With the fifteenth volume of Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files series about to be released (just over a fortnight away as I write these words), I thought it was an appropriate time to reread the series. And to write a few words about it. I haven’t followed the series since its inception; I was finally persuaded to read the series a few years ago, and after reading part of Storm Front, I abandoned it and went to read something else. Two years ago, I finally sat down and read through the entire series and it’s a series I really enjoy.
Storm Front, on the other hand, is not a great introduction to the series. It isn’t actively bad, but neither did it grab me and say “This is a writer to watch!” What you have is a fairly standard mystery novel: two people have been murdered and Harry Dresden, Wizard for Hire, is brought in on the case.
The actual mystery is interesting and moderately well-handled. More interesting is the world-building on display. Harry is a pariah amongst Wizard-kind, due to something undisclosed that happened in his youth, and is watched over suspiciously by the Wizard Council. The world in general does not admit to the paranormal being real, and only two “normal” characters – a policewoman and a journalist – know that Harry is not a fraud. There are vampires, one of whom operates a brothel, and faeries.
However, these things are but lightly touched upon. The book feels moderately short – at 372 pages in the paperback edition, it isn’t really that short – but you only get glimpses of the world that Jim Butcher creates in the subsequent novels. More importantly, those glimpses are rarely engaging. For instance, the revelation of the true form of vampires feels thrown away; it’s incidental to the plot of the book. It’s just something creepy.
Perhaps most problematically, the characters didn’t engage. Harry Dresden reads as a person just getting by, lacking money and, more importantly, friends. Without those friends, there aren’t the interactions that the book really needs. Dresden will come out of his shell, but his shell makes this book a moderately tough read.
It doesn’t take that long for the series to really come alight, but Storm Front is much less than what comes later.