Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Book Review: "Storm Front" by Jim Butcher

Harry Dresden is somewhat accepted to be a strange sort of man. After all, he's a wizard. Who works as a private investigator in Chicago and helps the police department. (And he has a giant cat. But that's beside the point.)

He also doesn't get that much work. While a lot of people are interested in the sheer novelty of a real, honest-to-goodness wizard (named Harry, no less!) who's listed in the Yellow Pages, they don't really avail of his services. So he's not exactly respected.

And then one day, three strange things happen all at once. Harry gets a call from his friend on the police force, Lt. Karrin Murphy, to come by and see a crime scene - she thinks it's something he might have some knowledge about. He runs into the mob boss of the city, Gentleman Johnny Marcone, who tries to make a deal with him. And then he gets a job finding a missing man. All at once. Harry goes from barely being able to get a job to having too much on his hands to deal with.

And to resist addding more spoilers, I won't continue with the storyline.

This is the very first book in the Dresden Files series. Yes, it's about a wizard named Harry. But it's much more adult than the Harry Potter series (I may as well get that out upfront). Also American. The crime scene that's mentioned a couple of paragraphs up? Brutal. And that's just in the first four chapters.

Harry is a pretty awesome protaganist, though. He's snarky (though the air spirit that he goes to for help, Bob, is even snarkier), a bit unlucky with the ladies, has a tendency to get into scrapes that are basically hilariously confusing (at one point he fights a toad demon. Naked. In his defense, the demon attacked while he was in the shower and he didn't realise his towel had fallen off. It was a bit awkward considering that his date was right there when it all happened), and he has another wizard hellbent on catching him doing something wrong so he can finally exact justice on poor Harry on his tail at all times. And he has a giant cat named Mister who likes eating all his food. (I really like Mister. Just saying.) Even his car hates him. Nobody seems to really be on his side. Poor Harry.

In this book, you also get introduced to Karrin Murphy and Susan Rodriguez. Both of these ladies have very important parts in the future books. Murphy (yes, that's basically how she's referred to, she is very rarely called Karrin) is a badass. You don't really realise this until future books, but she is (she starts her true badassery in book two and then she doesn't really let up). I personally love her and think she's a fantastic character to have around. Susan's importance to the series doesn't really show up until... well, another few books (and I'm not going to say more, because that is a crazy huge spoiler for both books three, six and twelve). In this one, she does come off as a little bit girl of the week, but luckily, she's not a flat character. She's not just the lady who Harry seems to utterly fail at getting through a nice, calm date with.

Now, I'm going to try to be a bit vague about this next part, because it goes over the spoiler-y villian of the book. Yes, there is one. Of course there is. At first it seems like all of the pieces at the top are completely unrelated, but then Butcher manages to weave them together completely seamlessly in a way that basically makes you sit there and go, "durr, why didn't I notice that a few chapters ago?". But the villain themselves (dear English, we need a singular unisex pronoun. "themself" is not real English and looks weird in any case) is actually obvious from the start, but it's less a whodunnit but more a whytheydunnit. (Which I like, because oftentimes I worry when the villian isn't so obvious that the author's going to pull a Scooby-Doo on me and choose some random person and you're sitting there going "but WHY? WAAAAI? D:" and it just doesn't make sense. I don't like things that don't make sense.) With random demons thrown in while we're at it, and Harry getting nearly framed by the overstrict council of wizards that he's a member of because of it (because as far as they know, he's the only active wizard in that city. Guess not. Dun dun duuuuuuuuuun).

Because this is the first book in the series, you can tell that Butcher is still trying to get his feet with the characters and the storyline, but it is well-written. Things are left open-ended, just a bit, at the end, but then again, there's another eleven books (and yes, I will be reviewing all of them because I am a silly fan like that).

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