Showing posts with label Jim Butcher. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Jim Butcher. Show all posts

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.

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

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

Visit Jim Butcher here.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Review: Dark and Stormy Knights edited by P.N. Elrod

Dark and Stormy Knights is an anthology I was looking forward to reading. Previously, I'd only read the work of one author included in this anthology (Ilona Andrews), but you know me... I'm always looking for new authors and new books to add to my list, and I find that an anthology is a great way to get a taste of an author's writing style, or that one series that I've been thinking of reading. 

The first short story "A Questionable Client" by Ilona Andrews is all about the first meeting between Kate Daniels and one of my favorite secondary characters in the Kate Daniels urban fantasy series, Saiman. In this prequel, Kate is still working for the Mercenary Guild and she's sent by them to act as Saiman's bodyguard. Russian mythology is used in this little installment. The story was well developed and the reader gets a great sense of who the characters are in this little short. Saiman in particular is well-defined, and the events here give a clearer and greater understanding of his character. The story itself was both gripping and entertaining in the way I've come to expect from the Andrews writing team. Grade B+

"Even Hand" by Jim Butcher is a short story related to his Harry Dresden series. It's told from Marcone's point of view, a criminal and Dresden's nemesis. In this short, Marcone commits a crime and then proceeds to save Justine and a child from a Mag. I enjoyed this story and Marcone's voice, as well as looking into the world and mind of Dresden's enemies. I've not read this series, although I did watch the television series and I do have the first book to read. I wonderful story from this character's perspective and one that persuaded me to pick up that first Harry Dresden book. Grade B+

Shannon Butcher's "The Beacon" is the story of Ryder, a man whose inheritance is to kill Beacons. Beacons are people who unknowingly open portals into our earthly plane for evil monsters called Terraphages to come and eat and butcher people and entire towns. They are next to impossible to kill, so by killing the Beacon first, Ryder saves thousands of lives. This story had a good concept, however quite a bit was left unexplained. We don't know exactly where this monsters are coming from or why. Some of what happened between Ryder and the Terraphage was muddy and quite confusing and even after re-reading that part of the story I still couldn't quite make sense of it. This was one of the weakest stories in this anthology for me. Grade C-

"Even the Rabbit will Bite" by Rachel Caine was a great story. The last dragon and the last dragon slayer leftover after centuries of battling. The dragon slayer is an old woman and she's training her replacement while keeping an eye on the dragon through a Dragon's Eye. He has been at the Egyptian desert for centuries doing absolutely nothing. I enjoyed both the story and the characters, it was a true knight's tale in many ways. However, I had one question at the end and that was from whose point of view the story was told. Grade B 

The anthology continues with "Dark Lady" by P.N. Elrod. Her contribution is part of her Jack Fleming vampire sleuth series. The series is set in 1930's Chicago and it's all mob related. Jack is asked to help a distressed lady whose fiance has betrayed Gordy, one of the biggest mob bosses in Chicago and Jack's friend. I just loved this short story and Jack Fleming's narrative voice, as well as the intriguing secondary characters. This short story had me at the introduction where Jack explains who he is and says: "Now and then I'll step in, against my better judgment, and attempt to lend a hand; just call me Don Quixote with fangs." This was one of my favorite stories in the anthology, and I've already ordered the first three books in the series. Grade A

"Beknighted" by Deidre Knight was a true knight story and not part of a series. It's all about a knight who sold his soul for Templar-grade gold, a villain, and an artist. I enjoyed all the twists and turns in this story and the way it was developed from beginning to end. Grade B

"Shifting Star" by Vicki Petterson is part of her Sign of the Zodiac series and told from Skamar's point of view. In this short story Skamar is getting used to having a body and being hunted by a Tulpa. She is also fighting an attraction for a flirty neighbor. Young girls have been kidnapped and Skamar and the neighbor, who turns out to be a cop, team up to investigate their disappearance. This was not my favorite story in the anthology. It's obvious that it's part of a series and as a short story it does not stand well on its own. I'm sure all will be clear to those who do read the series, however for this reader the whole world seemed quite confusing. As a result, it was impossible to connect with the characters or care about the story. Grade C

"Rookwood and Mrs. King" by Lilith Saintcrow was another favorite story for me. In this story Rookwood goes after the vampires who attempted to turn him and enlists Mrs. King's help. Mrs. King was betrayed by her own husband, who is now a vampire. This story kept my attention both with the action and the intrigue and I was hoping there would be some books on either Mrs. King or Rookwood. When I couldn't find either, I decided to purchase The Demon's Librarian by Ms. Saintcrow and give that book a try. :) Grade B+

And the anthology ended with "God's Creatures" by Carrie Vaughn, another enjoyable read. This story is part of Ms. Vaughn's Kitty werewolf series, and told from Cormac's point of view. Cormac is called by a farmer whose cattle is being slaughtered by an unknown predator. He proceeds to follow the trail of what he knows is a werewolf to the town's Catholic church. This was a well written story that stands well on its own, where the main character's internal dialogue certainly kept my attention. Grade B

Conclusion: I thought the Dark and Stormy Knights anthology was worth purchasing and an enjoyable read all around. There are definitely some great stories that held my attention, but that will not get me to read the author's work, and others that did. Most of the stories definitely stand well on their own even though they're part of a series, and still other stories are obviously not part of a series and were written for this anthology. However, they all fit well with the Dark and Stormy Knights theme.

Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: None - Anthology
Released: July 20, 2010
Overall Grade: B