on 8 May 2007
As always, Jim Butcher grabs you and holds you until the last page. Storm Front is the first book about Harry Dresden, a wizard and private detective. This is a recovered paperback of the original. To get the most out of this series you have to read them in order. Hope this helps you:
by Martin Harris
on 1 June 2000
Take traditional hardboiled fiction, give it a mind bending preternatural twist and you have Storm Front, the first book in a new series with the potential to send author Jim Butcher to the top of the gumshoe sub-genre of horror/fantasy fiction.
Harry Dresden, the series' protagonist, is everything that's great about the hardboiled anti-hero, with a twist: He's a wizard trying to make a living working practical magic in a modern world that's foolishly rejected the supernatural in favor of science and technology. Part average guy, part renaissance man, Harry's got a dark side, a wicked sense of humor and a deeply rooted, personal code of honor that drives him to risk everything to fight the supernatural forces preying on his clients, an attitude that puts him at constant, dangerous odds with both the bad guys and the authorities alike.
In Storm Front, when a routine murder investigation turns out to be anything but routine, the police reluctantly turn to Harry for help. But a case that started as a way to pay the rent soon gets complicated for Harry when he's forced to cross paths with the Chicago mob and a mysterious figure known as the Shadowman, drawing Harry into a web of black magic and danger.
Already under the Doom of Damocles (a form of probation placed on him by the White Council who oversee the ethical use of magic in the world of the mundane) Harry himself falls under suspicion and is forced to risk execution to solve the mystery and stop the Shadowman, before the killer takes another victim.
Storm Front is a riveting, action packed roller coaster ride of a novel, a damn good mystery with compelling characters set in a rich alternate reality universe where anything can happen. There's a little something for just about everyone here from black magic and the Chicago mob to vampire madams, demons and the fey.
I enjoyed this novel immensely and am looking forward to the next in the series.
Harry Dresden is the only openly practicising professional wizard in the country, with an office in midtown Chicago. He relies on the police department, in the form of Lieutenant Karrin Murphy, for work as a paid consultant. Usually, the money is welcome, but at the beginning of this book she calls him to look at a crime scene when he is waiting for a rare, private client. Rushing to the scene of the crime, he is faced with the sight of two people in a hotel room whose hearts have literally exploded from their chests. On the way back to this office to meet his private client, he is threatened by mobsters. Still, he manages to meet Monica Sells and hear about her missing husband who had recently lost his job and became 'interested' in magic. Through these manic events, we are introduced to Harry's world and the chaos surrounding it.
This is a good introduction to the cast of characters and places in the series which follows this first book. Harry is a typical, wise-cracking PI, with the added interest of being a wizard. The book is an easy read, enjoyable and fun. Harry is a likeable character and the book romps along with great pace. It would be easy to become fond of Harry and I look forward to following his career as both a wizard and a PI with great enjoyment.
Over the past decade, The Dresden Files has turned into one of the big success stories of the urban fantasy genre. Set in modern-day Chicago, it follows the fortunes of Harry Dresden, a wizard-for-hire who offers his services to those in need (and who preferably can pay him). Mixing up elements of the supernatural with a detective story format, the series has proven successful on both sides of the Atlantic with ten further books in the series published and a short-lived TV adaption proving a cult hit a couple of years back. Storm Front is the first novel in the series.
The perpetually cash-strapped Harry Dresden is given some financial relief when two cases land on his desk at the same time. A woman is searching for her husband, who has gone missing after becoming fascinated by the use of magic. Meanwhile, the police have called on Dresden's aid after two people are found dead in an apartment, their hearts apparently remotely exploded by magical means. It isn't long before Dresden is up to his neck in trouble, as the two cases start overlapping with the interests of the Mafia and Dresden's own unorthodox approach soon lands him in trouble with the guardians of magic, the White Council.
Storm Front is a decent debut novel. The plot clips along at a fair old pace, and as a mystery it's fairly well plotted and laid out. The characters are strong, with Harry making for an engaging protagonist and his circle of friends, allies and enemies all being an interesting bunch. There isn't a lot of 'weight' to the novel, and it feels a bit on the slight side, but there's much fun to be had here.
However, I wasn't too impressed by the Luddite diatribe we get no less than three pages in, in which all of the evils of the world are blamed on technology and progress. Yeah, it makes sense for Dresden to have those views as a wizard who can't use technology (his magical field causes computers and other electrically-powered items to fritz out around him), but it was a bit too preachy too early in the book and left a bit of a sour taste in the mouth. Luckily this was forgotten within a few chapters as the story picked up and really got going. There are some other problems, though. The 'mystery' is completely solvable by the reader within the first fifty pages (you may be even be able to work it out from the plot synopsis on the back of the book), so waiting for Harry to catch up to where you are can be a bit mildly frustrating. The book is also inconsistent in its worldbuilding: after spending the first chapter or so telling us that no-one believes in magic and most of Harry's callers are pranksters thinking he's a nutter, we then learn that the police keep him on a retainer to investigate crimes and even average people on the street know not to look a wizard in the eye for too long, which seems self-contradicting. There's also the nagging feeling that you've seen this story before, with a few names and roles swapped around, on Angel. But, despite these problems (all of them hallmarks of a first time writer), the book is still reasonably fun to read. Butcher has an easy, approachable and undemanding prose style and after Dresden spends most of the book being passive and reactive to events, watching him go all Takeshi Kovacs at the end is a treat.
Storm Front (***) is a fun and breezy novel that is more of a light snack than a full meal, but still an enjoyable way of passing the time. I'll be checking out the remaining books in the series in the near future. The book is available from Orbit in the UK and Roc in the USA. A special limited edition from Subterranean Press came out a while ago and you may still be able to track down some copies online.
on 6 August 2011
The first volume of what has become a fabulous series, Storm Front introduces the reader to Harry Dresden and his world. Chicago's only advertising wizard is a great creation, interestingly flawed, eminently likable and wonderfully human.
The story, which sees Harry investigating a series of magical murders, is fast-paced and lean, keeping you turning the pages and always interested in finding out what happens next.
Butcher's writing is still a little rough around the edges at this point, but never to the extent that it ruins your enjoyment. Think of these small missteps as learning experiences for a rapidly developing author.
This is really the place to start, with the introduction of important characters such as Murphy, Marcone, Bob the Skull and others. Seemingly inconsequential events, too, such as Harry's meeting with a vampire, will become very important later on.
In short, if you have yet to discover the joys of the Dresden Files, do yourself a favour and start at the beginning.
on 5 August 2011
So, I came to this book, finally, having known about the tv series and having seen the books on the shelves whenever I was perusing in Waterstones, but not really taking an interest until recently.
Storm Front introduces Harry Dresden, wizard. As his advert in the Yellow Pages says "Lost Items Found - Paranormal Investigations - Consulting - Advice - Reasonable Rates - No Love Potions, Endless Purses, Parties or Other Entertainment." In typical film noir fashion, Dresden is a down-at-heel private investigator-type, who is a consultant to the Chicago police department's Special Investigations unit - but, seeing as they don't pay very regularly and Harry has bills to pay - he also takes on private cases. Storm Front starts with a disturbing double murder that the police want his input on, and then he simultaneously takes on a missing persons case to pay the rent he's far behind on.
It all sounds very familiar, and it is. But it's told from a laconic first-person viewpoint, with a winning, self-deprecating sense of humour, and it's easy to read and fast-paced with it, with some well-realised action sequences and a couple of scenes with genuine suspense. It does contradict itself at times (for instance, Dresden tells us that normal people don't know about wizards or magic, but then everyone knows to avoid eye-contact with him - perhaps this is just the rough edges of an author's first novel), and it's not ground-breaking, controversial, or in any way thought-provoking. But it's Fun, with a capital F. I finished it with a smile on my face, and downloaded the second book to my Kindle straight away. After all, I'm told it gets better and betters as the series goes along.
And I know I'm onto a winner when the first chapter contains a line like: "Paranoid? Probably. But just because you're paranoid doesn't mean that there isn't an invisible demon about to eat your face."
on 3 April 2012
I probably shouldn't have read this immediately after reading Moon Over Soho (Rivers of London 2). Two urban fantasies in a row, one very British and one very American. I'm afraid that Storm Front did suffer somewhat in comparison.
That is not so say that is is a bad book. It's actually very good. It just didn't resonate quite as much as the Aaronovitch books, probably because I'm more familiar with the UK policing system and the places which are explored in those novels.
I did have a throughly good time reading this. Harry Dresden is brilliant litary creation. He is Sam Spade with a staff, Mike Hammer with a spell book, Mickey Spillane with a potion and he inhabits a world which is close to our own but where also demons are real and Vampires are sexy and run an escort agency.
The writing is not completely smooth and effortless but maybe that is not surprising as this is the authors first published novel. What he does do though is a great job of creating a world filled with possibilities, colourful characters like Bob the Skull and Morgan the vengeful watchdog who has a real hard on for Harry, and Butcher provides hints that there is back story that will be explored further in upcoming books.
I look forward to reading the next instalment.
on 7 December 2011
Urban fantasy is a bit of a sideline genre for me - i don't read buckets of it, and this is a average (so far) series.
The writing is pacey enough, and in the style of those noir-ish PI books, they are certainly an easy/light read.
But there are some major flaws - both in this and the next book in the series:
- Harry is a bit of a loser for a supposedly powerful wizard,which makes him a bit hard to really believe in, and ultimately makes him a feel a bit 2-dimensional. His decision making is randomly awful - well not randomly -it's a transaprent plot-furthering device - to ensure certain events come about - but it's just too obvious.
- the relationship between him & Murphy is really creaky and again not very realistic in terms of the mistrust on both parts with no obvious grounds
- the world creation is uneven, which other reviewers have mentioned - so lots of people don't believe in magic, yet even though Harry could very easily demonstrate its existance - why does he never choose do so?
So whilst these are ok, and I am reading the 3rd in the series - i would not recommend them, nor buy them (am reading copies from a friend.)
Update: I have read about 5 or 6 of these and have changed my review on that basis - the series makes very strong improvements as it goes on and the writing gets muich better. I stand by my opinion on the first 2 books, but would say - if you found them to be disappointing or so-so, then stick with it as the depth and quality goes up and up as you go along (so far)
on 4 January 2004
A wizard, working in Chicago as a PI. Quite a unique idea and one that works very well. Harry, our wizard, isn't always such a nice man, but that does make him interesting. The magic used in the plot is nicely encorporated, making it belieavable. Not over detailed and I liked the dry humour that runs through the story. A thoroughly enjoyable read, and a story that capture my attention.
If Raymond Chandler had written about wizards, vampires and fairies, the result might have been something like the Dresden Files series. And it opens on a high note with the gritty urban fantasy "Storm Front," introducing us to a solid wizard hero and a complex new universe.
Business has been slow for Harry Dresden, the wizard PI, so he's eager when two new cases come at once: a missing husband, and a couple slain in the middle of sex -- their hearts exploded from their chests. Talk about a heart attack. As he tries to investigate both cases at once, he finds himself suspended between a vampire madam and a gentlemanly Mafia don.
Unfortunately, it seems the White Council of wizards also believes that he did it, and with his proximity to some nasty magics, Harry faces execution in just a few days. And as he unravels an increasingly dark web of drugs, demons and sorcery, Harry discovers that he is the next intended victim...
Ever since Laurell K. Hamilton turned to porn, I've been on the lonely long hunt for something similar in theme, but with fewer throbbing body parts. With his wizards, fae, icky vampires and demons, Jim Butcher's series fits the bill -- and exceeds it in every way.
He's got the hard-boiled noir thing down, even in modern Chicago -- dark rainy streets, femme fatales (some vampires), and a literally fiery climax. The entire book is an upward spiral of suspense, with the dual threats against Harry's life getting more intense, until it literally seems like there's no way out.
His writing strikes a nice balance between stripped-down Chanderlian prose, and detailed horror-fantasy (such as our first look at the grotesque vampire madam Bianca). But Butcher knows how to inject some dark humor and action, such as poor Harry trying to battle a toad-demon with an artificially lustful woman pouncing on him. And some nicely snappy dialogue ("Subtle and quick to anger?" "Not so subtle").
Harry Dresde himself is a great lead character -- he's wry, amusing and a little offbeat, but with some dark personal history that tends to haunt him at the wrong times. The only problem with the characters is that in this particular book, most of the human characters seem rather 2-D, compared to Bob the talking skull or Toot-toot the pizza-loving fairy.
"Storm Front" is a solid debut to a solid horror-fantasy-mystery series, with a likable lead and some nicely evocative writing. Definitely a good read, and promises more by the end.