books

‘Storm Front’ (The Dresden Files #1) by Jim Butcher

Summary from Goodreads:

HARRY DRESDEN — WIZARD

Lost Items Found. Paranormal Investigations. Consulting. Advice. Reasonable Rates. No Love Potions, Endless Purses, or Other Entertainment.

Harry Dresden is the best at what he does. Well, technically, he’s the only at what he does. So when the Chicago P.D. has a case that transcends mortal creativity or capability, they come to him for answers. For the “everyday” world is actually full of strange and magical things—and most don’t play well with humans. That’s where Harry comes in. Takes a wizard to catch a—well, whatever. There’s just one problem. Business, to put it mildly, stinks.

So when the police bring him in to consult on a grisly double murder committed with black magic, Harry’s seeing dollar signs. But where there’s black magic, there’s a black mage behind it. And now that mage knows Harry’s name. And that’s when things start to get interesting.

Magic – it can get a guy killed.

This book was recommended to me by a friend after I had finished Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch. It’s written in the same style, from the first person perspective, and with plenty of witty comments and sarcastic one-liners. As such, it makes for a very enjoyable read and I laughed out loud several times.

Our main character is Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden. A bit of a mouthful, that one. As is made clear right from the start, he is a wizard and is struggling to make ends meet, primarily because most people think he’s a joke. However, one day he is called by the police to help them uncover the perpetrator behind a gruesome murder where magic has clearly been the weapon of choice. This murder is the first in a string of similar deaths, and Dresden himself finds that he becomes a target due to his status as a powerful wizard and because of his involvement in trying to find the one behind these acts of powerful dark magic.

I’ve only recently started to get back into fantasy fiction after a long break. I loved Rivers of London and had great expectations for this one. However, while it is highly entertaining and a very easy read, I found myself slightly annoyed by some of the language used by the author. It is quite often overly cliched and I did sometimes find the ‘lone wolf’ characterisation tiresome. Despite these small problems I had with the novel, it’s a promising start to a very long series of books about Harry Dresden. The fanbase is also large and dedicated, so it must be doing something right.

For me, what it did right was the attention it put into the nature of magic. Because magic is a fairly ubiquitous element in fantasy litterature, I sometimes find that the rules behind it are somewhat unclear. Not so with Storm Front, where magic is often and repeatedly said to be a powerful, but dangerous tool, one which should not be used too much. It is hard to control, it requires deep levels of attention and focus, and it is governed by the so-called White Counsil, which will step in and stop any wizard that oversteps the laws pertaining to the use of magic. For example, when considering his options of reclaiming some items of his after a dangerous fight against a magic scorpion, Dresden chooses to leave the item, even though they would be incredibly helpful in his fight against the Big Bad. the reason is because of the nature of magic and its connection to emotions and the environment the practitioner finds him -or herself in. He can’t call the items to him because they’re behind a brick wall, and

I didn’t care to be crushed by houndreds of pounds of flying brick, called to my outstretched hand by the power of my magic and my fury.

Later, he explains that

Magic came from life itself, from the interaction of nature and the elements, from the energy of all living beings, and especially people. A man’s magic demonstrates what sort of person he is, what is held most deeply inside of him.

For me, the fact that Butcher sticks to these rules governing magic and never deviates from them, is incredibly important and really did save this book from being forgetteable to being quite enjoyable. I’m afraid I won’t bother reading the next fifteen or so books in the series, but I had no particular beef with this one. I think it’s a promising start to a series, but not groundbreaking or exceptionally interesting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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