Wednesday, September 19, 2012

TBR Review: Storm Front (Dresden Files #1) by Jim Butcher

I've become familiar with Jim Butcher's Harry Dresden character, first through the long-defunct and short-lived television show featuring this character, and more recently by reading a few short stories in anthologies. Long ago, I decided to read this series and purchased the first book Storm Front. Unfortunately, the book has lingered in my TBR pile for years. Finally, this month I found that the theme for TBR Challenge -- other genre besides romance -- was the perfect way to plunge into this series.
HARRY DRESDEN — WIZARD

Lost Items Found. Paranormal Investigations. Consulting. Advice. Reasonable Rates. No Love Potions, Endless Purses, or Other Entertainment.
Harry is a real wizard, and no he's no Harry Potter. He's the only wizard in Chicago who practices openly and uses his magic to make a living, going as far as opening a P.I. agency and working as a consultant for the Chicago P.D. whenever they encounter "out of the box" crimes -- not that he makes much money out of either of these endeavors.

When we first meet Harry he's at his office reading novels, broke and hoping the phone will ring and a new case will come his way so he can pay the past due rent. He gets his phone call from a woman who needs her missing husband found, but barely talks her into meeting him at the office. Then he immediately receives another phone call from Detective Karrin Murphy of the Chicago P.D. to consult on a horrifying double murder that just stinks of black magic.

Soon Harry is embroiled in an investigation where people that talk to Harry begin to die, infamous Crime boss Johnny Marcone gets involved, a demon almost demolishes him while he's on a date, and a giant scorpion almost does him in, but worse than that as Harry gets closer to an answer the powerful black wizard behind the murders focuses on him, and he knows Harry's name so that his life is surely in terrible danger. But poor Harry also has to watch his back as a White Council representative spying on him believes that Harry himself is culpable and capable of the murders. Harry has to solve this case to save his own life even if he has to lie to Detective Murphy and experiment just a little with black magic to do it.

I felt a bit sorry for lonely, clumsy, inadequate Harry Dresden in this first installment of the series. I like Harry with his wonderful narrative voice. His inadequacies when dealing with women and even as a wizard manage to be both amusing and endearing. Harry is supposed to be a great wizard, yet his potions come from assistant Bob (a oversexed spirit living in a skull), half of the time he forgets his magic staff, weapon, and other magical paraphernalia, so that when most needed he is not prepared, but Harry has guts and somehow gets out of tight situations. Most people avoid looking Harry in the eye because he can see into their souls. I found this "soul gazing" aspect of Harry's powers fascinating and hope to see it further developed in future books. He is ambivalent about his own nature when it comes to dark and white magic and resentful of wizards in the White Council for whom he sacrificed much and was punished.

This book introduces some very interesting secondary characters: Detective Karrin Murphy and Johnny Marcone are two great examples. Harry has a strong narrative voice full of dry humor but not too much sarcasm, and I really enjoy the fact that Harry doesn't hide his magic in a world where humans are not really aware of a hidden magic world. It's an interesting concept.

Storm Front did not blow me out of the water, but I think it is a solid introduction to the series and Harry Dresden quite interesting as central character and narrator  -- more detective than great wizard. I like that the series begins with an investigation but love that it also delves into Harry's internal struggles and insecurities as a character.

After reading Storm Front, I purchased the second book of the series, Full Moon. So, I will definitely continue reading this series. :)
Theme: Genre besides romance
September

Category: Urban Fantasy
Series: Dresden Files, #1
Publisher/Release Date: ROC/January 1, 2000
Grade: B

Visit Jim Butcher here.

14 comments:

  1. HIL-C-IIIIIIIIAAAAA! I wish I'd known you were going to read this one for your TBR Challenge! I would have read it, too!!! I have wanted to give this series a try for a couple of years now and just recently my friend's soon breezed through the entire series and it gave me a big itch to finally do it. But I didn't. I'm reading The Rift Walker, which I still haven't finished.

    I think a B is good for book one in this series. Heck, I think I gave the first Kate Daniels book a B- so I'm very forgiving of the first book if the promise is there for more goodness.

    I'll try to catch up to you, but we all know how THAT goes. lol :P

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    1. Christine! That would have been great! Maybe you can catch up and we can read the series together anyway. :D But, The Rift Walker is a good choice for this month's theme too! I almost reviewed that one instead, lol! Actually I read both books (plus, Heart of Steel) from my TBR and in the end chose Storm Front.

      I think it's a solid beginning, but you know what? I don't know if that's due to the fact that I'm already familiar with the characters and this world. If I were not familiar, maybe a B-? I'm not sure at this point. Still, this is a series that everyone raves about, so I'm going for it. :D

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  2. Oh, I hadn't realised the both of you hadn't read any Dresden books yet!

    I struggled with the first few books, but Nath convinced me to jump ahead to the 3rd (maybe 4th?). Once I did, I raced through the rest of the series.

    There's great story-telling in these books, though I have slight misgivings about his female characters and also not convinced by Harry's romantic entanglements.

    Li

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    1. Li, no! I've read all the short stories I can get my hands on in anthologies though! I love Harry, lol! This book didn't wow me, but yeah... I enjoyed the series introduction. And lol! Harry has romantic entanglements? I didn't think he was capable of doing that.... LOLOL!

      Seriously though, some of the female characters in this particular book were a bit overzealous all around (all in their own particular way). I'll have to keep my eye on them.

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  3. Huh, I didn't know the tv show was linked to this - not that I ever saw the show but I Remember hearing about it!
    :D
    I'm glad you liked the book over all, it sounds pretty kick-ass

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    1. Alex, that TV show lasted for about a minute, lol! But yes, it was based on the Dresden Files. I liked it, but not too many people did, I guess? Anyway, I hear this is a great series and I hope it picks up. :D

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  4. I'm so glad you finally gave Storm Front a go!! and I'm glad you enjoyed it :) Wait a couple of books Hils and this series will just blow your mind! LOL, now that you have read the 1st book, you can skip to the 4th one if you want to get into the real action :) I feel Mr Butcher was still trying to find his way in the 2nd and 3rd book...

    Yeah, I'm not super fond of Harry's romantic entanglements either, but the rest of the story-telling definitively makes up for it. Harry is a great character and you're just oging to love him more!

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    1. Nath, finally! LOL, I will wait for my mind to be blown away... I'll take your word for it. *g*

      I already have the second book, so I'll read that one, but if it's not great then I'll definitely skip to the 4th book and go on from there. Thanks for the heads up on that, Nath. I love Harry already from the short stories, but yeah... I can't wait to read the full-length novels with lots of Harry. :D

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  5. I didn't really fall in love with the first book. I liked it well enough, but it was the third book that really gripped me. Then I was doomed. LOL.

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    1. Alyssa, It is a general consensus then! I really look forward to that 3rd and 4th book now! I can't wait to be dazzled. *g*

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  6. @Hils - I must confess to not having tried this series, even though it's one of my best friend's favourite series *blushes*

    @Christine - I had the same response to the first Kate Daniels book, but I was told by someone that the series got better and it so did! I'm so looking forward to Andrea's book!

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    1. Well Orannia, I guess we are some of the last hold outs, lol! This first book was good as a startup, but everyone says the 3rd and 4th books it's where it gets really good... so I'm holding them to their word!

      Kate Daniels? Well... I read the first three books back-to-back-to-back, so I had the immediate opportunity to see how that series grew in greatness in leaps and bounds. I was so dazzled by books two and three that I immediately forgot about whatever bugged me at the beginning of book one. LOL

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  7. Another series I've been meaning to try. B is good for the first book in a series and this just might be the push I need to start this one. Thanks for the review Hils!

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    1. Hey Les! I had this book in my TBR since 2009? So, don't feel bad... I meant to read this series since before that. The magic trick is to get up the energy to pick up that first book. ;P

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