got the impression that they loved reading about every predicament Butcher put this wizard in, but the fans never stopped hoping Dresden would outwit Butcher. I had to work this book into my Reading Challenge. And then I remembered that The Dresden Files was a short-lived television series, which I have never seen, but plan to remedy that situation soon. Excellent. My reading plan was coming together!
My Denver friends warned me that this first book was a little difficult to get into. A slow starter, if you will. But I didn’t experience that feeling. Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden is a modern wizard making living finding lost things and investigating the paranormal. He doesn’t make love potions or make appearances as a magician. And he certainly doesn’t appreciate it if you call him to double check that his ad indeed says he’s a wizard. He is not kidding!
His sarcastic quips make this book even more enjoyable. Every time he’s up against an enemy his internal monologue defends him. Harry counters a vampire attack forcing her surrender when he notices a tear on her face and remarks to himself that his new title could be “breaker of monsters’ hearts”. His wise-cracking remarks extend to children as well. Of the little person who announced Harry’s phone call by yelling across the house, Harry remarked, “Kids. You gotta love them. I adore children. A little salt, a squeeze of lemon—perfect.” I snorted when I read that one.
Since this story takes place in the modern world, Harry’s magical powers don’t play well with technology creating some troubling circumstances. At one point he’s working with the Chicago police, in particular a Detective Murphy, who I would guess makes appearances in future books. She makes him stop before he enters her office, so she can unplug her computer and other electronic devices. She’s worked with this wizard before. Harry can’t even use the telephone without static interfering with his call.
He has two sidekicks. First, an enormous cat Mister, who Harry rescued only to find the cat had assumed ownership of the apartment and luckily deemed Harry a suitable roommate. Then there’s Bob the Skull, who was really an air spirit trapped in a human skull. Bob is Harry’s memory bank, really. Harry can’t keep track of all of his magical data on a spreadsheet, and Bob has worked for dozens of wizards over the years storing up a vast amount of knowledge. Bob has a perverted streak, though, so I imagine his high jinks are a running theme through the series.
The plot of this novel is a pretty straightforward mystery. Harry is hired by a woman seeking her missing husband. At the same time, the Chicago police department have an unusual double murder that reeks of black magic. They consult Harry and, naturally, the storylines of these two clients intertwine.
And I think here’s where my Denver friends were well-intentioned. This first book is predictable and there are times when Dresden acts like an immature teen. However, this is a series and I have faith based on the fan’s collective love of this character that he matures as the author’s writing style grows, and the plots become more engrossing and less cut and paste.
The series has 15 books so far. When I'm in the mood for a light urban fantasy mystery, I know where to look.