Review: ‘Storm Front’ by Jim Butcher

Storm Front

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 of them 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.

Harry Dresden is an interesting character. Unlike Atticus in Kevin Hearne’s Hounded, Harry has flaws that make him complex and interesting, even if he’s frustrating at times. As an example, Harry has a terminal case of chivalry (other characters accuse him of being chauvanistic and I think they may be right). This lets the females around him play him, or gets him in trouble even when said females aren’t actually asking him to defend them at all. Sometimes I found that annoying — for example, when he refused to tell the female detective what he knew about the murders because it would “put her in danger”, I wanted to bang his head against a concrete wall. But to Harry’s credit, he does seem to realise by the end of the book what an epic mistake this was.

The thing I did like about Harry was that he wasn’t a musclebound action hero-type. In fact, in Storm Front he’s at the losing end of several fights that make it clear that he’s the tall, weedy variety of nerd that spends a lot of time studying. Which makes sense, if you’re a wizard. He’s very self-aware, to the point where he’s self-depreciating at times. But there’s no false modesty or rampant ego here; he knows what he’s capable of and is confident in his skills, but also admits his flaws.

I have a vague feeling I’ve read Storm Front before, but it was long enough ago (and I’m getting old and forgetful enough) that I couldn’t remember most of the plot. Instead, I had a feeling for two thirds of the book that I knew where the whodunnit plotline was going, and alternated between suspecting I’d read it before and wondering whether the plot was just very predictable. I’m coming down on the “I’ve read it before” side of the fence, though. Regardless, the story carries you along to the point where I resented when real life intruded. So there’s that.

The side characters are — with the exception of the Big Bad at the end — all painted in shades of grey. Some of them lean toward quite dark grey, like the mob boss and the brothel-owning vampire — but there is still something sympathetic about them.

Storm Front — and I assume the rest of the series — can be summed up as a magical noir detective novel. Four stars.

Four stars

4 Comments on “Review: ‘Storm Front’ by Jim Butcher”

  1. quix689 says:

    The chauvinistic attitude doesn’t go away, I’m afraid. He does point out that it’s “probably” not good of him to think that way but he can’t help it, and every time he says it I want to take his head and bash it into something. It’s really almost made me stop reading the series. He’s just so annoyingly judgmental at times. His other flaws make him human and everything, but the “women need to be protected at all times” thing is just too much to handle sometimes. Other than that, I’ve been enjoying this series. I just finished up book seven or something like that (I think). The audiobooks are really good.

    • Oh, that’s disappointing. 😦 I was hoping that given he realised how badly he screwed up not telling Murphy at the end of the first novel that he’d show at least a little more common sense. The whole chivalry/chauvanist thing makes me think of people who, when asked what their flaws are in an interview, reply “I work too hard”. It’s like the writer thought this would be a flaw that would actually be a good thing, not realising how many females it’d piss off!

      • quix689 says:

        Yeah. The good news is that he still writes great female characters, and Harry is generally shown to be wrong when he treats women like he does. Still annoying, though. It’s also super frustrating because otherwise the writing is good and the stories are interesting; the chivalry thing is just super annoying.

      • I just hit one of those points in Fool Moon today – where Harry expresses horror at the idea of having to call a girl to come to his rescue. I wanted to punch him in the nose. It’s funny, because you’re right, the female characters are all strong and know what they want.

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