Thursday, 10 April 2014

The Dresden Files #1: Storm Front by Tom Butcher

Published: April 1st 2000 by Penguin ROC
Goodreads Summary: Lost items found. Paranormal Investigations.
Consulting. Advice. Reasonable Rates.
No Love Potions, Endless Purses, or
Other Entertainment.

Harry Dresden is the best at what he does. Well, technically, he’s the only at what he does. So when the Chicago P.D. has a case that transcends mortal creativity or capability, they come to him for answers. For the “everyday” world is actually full of strange and magical things — and most of them don’t play well with humans. That’s where Harry comes in. Takes a wizard to catch a — well, whatever.

There’s just one problem. Business, to put it mildly, stinks. So when the police bring him in to consult on a grisly double murder committed with black magic, Harry’s seeing dollar signs. But where there’s black magic, there’s a black mage behind it. And now that mage knows Harry’s name. And that’s when things start to get… interesting.

Magic. It can get a guy killed.

I picked up Storm Front, the first book in the Dresden files series written by Tom Butcher because I had read many positives comment about it on the internet. In the end, all I can say is that opinions are very, very subjective.

In the book we meet Harry Dresden, a wizard who advertises his profession in Chicago's yellow pages. At the beginning of the book, he’s a bit tight financially, but thanks god for him a woman looking for her husband contact him. She offers him 500$ in advance and as little information as possible. 

Not long after, Karren Murphy, Lieutenant of the Special Investigation department of the Chicago police requests his help to investigate the murder of a call girl and her date of the night.  

The girl happens to belong to an agency owned by a vampire and her date happens to be the bodyguard of a Mafiosi boss, Johnny Marcone.The premise sounded promising, but unfortunately everything that followed wasn’t.

Butcher’s book could be used as a study of one sided and clichéd characters. So you have the ridiculously nice, self deprecating and easily frightened main character. Hell, he manages to feel bad because he made a monstrous vampire who attacked him minutes ago cry. Not kidding! And since when do vampires with claws, fangs and all cry anyway? 

Also, the number of time I read that Harry was scared, shaking, shuddering, whenever he is facing an opponent is absolutely ridiculous. I wouldn’t have been bothered that much by that if Harry had been a novice wizard. But it isn’t the case. Harry is very powerful and experienced and he proves it countless of times throughout the books.

Oh, there’s another thing I have to complain about this character, it’s his relation with women. He’s a self described old fashioned gentlemen. This made me roll my eyes more than once, but I let it pass. The problem is that it is mentioned way to many time for my taste that Harry’s romantic life is pretty much dead at the moment and has been that way since a very long time. 

I get that he isn’t particularly experienced in this department and that being a wizard doesn’t help. But does he have to act like a clueless teenager whose hormone just kicked in whenever there is a woman around him? The guy is in his mid to late twenties. Besides, I guess he must be attractive, since most women he meets in this book drool over him.

Butcher also threw at us the hard-bitten, tough as a nail she-cop, the sultry journalist in search of a breakthrough paranormal story, the quiet old bartender who’s friend with the main character and will probably turn out to be more than meet the eyes.  They were all equally uninteresting. I won't complain too much about them, not because there’s nothing to rant about, but because I could write over a thousand words if I did.

Even though I didn’t really enjoy the characters, I still had some hope concerning the plot. The story is a bit slow to take off, but when there started to be less talking and more magic, I must admit that I became slightly enthralled. This feeling didn't last long, however. It’s quite easy to solve the mystery. On top of that, Butcher has the tendency to ruin most of the action scene. He always drops the tension way too abruptly or in a ridiculous manner therefore, so either I ended up losing interest or I rolled my eyes.

The only reason I kept turning the page was because I was interested in the magic and I wanted to know how the story ends. But even that, isn’t criticism free. Often, it seemed as if whenever Harry was in danger, the author invented a brand new spell to save his skin.

In the end, reading Storm Front felt like riffling through a paranormal TV series pilot’s draft script. By definition such thing is meant to be rough, but do people want to read a scrappy TV script when they’re expecting a finished novel? For my part, the answer is a big NO.

Many have said that the series gets better as the books go by, but for now I’m not sure I’m ready to give the Dresden Files another try.

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