Review: Storm Front

Author: Jim Butcher
Publisher: Penguin Putnam
Genre: Urban Fantasy Crime

Lost Items Found. Paranormal Investigations. Consulting. Advice. Reasonable Rates. No Love Potions, Endless Purses, or Other Entertainment. Harry Dresden is Chicago’s only professional wizard and private investigator. He is called up by Chicago P.D. to help investigate the gruesome murder of two people. Investigating, he quickly learns that it’s more than a revenge killing, and that there may be another more powerful wizard who is using dark and violent magic to further his influence in the criminal underground. Storm Front is the first book of the Dresden Files series and has enthralled many readers with Butcher’s fast-paced, magic-filled crime story.

Content Guide

Violence: The fight scenes and murder victims are described in detail to immerse the reader into the story. The gore level is quite high, but it is from the perspective of a criminal investigator who finds the sight appalling. The first murder scene is the most gruesome, as it describes two lovers who were murdered by their hearts exploding from their chests.

Sexual Content: Some of the characters are described in a more sexualized manner to show their attractiveness. Some of the suspects Harry Dresden interviews are prostitutes or affiliated with a brothel. The first scene is the investigation of a murder where we find the victims were a man and his hired prostitute. Although never described, it is insinuated that one of the characters participates in orgies. One of the characters accidentally drinks a love potion, and the aroused reaction is meant to be humorous.

Drug/Alcohol Use: A character takes a drink of beer. A hallucinogenic drug is being distributed.

Spiritual Content: Dresden has a pendant in the shape of a pentagram star to represent magic. This book is a fantasy novel about wizards, fairies, magic, vampires, and the like. Dresden creates potions and spell circles in order to use his magic. A demon is summoned by an evil character.

Language/Crude Humor: There are several mild obscenities and name calling.

Other Negative Content: Harry Dresden is pessimistic by nature. He often perceives the world as a threat, or sees things as being too good to be true.

Positive Content: Even evil or less-liked characters are still described and treated as people. Dresden has deep convictions against killing people or treating them as if they were useless. While sarcastic and pessimistic, he shows loyalty and cares for his friends and for people he is trying to help. Dresden has a deep sense of chivalry that he often describes as what gets him into trouble for trying to do the right thing.

Review

“Lost Items Found. Paranormal Investigations. Consulting. Advice. Reasonable Rates. No Love Potions, Endless Purses, or Other Entertainment.” This is the note on the door to Harry Dresden’s office. Despite being Chicago’s only professional wizard, business is not going well. When the Chicago police department call him in to act as a consultant for a special case, he’s eager to get his money’s worth, especially since he is behind on bills. Instead, what he finds is the gruesome murder of two lovers whose hearts seem to have exploded from their chests. The CPD are stumped, but Dresden recognizes it as the work of dark magic. However, the first law of magic is to never kill using magic. Deeply disturbed by this new case and the sudden appearance of a malicious magician, Dresden is on the case to discover the whereabouts of a missing husband, the origin of a new narcotic drug that gives you psychic abilities, and a deadly battle between criminal cult leaders. This new foe will stop at nothing to wreak havoc on the criminal underground, with plans to break all the rules on the way.

Storm Front is the first book in the Dresden Files series, and sets the tone for Butcher’s writing style and excellence in immersive storytelling. I particularly enjoy Butcher’s writing style, because it helps the reader to imagine the scene as the writer intended. Everything from how Bob the Skull looks inquisitively, despite not having to muscle to do so, down to even the scent of the burly bodyguard holding Dresden back, is clearly described. Butcher is not afraid to deviate from the norm by re-imagining well known monsters, such as vampires and werewolves, describing them as beasts worthy of fear but also intelligent and capable of both goodness and evil.

Another aspect I enjoy about the Dresden Files series is that the characters, even ones in minor roles, are all complex. They reflect minds, both monster and man, that are capable of a spectrum of good and evil. Good characters are portrayed with having angry outbursts, self-doubt, and selfish acts. Evil characters are still portrayed with the capacity to care for others, have ambitions to empower their own people, and show remorse for their actions. I enjoy this aspect, because real people are not all good or all bad. God created people to be able to choose between selfish desires or the greater good. Every single person is a mixture of the two and are still capable of making a decision opposite to their overall character. This makes the characters in the Dresden Files more relatable, and the reader can learn to empathize when they see the decisions and events beyond the character’s control that brought them to be the way that they are. In the end, some readers may even learn to empathize and feel pity for the main villain, despite their spread of carnage and war. Storm Front doesn’t advocate evil acts, but it does show that reality is much more complicated than what we believe.

Along with detailed environments and character descriptions, the amount of characters can become overwhelming at times, especially if you tend to have to take long breaks when reading a book. While not impossible to keep up with, the amount of characters introduced (some not mentioned again until later in the book) becomes confusing. I admit there was one minor character who turned out to be more significant, and I had to go back to find out who she was. This is made more difficult by some chapters being dedicated to exposition or the examining of the existing facts of the case. However, these moments are infrequent, and if you have a good memory, it reads quickly in an action-packed flurry of fight scenes and plot twists.

I spoke to one of the biggest Dresdonites (the term the Dresden fandom has assigned themselves) I know, who also happens to be the one who got me to join the fandom as well. I asked his opinion on why the Dresden Files are worth reading. He says the reason is because, “Harry Dresden is true to the powers of Good. He will do the right thing every day of the week, even if he has to step in front of a freight train of pain to do it. He is an incredibly powerful wizard, but doesn’t take advantage of it for his own personal gain. As the books go on, you see him grow powerful, but keep his morals and stay true to the powers of Good, no matter what. He should by all rights cause destruction, but he keeps himself in control of that power. Beyond that, the books have a speed to them. There is never a dull moment. They have momentum, and they stretch this guy to his breaking point, but he stretches himself farther to make sure the innocents are not going to be hurt.” I absolutely agree with him.

If you enjoy crime novels with a fantastical element to them, the Dresden Files are an excellent book series. With immersive details, action packed fight scenes, complex characters who are more than they appear, pop references, and sarcasm to tie it all together, the Dresden Files is an excellent addition to your to-be-read pile. While some content may dissuade some readers, I implore you to look deeper into the purpose of the books. There are strong elements of friendship, loyalty, working for more than a means to an end, the strength found in families, generosity, and learning to experience life in more than black and white.

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Jennifer Hicklin

Jenni is a graduate of the University of Southern Indiana with a degree in business and currently works as a Product Analyst. Paired with her passion for reading, she hopes to one day open her own bookstore and share her love of a good story with others through reviews and podcasts. She also enjoys cosplaying, prop building, hiking, camping, rpgs, platformers, and anything that includes pizza.

1 Comments

  1. Todd Bryant on July 8, 2021 at 2:32 pm

    The story is great. The writing is great. But I’m struggling with the language. His favorite by-word is the One Who died for my sins.

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