Monday, January 19, 2015

Storm Front (The Dresden Files #1) by Jim Butcher

You know that feeling of utter delight you get when you explore a new fictional world, peek into its depths and corners, try to uncover its secrets, and doing that, spill coffee on yourself, miss classes, forget to talk to people, sleep or eat and in general lose yourself; you do know it, yea? I've so missed that feeling.

It's been a while since I really devoured a book. So when I had a couple of hours to kill between assignments yesterday, I picked up Storm Front by Jim Butcher. The Dresden Files had been on my reading list longer than I remembered, and three pages into the series starter, I was wholly sucked into the world of Harry Dresden, Chicago's only practising professional wizard and private investigator. The Dresden Files is witty, entertaining and superbly addictive. I've only read Storm Front and half of the second book, Fool Moon, so far, and there are fifteen in total and counting. But, I can't wait to make my way through the series this year.

The thing that I like about the first book, and what I've read of the second, is the clean cut precision. Right at the very beginning we know what we're dealing with. A professional wizard you'd find in the yellow pages, who consults with the Chicago police, assisting Special Investigations officer Karrin Murphy, who is incredibly reminiscent of Buffy and who is an altogether gentleman, mostly. In Storm Front, Dresden tackles two cases, one: two dead bodies with their hearts ripped out, murders committed undoubtedly by a black sorcerer; two: a man reported missing by his wife. 

Butcher also gives you a thorough look at the magic of this world... almost. He mentions a White Council which is a pretty self explanatory title, a realm called Nevernever that I haven't quite figured out yet but which suffices for the time, he tells you how magic is good, it's made by your soul and not by objects, it's made in circles, from chalk circles to circles of people holding hands, there are demons, trolls and fairies hiding in the world, and there are wizards and witches who are basically humans (but not really) and he tells us how if you look in the eyes of a wizard, he can gaze on the secrets of your soul, and you see the darkest depths of his. And all this is revealed over the course of the story, revealing new bits of his world whenever you need them, and like a good narrator, Dresden never bogs you down with details.

Tell you what, though, the book is cheesy. There's a youngish wizard, Harry Dresden, surrounded by women who all appear to be pointedly attractive and men who don't, he is a trite mix of strength and rare self-confidence, has a mysterious dark past, cracks cynical jokes in the worst situations, talks to himself, engages in a lot of pop culture name-dropping for someone who is bad with technology, and is, in general, no different from every other noir-ish private detective you have ever read about. The police-procedural parts of it and the chunks of dialogue are very TV. For someone whose staple diet includes paranormal mystery television series, the action seems somewhat predictable too, for instance, love potions always go awry, amateurs know that. Google says there was a single-season show based in this world starring Paul Blackthorne as Dresden (I'd like to see that). So far, the two books have had little emotional depth but deliver full entertainment. I'd call Storm Front an airport read, the kind of book you pick up when you're bored and finish off within a couple of hours. Except, and here's what I can't get over, the writing, when it's not casually dry, is very lyrical. Well researched, interesting, fun and often startlingly literary, sounds like a good deal to me, see for yourself.

The world is getting weirder. Darker every single day. Things are spinning around faster and faster, and threatening to go completely awry. Falcons and falconers. The center cannot hold. But in my corner of the country, I'm trying to nail things down. I don't want to live in a world where the strong rule and the weak cower. I'd rather make a place where things are a little quieter. Where trolls stay the hell under their bridges and where elves don't come swooping out to snatch children from their cradles. Where vampires respect the limits, and where the faeries mind their p's and q's. My name is Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden. Conjure by it at your own risk. When things get strange, when what goes bump in the night flicks on the lights, when no one else can help you, give me a call. I'm in the book.

Almost as good as reading the books is reading Jim Butcher's interviews. He's given many, it seems. He sounds very honest when talking about his writing process, mentions Buffy a lot (the audiobooks are narrated by James Marsters, which earns the series so, so many brownie points.) I like authors who live up to their books, sound just as fun outside their fiction. I mean, this, I like this interview.

6 comments:

Lindsay said...

Great review of this one, and thank you for commenting on my blog today, just wanted to come over and say it was your brilliant review of Chess/The Royal Game that made me want to read it, and I'm so glad I have now. Off to re-read your review now. All the best, Lindsay

Priya said...

Oh wow, that's a nice surprise, Lindsay. Thanks! I love reading your reviews, I hope I'll get to read a longer review of Chess over at your blog. Till then, glad you stopped by!

Jason C. said...

Very cool. This series has been on my radar for a while now and I hope to read it shortly. Indeed, it is such a great feeling to come across a book that fills you with such elation and is a pure joy to read from start to finish. It doesn't seem to happen enough for me haha.

Priya said...

Jason C. - I have a feeling it'll happen with with this series. Hope you enjoy get around to reading it!

Jason C. said...

I actually started reading it last night. I'm zipping through it pretty quickly too. It has a very cinematic quality and I like the way Butcher mixes different genres. It's like Van Helsing meets Raymond Chandler.

Priya said...

Jason, it does have a cinematic quality to it. I love the way you've described that in your review. It is kind of a quick read, isn't it? I haven't read any more of the series since, but I will continue with it soon enough..

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