the Little Red Reviewer

Wizards new and old

Posted on: August 17, 2011

Storm Front (Dresden Files, book 1), by Jim Butcher

Published in 2000

where I got it: purchased new

why I read it: wanted to know what all the fuss was about.

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Everyone knows who Jim Butcher is, how can you not?   I even watched the short lived Dresden Files tv show that ran as an aperitif for Battlestar Galactica. I must live under a rock, as I’ve never read a single Harry Dresden novel.

Until now.

It’s Chicago police noir, except the expert on retainer to the police department is a wizard. And broke. And usually in some kind of trouble with the wizard-y council. And electronics hate him. And as the bodies start to pile up, Harry Dresden, wizard, quickly becomes the prime suspect.

Juggling the lovely but cold Karrin Murphy at the Chicago Police department, his new private client Monica Sells, the flirtatious tabloid journalist Susan Rodriguez, and a deadly vampiress who runs a high end brothel, Harry Dresden has enough on his plate that he shouldn’t have to worry about some dark rogue wizard ripping the still beating hearts out his victims.  Too bad this weekend is all work and no play for the only professional wizard in Chicago.

Beyond that, I’m not going to dwell much on the plot of the book, because it’s what isn’t in this book that is the most important part.  Before grammar checking that last sentence, observe:

Harry’s in and out of a lot of trouble with the white council. What exactly did he do to piss them off so much?  Butcher offers plenty of hints and veils, but nothing to chew on.

Where did the disembodied Bob come from, and why is he Harry’s responsibility? Again, whispers and rumors, nothing more than sentence fragments.

What exactly happened to Dresden’s former master? All we’re told is it had something to do with a demon, and that Dresden was directly responsible for the man’s death. And you guessed it, we don’t find out.

So many little snippets and teases and promises of more, Storm Front isn’t so much an urban fantasy/mystery thriller as it is 300+ pages of foreplay.  Because you know me, I want the before story, I want to know how all these people ended up where they are and why they are. There is something much larger going on here, something much deeper and more important that just some dude who lives in Chicago and has a basement lab and helps out the cops sometimes. And the only way for me to find out is to pick up more Butcher.

Yeah sure, chunks of the book were pulpy, and I wish the plot had been a little deeper. But it was a super fun read, and with an ending where [redacted:spoiler] shows up right in the middle of [redacted:spoiler],  I can forgive a lot of pulp.

The timing for me reading Storm Front is spot on as well, as I’m currently also reading The Hobbit, to be followed by The Lord of the Rings trilogy.  It’s been funny/meta to be reading about one of the original literary wizards in the morning, and then in the evening be reading about a contemporary semi-professional city dwelling wizard who makes Gandalf jokes at every opportunity.  I’ve got a newer printing of Storm Front, and there is a nice little author’s note at the end, where Butcher talks about having read The Lord of the Rings as a child, and how it had a profound effect on him.  Like I said, perfect timing.

So, are you into Dresden?  how many have you read?  Are these books that must be read in order, or can I bounce around, like with Vlad Taltos?

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11 Responses to "Wizards new and old"

Ah, I wish you timing had been just a bit later as I’m strongly considering this being at least one of the group reads for RIP. I work in the city that Jim Butcher calls home and (other than a novella that Subterranean Press put out a few years ago) have yet to read his work. I know nothing about Dresden, didn’t even watch the show when it was on.

Always good to hear the word “fun” associated with a book I am considering reading. I enjoy being entertained and a good fun read is generally all I am looking for when I pick up a book.

After reading your review I am just as interested in reading the part about how the Lord of the Rings influenced him as I am in reading the book. And my interest level for the whole thing increased, I have to admit, when Patrick Rothfuss talked about liking his work so much.

I have read this book and that’s it from the series… It’s not that I didn’t like it, but more I just haven’t got back around to the series. I own the first several, too. I am so bad with series. *sigh*

Dresden is the best. Book 2 is similar to book one in style, story and pace, but the second half of book 3 all bets are off, and from there on out he ramps up the awesome with each consecutive book. He’s my fave author for a reason…lol. Glad you enjoyed it Red!

That said, the blurb about SW and LOTR has always been in the books. ;)

Um, no you can’t treat it like Taltos and jump around, read them in order to get the full experience…not to mention things get more overall story arc’ed down the line. But yeah, definitely follow in order.

I have read them all, all 13 books (9 of them in hardcover), and SIDE JOBS which is the short story collection. I have STORM FRONT and FOOL MOON graphic novels in hardback….I think you could say I am a fan.

lol, sounds like you are a fan! Good to know they’ve got to be read in order, not sure how excited I am too read through 2 more just to get some crazy awesome plot arc stuff happening. . .

My understanding is that you need to read the books in order, because things build from previous events, you know? Of course, I’ve only read this first book, and it didn’t grab me enough to keep going. However, fans of the series SWEAR that by book three, things really get great.

This sounds just like the type of book that I would love. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

I had the Dresden books recommended to me by a trusted friend last year, which then prompted me to read the entire series in a two-week period (except for “Ghost Story” which just came out a few weeks ago.)

You definitely need to read them in order as there some sweeping developments that occur over the course of the books.

We (heart) Harry. Have read them all multiple times, and listened to the audios multiple times, too. Butcher’s strength is that he’s got all these plot twists and threads all planned out from the start. He doesn’t start each book not knowing where it will go, which is why some series fall apart. Also, his characters age and grow. Butcher’s underhanded humor makes an otherwise gristly and gloomy series fun.

Just found your blog and decided to follow because well I like your taste in books. I’m a little late to the party here, but I highly recommend you stick with the series. You want the backstory? It begins to unravel faster and faster with each novel and Jim’s writing greatly improves throughout each. Most fans I know of say that he really hits his stride in Summer Knight and it continues on from there.

Hi, thanks for visiting, and thanks for your comment! I’m sure this will be a series I return to because everyone says it gets much better (and hey, if I judged Steven Brust’s Vlad series on the first book, I’d have missed out on a ton of awesome stuff!). But I might get books 2 & 3 from the library instead of buying them. Which book in the series is Summer Knight?

You’ve nailed the review of Storm Front, and as someone who has read all the Dresden Files books and reread several, the first book suffers from it being his first published novel, I think.

What is interesting is that on rereading the series later on, the first few books (Storm Front, Fool Moon, Grave Peril) read as much stronger stories, since you know more about Harry and his relationships with various characters.

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About this redhead, etc.

Redhead is a snarky, non-politically correct 30-something who reviews mostly science fiction and fantasy and talks about all sorts of other fun scifi and fantasy geekery. She once wrote a haiku that included the word triskaidekaphobia.

This blog contains adult language and strong opinions. The best way to contact her outside of this blog is twitter, where she is @redhead5318 .

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