Review: Storm Front, by Jim Butcher

Anthony G Williams

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This is the first of The Dresden Files series, featuring a wizard (Harry Dresden) openly practising in present-day Chicago, in an alternative world in which it is accepted (rather reluctantly and with varying degrees of scepticism) that wizardry exists. He makes his living by finding things that people have lost, and also works as a consultant for the police, called in whenever they find a crime in which the supernatural seems to be involved.

Storm Front begins with just such a call, to the scene of a pair of spectacularly bizarre deaths. Dresden is soon caught between conflicting pressures – the demands of the police to help solve the crime, the threats of a gangster boss who doesn't want him to, and the requirements of the secret White Council of wizards, who might decide to execute him if he reveals too much to non-wizards. Threading a route through this minefield stretches Dresden to the limit, especially when he becomes the next target of the murderer.

Although this is the first of the series (published in 2000), Dresden already has quite a backstory, as gradually becomes clear with hints that he has far more powers than he dare reveal. In an interview reproduced at the end of my copy of the book, Butcher reveals that he always intended this to be a long series (fifteen and counting) and planned the story arc accordingly.

The story is recounted by Dresden in the first person, in a laconic style typical of a classic Private Investigator story. I am most reminded of the Alex Verus series by Benedict Jacka, and it is perhaps to Butcher's disadvantage that I only encountered his work after reading Jacka, Aaronovitch and various other authors writing stories about magic in contemporary London. I prefer Jacka's work, partly because I enjoy stories set in a place I know, secondly because I find Alex Verus a more intriguing character – I like the fact that he lacks the devastating powers of most magicians and needs to rely on his talent for divination and his wits to survive. And finally, I prefer Jacka's writing, with its constant thread of dry humour. However, Storm Front is not bad at all – it is entertaining and enjoyable and I might go on to read other books in this series.

(An extract from my SFF blog: http://sciencefictionfantasy.blogspot.co.uk/)
 

The Judge

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Interesting review.

I read Dresden first a few years ago with 3 books, then Aaronovitch, again 3 books, and Jacka I only picked up earlier this year with Cursed, but so far that's the order I'd place them in, in terms of plot, inventiveness and writing. I don't know London at all well, so the latter two don't have any advantage there (though I started Rivers of London the day before a biannual trip to the city which made for pleasant synchronicity, especially as I was walking around Covent Garden). For myself I've found Aaronovitch's perpetually blokey-jokey tone increasingly hard to take and though the Jacka wasn't quite as bad in that respect, for my taste everything was all too easy in the book, as if the author was using up a pile of get-out-of-jail-free cards, and I wasn't impressed with the main character's wit or wits. That said, though I thoroughly enjoyed Storm Front and immediately went out and bought the next two, I haven't bothered with any more of the Dresden books, as overall they began to feel a bit repetitive.
 

Highlander II

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The series is expected to be something like 20 case books with an 'apocalyptic trilogy' at the end - per Jim Butcher.

The early books in the series have a bit more repetition to them for some things b/c they were intended to work as 'stand alones' as well as part of the series. As the books move along in the series (and get longer) a lot of that similar repetition gets the hatchet. The first 3 or 4 describe Harry's apartment quite thoroughly in much the same language.

If you've only read "Storm Front" - keep going, Harry doesn't only use his magic to get out of scrapes. =)
 

Brian G Turner

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Just finished this. An enjoyable book, with a great cast and plenty of tension.

Loved the use of Bob, Morgan, and the complicated relationships with both Murphy and Susan, and Marcone. What was especially good was the way in that Butcher really laid on the peril, turning bad situations into even worse situations - the scene with the love potion was especially clever.

My only gripe is that none of the magic reflects real world magick - though in that regard it's little different from any other fantasy novel.

But a packed and well-developed novel that never lets off with the pace, and despite the noir inspiration, remains surprisingly light-hearted and funny.
 

The Big Peat

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I'm the opposite of the OP; I prefer books that are not set in places I know very well and I read Butcher before Aaronovitch/Jacka. I find Aaronovitch enough of a different beast to stand on his own, but the kindle sample I read of Jacka felt too "Dresden, but Lahndan" for me to want to continue. I dare say I will read him one day, but it'll be a while.

I'd probably also recommend to people that they started with Summer Knight or Death Masks, as I think that's where Butcher starts to hit top form. I can't see anyone else agreeing with me because people prefer to read in order, but I do think there's a definite step up there.
 

Highlander II

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My only gripe is that none of the magic reflects real world magick - though in that regard it's little different from any other fantasy novel.
'Real world magick'? Do you know something we don't? Rabbits from hats and the like is the only 'real world' magick I'm aware of. XD
 

Juliana

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the kindle sample I read of Jacka felt too "Dresden, but Lahndan" for me to want to continue.
I love Jacka's books; his MC is very different from Harry Dresden as his magical powers are much quieter and more cerebral. Alex Verus can't 'outshoot' his enemies so he has to outthink them. The magic is really cool. Also, Jacka's work gets a lot darker than Butcher's as the series progresses. There are a lot of grey areas and important moral choices being made.

When I started the first, I also thought it was going to be Dresden Files: UK. I'm glad I gave it a try. Well worth it, in my opinion.

(I'm a huge Harry Dresden fan, by the way...)
 

The Big Peat

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I love Jacka's books; his MC is very different from Harry Dresden as his magical powers are much quieter and more cerebral. Alex Verus can't 'outshoot' his enemies so he has to outthink them. The magic is really cool. Also, Jacka's work gets a lot darker than Butcher's as the series progresses. There are a lot of grey areas and important moral choices being made.

When I started the first, I also thought it was going to be Dresden Files: UK. I'm glad I gave it a try. Well worth it, in my opinion.

(I'm a huge Harry Dresden fan, by the way...)
Thanks :) I'll have to give them another go some day.

Although you have just made me realise that Harry Dresden is actually John McClane with a wand. He can never outshoot his opponents to begin with because he's outgunned so he does a lot of thinking... to find ways he can outgun them. Or gets a deus ex machina.
 

The Big Peat

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Probably why I like the Dresden Files so much.

If anyone wants a really spoilery recap on the Dresden Files, I did a reread of the first 15 books on my blog. You can find it on this list. :)
I find your ideas intriguing and wish to subscribe to your newsletter.

Oh wait. There's a button for that :D
 

Alexa

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I received the first three books from Dresden Files yesterday and I've already finished reading Storm Front. As a new reader of Jim Butcher, it was an easy reading, fast-paced and funny sometimes (the love potion scene was hilarious). Dresden character is like Clint Eastwood in a cowboy role, followed by bad luck wherever he goes. Overall it was ok. I believe the mix of genres is just not for me, so I will probably give away the books, once read of course.
 

HanaBi

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Am pleased I found this thread as I too have just started out with the "Dresden Files", and Storm Front.

Am only about 30 pages in, and have read from other users on this site that the first couple of books are a bit of a chore to get through, but a real blast thereafter.

We shall see :)
 

Juliana

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Overall it was ok.
Am only about 30 pages in, and have read from other users on this site that the first couple of books are a bit of a chore to get through, but a real blast thereafter.
Personally I love book 2, Fool Moon, so if you finish Storm Front you'll hopefully love the second one. :)
 

Alexa

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I have two days vacation left, so Fool Moon is on my to read list. :)

I really hope I will love it. Otherwise, I will let Grave Peril for Christmas holidays.
 

Alexa

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Fool Moon is definetely better written than Storm Front. Reading Grave Peril right now. Are we going to meet somebody else from the White Councel in this one ? From Dresden Pov they are like Boogeyman but quite absent in crisis situation.
 

Highlander II

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Fool Moon is definetely better written than Storm Front. Reading Grave Peril right now. Are we going to meet somebody else from the White Councel in this one ? From Dresden Pov they are like Boogeyman but quite absent in crisis situation.
The White Council are not known for 'coming to the rescue'. And, they don't really get along w/ Harry very well, so they tend not to come to his aid. But we do meet several of them later in the series.

"Grave Peril" is one of my faves. If I rank them, I think I put GP 2nd. "Death Masks" is my top-ranked. (I think that was top ranked when I did my list... it's been a while.)
 

Alexa

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I finished reading Grave Peril meanwhile and I agree with your ranking so far. The fight with the vampires was quite intersting and kept me reading late in the morning.

If Harry is already member of White Council, does this mean they are just a bunch of wizards each acting in their corner without actully meet each others ? No one from this council likes Harry ? Do we meet some in Summer Night ?

Can I skip Summer Night and go straight to Death Masks without losing anything worth knowing ?
 

Highlander II

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If Harry is already member of White Council, does this mean they are just a bunch of wizards each acting in their corner without actully meet each others ? No one from this council likes Harry ? Do we meet some in Summer Night ?
The White Council of Wizards is made up of those who are 'full' wizards - the strong practitioners. They're kind of secretive - they don't really like/want the general populace knowing about them. That's part of why they don't like Harry - he's an openly practicing wizard. That bugs them. He's also fairly unconventional, the point of bucking authority, which they also don't like. He also killed another wizard, thus breaking one of the Seven Laws of Magic, which they're also not fond of. Beyond that, he essentially 'got off on a technicality', thwarting their rules again. He's sort of not their BFF, all things considered. But he is a member of the Council by virtue of being a badass wizard.

And they do have meetings - there's one in Summer Knight, actually.
 
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