Book review of Jim Butcher’s Storm Front
Urban fantasy is on fire. Over the past two years, it seems that all you hear about in the fantasy book arena is how urban fantasy is taking over the genre. I’ve traditionally been more of an epic fantasy fan, but I decided to try my hand at a bit of urban fantasy. I flew through two books that seemed like good starting points for the genre: Storm Front by Jim Butcher and Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman. With the eleventh book in the series, Turn Coat, released in 2009, Jim Butcher’s series The Dresden Files is wildly popular, and has been recommended to me by a few friends. Neverwhere is Gaiman’s first novel, after years of fame coming from his Sandman comic book series. Both weigh in a little over 300 pages, and I flew through both. I’ll give my take of Storm Front here, and be sure that a Neverwhere review is coming soon.
I have to say that urban fantasy overall is a nice break from the doorstops I typically consume. Storm Front is not my first urban fantasy, having read Angels & Demons and The Da Vinci Code years ago.
Butcher possesses great skill with description:
The house is full of creaks and sighs and settling boards, and time and lives have worn their impressions into the wood and brick. I can hear all the sounds, all the character of the place, above and around me all through the night. It’s an old place, but it sings in the darkness and is, in its own quirky little way, alive. Its home.
a bit of a comic perspective:
She was driving me crazy. That voice of hers inspired the kind of dreams you wish you could remember more clearly in the morning. Her expression promised to show me things that you don’t talk about with other people, if I would give her half a chance. Your job, Harry. Think about your job. Some days I really hate my job.
as well as the ability to truly inspire self-doubt in his characters:
Have you ever felt despair? Absolute hopelessness? Have you ever stood in the darkness and known, deep in your heart, in your spirit, that it was never, ever going to get better? That something had been lost, forever, and that it wasn’t coming back?
These different abilities shine through in a novel that is written with direct speech, similar to The Gunslinger by Stephen King. His main character, Harry Dresden, is a likable guy; he’s just a regular working class dude. With a bit of magic on his side. Butcher is able to work magic into an urban setting in a believable manner, although I think the originality of the magic system in Mistborn still remains on top. The magic system relies on different ingredients, partially on the weather, and partially on the random mix of items that, suggested by Harry’s talking skull, go into his different potions.
Harry gets himself into all kinds of predicaments, and this novel moves along at a brisk pace. Here you’ll find more action than much else, although I wouldn’t classify this as a 100% action novel. There are a number of great supporting cast members here, from Murphy, the woman on the police force who calls in Harry for different case work, to a sword-wielding sorcerer who is the enforcer of the White Council’s (the governing body of magic) rules. In addition, we see a number of great baddies, from giant scorpions to squat demons, and even a few mob thugs mixed in for good measure.
Storm Front is a very entertaining urban fantasy, and a great start to The Dresden Files series. Harry Dresden is a real character; you feel for him. He goes down to the corner bar when he needs to work out a few issues, and has to work a nine to five just to pay his rent. I should mention that although the novel itself is light and a very quick read, it definitely contains adult subject matter. If you’re looking for a novel where you can identify with any of these aspects, with a bit of crime-solving action thrown into the mix, then Storm Front is definitely for you.
You can pick up Storm Front over at Amazon.com.