04 May, 2009

Review: Storm Front, by Jim Butcher

     Storm Front (2000), by Jim Butcher is the first book of the Dresden Files series, and is published by ROC. With the blockbuster sales of Jim Butcher's recent printing of Turn Coat (2009), I decided to start the series and see what all the fuss was about.

The Setup

     Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden is a wizard and paranormal consultant extraordinaire. Surrounded by colorful characters Dresden is drawn into a murder investigation that will either see him dead, or see a dark wizard brought to justice. 
     Filled with demons and faeries, the urban fantasy world that Butcher creates is remarkably straightforward and convincing. The strong hand of fate pushes Dresden into the heart of a complex murder investigation involving vampires, mob bosses, call-girls, and even a talking skull. With a strong helping of both magic and desperation, Harry Dresden makes for a colorful character in a series that promises to be as entertaining as it is humorous.

My Take in Brief

     Storm Front boasts a colorful cast of magic, monsters, villains and detectives. What originality it lacks by borrowing from generally accepted stereotypes of vampires and other assorted urban fantasy characters, it more than makes up for in tempo and plot. This a hugely entertaining read, easily polished off in a day or a few evenings; it won't last longer than that because it really draws you in.
     If I were to try and find something to criticize about Butcher's work, and try hard I would have to, it would have to be the few deus ex elements that tend to drive the plot. I can accept my fair share of luck and chance encounters, but Dresden seems to have won the lottery in that respect.
     This is a light and breezy read that is sure to entertain, but lacks the depth and complexity of a finer bodied fantasy. Those experienced science fiction and fantasy readers among you who choose to read this will come out feeling like you do after reading a Harry Potter novel; you will be happy and entertained but know deep down that you have somehow betrayed the true masters you are accustomed to reading. This feeling will not however, prevent you from reading the rest of the series.

Highlights
  • Dresden is hilarious and yet profound.
  • A host of endearing characters.
  • A great plot and a wonderful tempo.
  • Simple, concise, and eloquent prose. 
  • All the Urban Fantasy creatures you can imagine.
  • Acts of desperation and convincing action sequences.
Lowlights
  • Somewhat stereotypical characters.
  • Dresden has a little too much luck.
  • A certain lack of situational detail, or maybe Chicago really is just bleak.
  • A general young adult feeling that might put some of you off.  

Your Take

     Like most popular series, Storm Front has its detractors and supporters. The sales numbers speak for themselves though, as the book that started the Dresden Files is wildly popular and will invariably suck you into reading the ten other installments. Did you get the same used feeling that I did after reading this? Not that its a bad thing, sometimes its good to be used...

Ratings and Links

Amazon: 4/5
B&N: 4.3/5
My Rating: 3.25/5

A more comprehensive review of Storm Front at Wertzone.
The semi-official Jim Butcher website

Piqued Your Interest?

     If you are looking for a fun and quick read from a trusted author in an ongoing series, then Storm Front is the place to start. If you know that you'll like it, then consider saving some money by buying the omnibus of the first three books, Wizard for Hire

4 comments:

Astaryth said...

For light reading, you can't beat this series. As the series progresses though it seems to get to be less 'stand alone'. To really appreciate the stories (and the long story arc), you really need to read them in order. I just finished Small Favor, and enjoyed it.

BTW, under my take in brief, I think you meant to stay Storm Front, not turn Coat. Enjoyed your review, and I look forward to hearing what you think of the rest of the series.

bloggeratf said...

Thanks for that Astaryth, edited it out :P

I can totally understand how the greater story arc would make the big secrets much more interesting. Even though its light and fluffy, I do plan on continuing with the series, even though I don't think I could read the whole thing back to back without going through puberty again.

Jam said...

"Those experienced science fiction and fantasy readers among you who choose to read this will come out feeling like you do after reading a Harry Potter novel; you will be happy and entertained but know deep down that you have somehow betrayed the true masters you are accustomed to reading."

I started feeling this as soon as I slowed down and actually looked at it. You're right, Dresden has got great tempo. His novels are more of the "chase-capture/destroy" type though, so there isn't really much time for introspection. And without some thinking on the reader's part, you kind of go away feeling like you've eaten junk food. But it's really AWESOME junk food though, so Butcher's still good.

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