Book Review: STORM FRONT BY JIM BUTCHER

By T. Mack

book4Storm Front by Jim Butcher is the first in The Dresden Files series. Started in 2000, the series currently includes 15 books, each told from the first-person perspective of the protagonist, Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden. The books are essentially mysteries and the protagonist is a private investigator trying to solve crimes. The interesting twist, though, is that Harry is also the only openly practicing Wizard in America. So naturally, things get a bit… supernatural. And anyone who knows me knows I’m totally into that kind of thing.

The book (and series) begin with Harry broke and hoping for his phone to ring so he can get some work. Fortunately for him, it does… twice. The first time, it’s a woman who requests his help in finding her missing husband. The other call is from a special investigator with the police, who uses Harry as a consultant on strange crimes. In a single day, Harry goes from no work to more than he might be able to handle. Between a husband and father who doesn’t seem to want to be found, a string of grisly murders by magic, a crime boss who doesn’t want Harry investigating and the council of magic accusing Harry of the crimes he’s trying to solve, things get a bit messy for the hero.

Storm Front came for me at a great time. On the heels of a couple of magical YA books, the grown-up voice, storyline and themes of Jim Butcher’s book were refreshing. It was also nice to get a taste of the supernatural from a male perspective, where the prose seemed to be a bit more crisp and the drama a bit less melodramatic than some of my favorite supernaturally themed titles authored by women.

I enjoyed Storm Front immensely. Even though I don’t usually enjoy murder mysteries, this story was engaging. From the moment the mysteries were introduced, I desperately wanted to know what happened and how, if at all, different events might be connected. To a more seasoned mystery reader, it’s possible that the book may have been a bit predictable. But it wasn’t to me. I wondered what was going on and how events would unfold right up until the moment they did. I also enjoyed the character of Harry. Even though the things going on around him were not humorous, the character has a style of dry wit that I enjoyed. It was part of both his inner monologue and his speech, so I found myself chuckling quite a bit even as tense situations happened. I like stories and storytellers who can walk that line between tension and humor. I don’t much enjoy stories that take themselves too seriously. So a bit of humor to break up the horror is great to me.

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I wasn’t kidding when I said I enjoy the supernatural. Had this been a regular mystery book without magic, demons and sorcery, I may still have gotten through it. And it’s possible I might even have liked it. But it would not have been nearly as fun for me. I love the idea of magic in our world. I like the escapism it brings. I also appreciate how it keeps me separated from the horror inside the book. I read to escape, in order to put real life aside and travel somewhere else in my head. Typical mysteries often walk too closely alongside real-life horror that splashes all over the news every day. By adding magic and elements of the unreal, Butcher’s book allows me to dive into his world without having to think of how it hearkens back to my own. I like that in books. For me, it’s mostly their purpose. Butcher’s work let me to achieve that. So it has my gratitude. The female characters that interact regularly with the male protagonist are strong and bad-ass in their own right. For that, this book has my admiration. It is well-written, so it has my respect. Also it was funny. Because of that it has my affection as well.

Something folks may or may not know about me is that I’m an audiobook girl. The radio is crap but audio books are the best! My morning and afternoon commute would be misery without them. So I have to comment on the audiobook version of this title, which I did listen to. This series of audio books is narrated by James Marsters, best known around here as Spike from Joss Whedon’s, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. Marsters does a great job reading as Harry. His voice is clear and crisp, deep and melodious and wonderfully expressive. It has a great timbre to it and Marsters manages to express the character’s dry wit in a really superb way. If you don’t have time to read this title in print, I highly recommend the audiobook experience.

I would definitely recommend Storm Front to those who like a good mystery and those who like things in their literature to be a bit out of the ordinary.

Rating: 4 SHIELDS

4 SG Shields

The protagonist is smart and skilled, though not a superhero. He can be hurt and when it’s appropriate, he fears for his life. Because he does, the reader does and everything is a bit more fun because of it. It is definitely my intention to read more of this series and find out where Harry Dresden goes from here.

Have you read any books in The Dresden Files series? Are you a fan of other books by Jim Butcher? Did you watch the 12-episode season of The Dresden Files television show that aired on Sci-Fi channel back in 2007? If you answered yes to any of these, please hit the comments and tell us your thoughts on any of these subjects.

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