Storm Front by Jim Butcher

Book One of The Dresden Files

Last Monday, at work, I found myself on the fiction floor for the first time in ages. This is always a dangerous situation, as I pile books up with pleasurable abandon shouting ‘must have must have’. But this Monday was different. I am under a self-imposed very strict book buying policy, partly because I have the most ridiculously huge piles of books everywhere still to read, partly because I do have to spend time working on my thesis as well as lying on the sofa reading novels, and partly because I’m saving up for Christmas pressies. So, I was determined to resist temptation as much as humanly possible; I am only human so of course buying no books at all was out of the question. My solution was  simple and elegant I thought – I could buy ONE book, any ONE book, as long as it was something I just fancied the look of and would start reading that very night. And so it was, after much debating and laying out of books side by side along the till, and help from my esteemed colleague I chose Storm Front.

Storm Front: Bk. 1 - Dresden Files Bk. 1I chose it because it reminded me a little of Tad Williams’ Dirty Streets of Heaven, which I have recently read and reviewed. It’s part of a series so if I liked it there were more stories to enjoy. It’s also not real-world, which was essential for my frivolous pick. Harry Dresden is a Private Investigator in Chicago, a loner, a bit down on his luck, lives with a cat. He’s also a full-on wizard, with a robe and pointy stick and magic circles and spells. Magic is becoming more and more apparent in the world, although not everyone is ready to see it. Lt. Karrin Murphy sees it and uses Harry as a consultant on the stranger cases the Chicago P.D. have to deal with. He needs the work, but the case Murphy ropes him in on is dangerous in the extreme. Two lovers have been murdered, obviously by magic, leaving a bloody gory crime scene. It spells trouble for Harry because he ought to be the only mage powerful enough to pull off a stunt like that. And with the sword of Damocles quite literally hanging over his head he cannot afford not to find the real killer.

As he lurches from one disastrous meeting to another, always saying the wrong thing and reacting just too slow I did wonder for a while what good it was being a wizard. Harry has no luck, really nothing breaks his way. He is useless at communicating with Murphy, generally hopeless with people and perhaps hasn’t even got great instincts. It’s no surprise his companions are a cat and a talking skull. But, I warmed to him. He’s tenacious, doesn’t know when he’s beat, and loyal. He’s on the side of good, no matter how great the temptations to step towards the other side. Although I felt some frustration with him in the first half of the book, by the end I was rooting for him completely. The story builds up to a big climactic showdown, that explodes satisfyingly and messily. Then like all good case files Harry wraps up the tale and ties up loose ends. Yes, I enjoyed it and yes, I will read the next one. I think there’s a lot more to know about Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden.

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