Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Dresden Readthrough: Storm Front

We begin our readthrough of Jim Butcher's uber-popular urban fantasy series The Dresden Files today with Storm Front. For a schedule, the immediate plan is to do a book a month on the first Tuesday of each month moving forward. With 15 books on the publication schedule between now and when our readthrough is over, and perhaps our timing being good enough for the 16th, our reading list should be pretty full for the foreseeable future.

I've tried a few times to get into urban fantasy. Sometimes it's worked for me (Kevin Hearne's Hounded), sometimes it hasn't (Tad Williams's Dirty Streets of Heaven), sometimes it's more a basic plot point that overrides the setting (Max Gladstone's Three Parts Dead and the legal wranglings, Jim C Hines's Libriomancer for the fun magic system). The theme, however, has always been the same when I talk to people: you have to read The Dresden Files. So we might as well stop talking about reading this like I have for five years running now and start actually doing it, right?

Book one is Storm Front, where we're introduced to Chicago-area wizard Harry Dresden...

...and Harry...is in a bit of trouble. There have been some murders, and as the "only wizard in the phone book," he's being fingered as the culprit. Harry has to figure out how who did the deed as well as clear his name, and this means dealing with magical drugs, magical monsters, a few vampires, and so on.

* What I Liked: Harry Dresden is a fun character. He's a little snarky, definitely likable, flawed but not annoyingly so. His cast of characters are all unique without feeling like archetypal tropes, always a plus for a book series that is kind of a groundbreaker in many regards, especially given that many of the books I have read in this genre are directly descended from Dresden.

I liked that this book wasn't overlong. I have no issue with long, epic fantasies, but especially when I dove into The Wheel of Time so long ago and each one is 700+ pages, even if one of these books are less than amazing, it won't be difficult to soldier on, knowing the end isn't too far in sight. There's something to be said about a story ending when it needs to, not necessarily when the author chooses to.

* What I Didn't Like: I get that this is kind of the first non-Hamilton series to strike it big, but I find a lot of urban fantasy tropes, especially the sex and vulgarity, more than a little off-putting. I don't know why it's necessary, and I definitely felt as if it were a little more over the top than it had to be for this, and I know it's not even so bad in this book.

I missed the sense of danger. Part of it is because I know I have so many more books to go, but there didn't feel like there was a lot to be concerned about. I know that Hearne's series has six books, but I certainly didn't feel as if his lead characters were all going to come out basically intact, y'know? The plot, instead of really being front and center, felt like it was a little more than secondary for the broader setup. I didn't mind, but I was hoping for something a little more crisp.

Overall, on a whole? I did really enjoy it. There's a value in literary candy, and I feel that Dresden, in a lot of ways, is the dessert course in my Sanderson/Rothfuss diet. I read a lot, but not enough of the less serious, more entertaining fare. Dresden absolutely falls into that category, and there's more than enough to love that, as I become more familiar with the characters, that I'm really going to enjoy.

This isn't brilliant, but it's still pretty great. I'm still going to pace myself on one a month, but that doesn't necessarily mean I want to. Either way, I'm definitely on board, and I don't expect this to be a very painful experience.

1 comment:

  1. Storm Front is an amazingly good book considering that it is Jim Butcher's first. I became an instant fan of Butcher while reading this book, and intend to read the rest of the series very soon.

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