Book Review: Storm Front

| 2 Comments
My rating: ★★★✩✩

I wish I was more of an "urban fantasy" reader, I really do. But while I appreciated the writing and the character of Harry Dresden, the whole magic thing just didn't work for this skeptic. I wanted it to, but in the end it just didn't.

Harry Dresden is a wizard - the only one who advertises in the Chicago phonebook. Not surprisingly, given his moral scruples against fraud, he can't get the work other, less scrupled, charlatans can get away with. And yes, he's a real wizard. But business is bad, until a damsel in distress comes to ask him to find her husband, who may be dabbling in some magic himself. Some easy money, Harry figures. But of course things get complicated.

It gets especially sticky when he is called in by an ally in the Chicago police department, who uses him as a consultant, when there are a pair of particularly gruesome murders, probably done with witchcraft. This brings Harry perilously close to the line drawn by the White Council, a high council of wizards that have put him on double secret probation, where one misstep could cause the Doom of Damocles (sic) to be brought down on him.

So, not surprisingly, the stories begin to intersect and Harry is force to confront some mighty powerful wizards, requiring all his magic skills. These include frog-like demons, scorpions and fire. But he does get is sorted out in the end, although he is left scarred and quite the worse for wear.

I was hoping the magic wouldn't turn into some maguffian, a crutch Dresden could turn to when things got tough. While he did show some imagination in how he used some pretty powerful spells, it still felt like a silver bullet that could rescue him whenever necessary. And I also got the "Alien The Movie Syndrome", where technology (or magic in this case), just appeared when necessary and disappeared when inconvenient. The magic of Dresden world was done pretty consistently, but it was hard to imagine him in trouble when he could just fly away when necessary.

The writing was good and the character dark, cynical and honorable, just like I like my private eyes. And told from the first person, again a feature I almost require. But I just couldn't swallow the magic. Oh well. But if you like urban fantasy, wizards, and good solid private eye writing, be sure to try this series out.


Storm Front
Jim Butcher

2 Comments

Butcher does get better about not using the magic as a crutch for Dresden as things progress in the series - in fact, he specifically puts him in situations where the use of magic could be harmful/deadly to Dresden, so he has to come up with alternate means of getting the job done.  Moreover, you learn that most magic, while powerful, cannot be used to avoid conflicts or end them.Not trying to excuse the shortcomings, just letting you know that Butcher does realize that there are some and tries to work on this in the later novels.  It sounds like you'll probably not enjoy the series overly though, so I'd probably recommend spending your time on books you'd enjoy more.

Thanks for the info. I guess then I'd feel like the situations were getting too tortured in order to avoid magic. Nice try but, as you say, I'll move on.

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This page contains a single entry by Jonathan published on March 22, 2010 7:21 PM.

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