This week, I’m doing something a little different. All my reviews up until now have been books I’ve never read before. Today, though? In honour of a presentation I have to do at university on a book I chose, I’m going to be jumping into the way-back machine and talking about a book I first read several years ago: “Storm Front” by Jim Butcher.
The Harry Dresden books were recommended to me by a friend, Justin. And when I say “recommended”, I mean he relentlessly pestered me to read them until I gave in and bought “Storm Front”.
The Dresden Files are the stories of private investigator and wizard Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden, the only legitimate wizard in the Chicago phone book, and his on-going quest to keep his city and the world safe from the things that go bump in the night. The first book sees him tackling two issues: a private missing person case, and assisting the Chicago police with a brutal double homicide committed by magic.
However, as the investigations deepen, things become ever more dangerous for Dresden, particularly when Morgan, a representative of the White Council in charge of magical folk, starts to suspect that Dresden himself is the killer.
As a writer, there are quite a few things to criticise about “Storm Front”. Butcher has gone on record that it was deliberately written to be as schlocky, formulaic and genre heavy as possible and it does show. The way it embraces the noir detective genre, particularly its lush and lurid descriptions of women, can come off as more than a little clichéd in a way that later books in the series are not.
I also can’t comment on this personally, but I have read that the geographical descriptions of Chicago in the earlier books are dubious at best, which also improved as the series went on.
However, I feel we can forgive a lot in this book and not just because the following books tend to be better on a technical level. “Storm Front” was the author’s first published work and its early instalment weirdness fails to detract from its charms as a piece of his writing, particularly his wit. Butcher may not have been aiming deliberately to be funny, yet the book is, possessing several particularly zesty one-liners that had me laughing out loud.
On top of that, Butcher has a deft hand for character, Dresden and police officer Murphy in particular. Murphy is a no-nonsense, hard-as-nails, tough feminist woman who refuses to take rubbish from anybody, and Dresden is a mildly chauvinist but ultimately moral and upstanding man who wants to make the world a better place. Even the bit-part characters have colour to them that gives the impression that they live outside of the immediate story.
If you like urban fantasy that’s funny, heart-breaking, awesome, and leads up to a wizard detective riding a zombie tyrannosaurus – no, I’m not kidding – pick up “Storm Front” and crack open The Dresden Files.
Collab: Personal is Political