Title: Storm Front: A Novel of the Dresden Files
Author: Jim Butcher
Format: Electronic edition, Roc
I said this not too long ago in a review here, but it’s true again this time around. Sometimes there are series published that I know about from the time the first book hits the stands. And many of those series get popular quickly and everyone is reading them and everyone is telling me read them…and I just don’t. For whatever reason, I don’t immediately connect my star to the bandwagon of this particular series of books and come to it later. The last time I discussed this in a review, I was bowled over when I finally read the first book in that series and couldn’t wait to get to the next one.
I’m going to knock several people over when I say that, unfortunately, that is not the case with Jim Butcher’s Storm Front, the first Harry Dresden novel.
Storm Front introduces Harry Dresden, a wizard for hire. Now, although Dresden is very much like a Private Eye in many ways, he is most definitely a magic user that uses the various wizarding skills he has to make a living in legitimate ways, including working as a sometimes consultant on ‘strange’ cases for the police department. Harry lives in a world where maybe magic, at least at this point, isn’t out in the open per se, but it’s also not a hidden secret from the masses.
A woman visits Harry, hiring him to locate her husband, who dabbles in magic, and who has been behaving strangely before his disappearance. At the same time, Harry’s police contact, Lieutenant Murphy, calls Harry on a case where two people were literally mutilated in the act of sex, their hearts being torn from their chests. What follows is Harry finding himself in the midst of betrayal, blackmail, and the dangerous trade of the drug ThreeEye, which is mystically base and gives its users ‘The Sight’ for a period of time, essentially opening their minds to a different, dangerous level of consciousness. Harry quickly moves from consulting wizard to hunted mage, both by an unknown killer and by the Council that oversees the use of magic, to murder suspect and likely victim before the entire case very nearly literally explodes in thunder and lightning.
Storm Front is a good book. Dresden is a neat character who is well voiced and his first person narration carries the story forward well. It’s full of creatures, magic, and mystery and the plot moves at a decent speed. The characters around Dresden, most notably Bob, the spirit trapped in a skull, and Murphy are well crafted and contribute as good supporting characters should. The mysteries tangled together within the story were solid enough and resolved well.
That’s it, really, and that may be the failing point of this novel for me. There’s nothing new here to me. Now, some will say that’s because I came in late and by the time I’ve now read the first Dresden book, all the other authors who do this sort of stuff are just copying Butcher. But, trust me, I’m not referencing works since 2000 when I talk about this not being anything new. I could have read this when it came out and, while I might have decided to give the next book a try (which I intend to at some point even now), I would not have found anything ground breaking or overly exciting about the premise or the characters. Even though the mysteries were well constructed, for instance, the bad guy was almost most certainly telegraphed within the first twenty pages, which is a disappointment, even though many, many books do that all the time.
Storm Front gets three out of five pages. It’s good, as I said, but in the final wash, it’s nothing but average.
As for my own gun and scale, this one gets three out of six bullets. Yes, I’ll read the next one, but if I don’t get to it for some reason for another ten or so years, I won’t feel like I’ve missed much.