Storm Front – Jim Butcher
“The mailman walked towards my office door, half an hour earlier than usual. He didn’t sound right. His footsteps fell more heavily, jauntily, and he whistled. A new guy. He whistled his way to my office door and then fell silent for a moment. Then he laughed.”
Storm Front was Jim Butcher’s first published novel in 2000 after three years of rejections and failed publications.
It’s the first novel in The Dresden Files which follow the private investigator Harry Dresden on his various cases which are, you know, magical. He’s the worlds only wizard detective and each novel deals with a new murder mystery. As of 2020, there are seventeen books in the series, and it’s still going strong.
Set in Chicago, U.S.A., it covers a broad range of creatures from vampires to faeries to demons. Although the supernatural world remains mostly hidden, a few humans are aware of its existence. Butcher blends these two realms seamlessly to create one surprisingly realistic and somewhat bitter setting.
The novel follows a complicated case with mob bosses, warlocks, and wizard-sight drugs. Told from the first-person point of view, Dresden winds his way through two seemingly unrelated cases. The first is that of a missing husband who was acting strangely before his disappearance. Oh yea, and he’s an amateur wizard. The second, far more serious case, is a double homicide with the victim’s hearts cut out. Dresden deals with singers, prostitutes and chauffeurs, as well as the usual trouble that his own past brings. As a result, it’s suspenseful and witty and impossible to put down.
Storm Front is one of my favourite books of all times, and by far the best magic realism novel that I’ve ever found!
- The main character isn’t perfect. Harry Dresden is powerful, kind, and tall, dark and handsome. But he’s also impulsive, paranoid, and makes a ton of mistakes. Very few novels have truly realistic characters, and despite Dresden being a wizard, he is one of the best-written well-developed characters that I have ever read about.
- The humour throughout this novel is unparalleled. However, what more do you expect from a guy who names every book with a pun? Dresden himself has a sarcastic, almost-cynical outlook on life. As a result, he regularly makes terrible jokes in life-threatening situations. Most secondary characters have a witty line or two as well, and even if all else fails, there’s Mister, his comically large coke-drinking pet alley cat.
- The supernatural blends into the real world perfectly. There are no unnecessary explanations, no shocked characters, and no big-grand-scary-secret-revealing moments. The magical world simply exists. It adds a touch of realism to the otherwise unrealistic setting and makes the story a far smoother read.
- Harry Dresden is what we call today, a “nice guy”. He opens up doors for women, pulls out their chairs, pays for their meals, etc. etc. just typical “gentlemanly” things… and then he objectifies them. He describes with painful clarity the physical appearance of every woman he sees, as well as alluding to their sexuality and attractiveness. Although this may have been acceptable back in the 2000s, it certainly isn’t now.
- The plot gets complicated. Without giving away any spoilers, however, the multiple substories within this novel become entangled in different ways. Because of that, there are various points where you have to sit back and just take a moment to update the case file in your mind. So, for those who like straightforward murder mysteries, this isn’t the novel for you.
- The main female character, a detective names Karrin Murphy, is a walking stereotype. A world-weary police officer, she’s tough and aggressive and occasionally acts like a bully. She’s the “strong female character” of this series and fully leans into that sickening trope.
Storm Front is the penultimate detective noir urban fantasy novel, and well worth the read no matter how old you are!
I’d recommend this book to everyone who enjoys magic, mystery, and murder. Although intended for an older audience, this book is still enjoyable for teenagers and young adults, and should definitely be checked out!
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