Writing a review of Storm Front 6 months after I finished the book is probably less than ideal. But this year I'm making an earnest effort to finish some of the 35+ post drafts I've got lying around. A half-finished review Jim Butcher's urban fantasy novel is one of them.
The word “stormfront” isn’t something Joe Sixpack would normally associate with a book. When the word was used on the news last year, it was either because of really bad weather on the horizon, or when neo-Nazis plowed their cars through crowds of anti-fascists. But fantasy fans thankfully think of something a whole lot nicer when they hear the word. Storm Front is the name of the first book in the The Dresden Files, a series of urban fantasy/detective noir novels.
Storm Front is set in modern-day Chicago. The story’s protagonist, Harry Dresden, is a professional wizard who specialize in missing items, paranormal investigation, and consulting. But he doesn’t do love potions, or children’s parties. You have to draw the line somewhere, right? There are not many real wizards like Harry around. Still, business is slow, and he lives paycheck to paycheck.
Then a damsel in distress steps into his humble office. Monica Sells hires Harry to find her husband, and the scene is set for a fast paced adventure full of magic, spells, demons, faeries, drugs, vampires, love, and sex1.
Storm Front reminds me a lot of the Shadowrun novels I read back in the days. Like the Shadowrun novels, Jim Butcher’s book features a considerable magic element, but with a sizeable amount of noir thrown in. The last ingredient provides an old-fashioned view of women, which means that Harry mostly focuses on their physical appearance. That kind of mindset certainly doesn’t align well with today’s #MeToo. While there is no sexual harassment in Storm Front, women are certainly objectified in the book. But before you unleash fire and fury, calling for the books to be burned, and author Jim Butcher’s head impaled on a stick, remember that a hot damsel in distress is an integral part of any noir novel.
There is very little downtime in Storm Front, and none of the unnecessary detours that many authors tend to take. Those detours often feels like an attempt to cram a few more pages into a book without actually adding anything to the story. There is no such thing in Storm Front, though. There is a lot going on, and Butcher manages to make the story a pleasant read.
In some ways, the version of the book I read felt a bit like a draft. There were some really weird sentences, and the structure of some of the paragraphs just seems off. Kindle editions doesn’t always get as much love as the dead wood editions, though, so that might be a contributing factor. But these oddities doesn’t make Storm Front a less enjoyable book.
The 300 odd pages fly by, and while the number of pages slowly creep closer to the 400 mark in the following 14 books in the The Dresden Files series, I’m pretty sure I’ll return to Harry Dresden’s universe some time in the not-so-distant future.
Of course there is sex. It would not be a proper fantasy story written for an audience often deprived of it without the sex. ↩︎