Thursday, 19 February 2015

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


“I'd made the vampire cry. Great. I felt like a real superhero. Harry Dresden, breaker of monsters' hearts.” 

I'd like to make a shout out to Priya over at Tabula Rasa (check out her blog, it's really quite excellent) for recommending this book because let's face it, this really isn't the type of stuff I usually read. If this were a few years back and I happened to be browsing a bookstore where this novel was out on display, it's unlikely that I would give it a second glance before moving on, let alone stop in my tracks to pick it up out of sheer curiosity. Come on, just look at the ridiculous cover! It's laaaaaaaaame. A dude wearing a cowboy hat, dressed in black trench-coat holding a staff. Really? Yes, I admit to being a literary snob sometimes, focusing more of my attention on the "classics" as opposed to more contemporary works in general or anything from the urban fantasy genre for that matter. However, I have managed to put aside the elitist attitude and open myself up to a wider range of literature. I've been a lot happier in my reading ever since then and have discovered plenty of new favorites along the way. Not everything has to be Shakespeare.

Jim Butcher's Storm Front is a fast-paced and entertaining novel, a pure joy to read. The premise is pretty darn cool and I wish that had come up with it. Harry Dresden is a hard-boiled Wizard Private Investigator (what's up with famous wizards with the name Harry? Heh.) working out of Chicago who deals in paranormal cases. Think Van Helsing meets Raymond Chandler with a little dose of Elmore Leonard thrown in for good measure. Butcher creates a pastiche of the horror genre, detective film-noir and fantasy, which under different circumstances might have turned out to be a complete mess but Butcher successfully manages to pull it off with style. 

There are many aspects that make the novel appealing and it starts off with a wonderfully drawn lead protagonist: Harry Dresden. He is such a likeable hero and the only way that I can properly describe him is badassssss. He's also got a wicked sense of humor, he's clever, smart (of course he's smart, he's a wizard. Duh.) but above all, he's resourceful and despite being thrown into crazy situations with his life in constant danger, he still tries to act with a sense of morality. This brings me to another positive characteristic of novel that might get overlooked. Not everything is so black and white--yes, there is good vs. evil but it's remains a gray area. Butcher presents an ethical conundrum. Harry Dresden might be playing for the good side but is he in fact a moral individual? Are the villains truly evil or are they motivated to taking specific actions because of circumstances or other reasons? Worth considering.

So, you have your demons, vampires, faeries and evil sorcerers that are common in horror stories. Then you have the femme fatale, gangsters, prostitutes and of course, the rugged, wisecracking, never-play-by-the-rules detective who finds himself in tangled web of double-crossings and murder. I have heard that many people have accused Butcher of being misogynistic in his portrayal of women but one must remember that he is working within the detective genre. If you have ever watched film-noir movies or read Raymond Chandler, then it should be apparent that women are often presented in a demeaning manner. While the novel does play around with genre conventions in a clever way, it does have that pulpy B-movie quality, which some folks might consider silly but it worked for me. Butcher also uses a great deal of humor and comedy that had me laughing while still pinned to the edge of my seat, turning the pages at a rapid pace, anxious to know what happens next. Give me a well-told story and I'm one happy camper. Storm Front would obviously not be considered "serious" literature and is far from perfect but it sure is one hell of a ride. The ending is a bit hokey feels a little rushed but I can overlook such flaws since the positive attributes leading up to the denouement far outweigh the negative. I won't bother going into plot details because it is would ruin all the fun. Take a chance, it's a quick read and you might just be pleasantly surprised. I for one am looking forward to reading the rest of the series. Oh, and I absolutely love this quote:

“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.”  

Yep, like I said earlier: Badassssssssssss.



6 comments:

  1. Well, I am nearly persuaded but remain somewhat hesitant because what you describe is not my cup of tea. Urban fantasy just does not work for me. However -- and here is the main point of my comment -- I am pleased to have discovered your blog, and I look forward to following your reading adventures.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hello RTD, thanks for stopping by! Nice to meet ya. This novel is definitely not for everyone. I didn't expect to enjoy it as much as I did. Thanks for following me and I will return the favor. Is "The Edge of the Precipice" your primary blog?

    ReplyDelete
  3. Jason, you can find my humble blog - Beyond Eastrod - at this address:
    http://beyondeastrod.blogspot.com/
    I think I will be taking a pass on Storm Front for the moment, but I have it penciled in for someday in the future when the fantasy fancy overwhelms me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ok, thank you very much. I am still contemplating whether or not to join your Little Women read-a-thon because I already have so much on my plate already. It sounds like a lot of fun though but I'll have see what my schedule is like once the date approaches a little closer.

      Delete
  4. Thanks for the shout out, Jason. I agree it's the kind of book one would dismiss off as lame going by just the cover! I love your review, it's good to know you liked the book. Van Helsing meets Raymond Chandler does perfectly sum it up...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Priya! I have no idea how the rest of the series shapes up but if "Storm Front" is anything to go by, it looks promising. Besides, they will quick reads.

      Delete