Saturday, 22 May 2010

Storm Front by Jim Butcher

Storm Front is the first book in the long-running Dresden Files by Jim Butcher, introducing us to Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden, the only wizard with an entry in the phone book in Chicago. The plot is a fast-paced magical murder mystery, which lends itself well to showing some of the no-doubt recurring characters and the "magic system" that Dresden wields. We also learn a little about the White Council, the ruling body behind practising wizards.

What interested me most about Storm Front was not so much the book itself, but the manner in which it should be read. For the first 120 pages or so, I kept picking it up and putting it down for various reasons (short public transport journeys, around making food, on brief lunch breaks) and never really settled to an extended stint. And I ended up wondering a little bit what all the fuss was about this series!

And then I sat down with a couple of hours on my hands and ended up sweeping through it, thinking 'Just one more chapter, just one more' which, as far as I am concerned, is how you should respond when reading something as action-packed and punchy as this. I equate Storm Front with an action movie - you wouldn't watch ten minutes of an action movie and then turn it off while making a cup of tea or heading out to see friends, and then watch another ten minutes a few hours later. An action movie would suffer from watching it in that way, and I think the Dresden books too. You definitely need to dedicate a couple of hours and then will find it incredibly good fun.

I thought the prose was incredibly effective - Jim Butcher presents Dresden in a first person perspective, which gives immediacy to the story. We know everything Dresden is thinking, and his uniquely sarcastic rejoinders to the events occurring in the book really added to my empathy for his character. I mean, when faced by a weird scorpion talisman that is becoming a little life threatening, I think a number of us would have something snarky to say!

The writing was also descriptive and atmospheric at key moments, rather than just business-like, which I expected it to be. I enjoyed the potion making scene between Harry and Bob, in particular.

The secondary characters were incredibly well-rounded, considering we didn't spend a great deal of time with them in this first tale (although I'm pretty sure they'll feature in future books). I particularly liked Murphy and her uneasy relationship with Dresden - I feel sure that this will develop in an interesting manner in the future. I also don't think I'm alone in liking Bob best!

One factor I found almost irritating, though, is the way that Butcher faithfully documented all the facial features and hair colour of each new character as they were introduced. It is something that I enjoy knowing about my characters, but I prefer it to be presented more naturally, rather than as a ticklist.

Certainly, this was very minor and might be a matter of taste, rather than an issue that other readers will experience as well.

To conclude, Storm Front was incredibly entertaining, with some great action set pieces and genuine tension. I think the highest praise I can offer is that I'll definitely be embarking further on this series!


  1. these just get better and better. Have fun. @Alebodden11 startes them on wednesday and has to read the whole series in two weeks. Wan tto join her on the dare?

  2. My housemate is currently rampaging his way through them and says they do get better and better. How can I join in that dare when I've already read a book and a half? *grin*

  3. I agree with Hagelrat. These just get better and better. Storm Front is by far the weakest.

    I have Butcher's fantasy series sitting around waiting for me to read it, you just reminded me that I need to pick the first one up this week.

  4. Agree that Storm Front is the weakest of the bunch. It's not so much weak as it is generic Urban Fantasy. There is a bit of a standard plot structure through the first few but then Butcher really kicks it into overdrive.

  5. Having just read the second one (third one is to be read soon) Storm Front was, as WonderBunny said, weaker. As I read the second one I was aware that the writing was becoming more taut as it went on, and I was caring more about what happened to the characters - and a lot of it comes down to the very basic fact that I am totally in love with Harry Dresden. And Bob. Harry more though.

  6. I'm glad that you all say this, since I am working my way through the second book currently and still not completely gripped - although I do like the different werewolf mythology being thrown in.

  7. Glad you enjoyed the first one and will continue to read the series. I'm currently on book 8 and I really do love this series. Great characters too and you definitely will see more of Murphy. She's fab and Harry is no slouch either.