Storm Front – Jim Butcher (TMWTR #2)

About this Book
Harry Dresden is the best at what he does. Well, technically, he’s the onlyat 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 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. 
First, let me say that this is the second book on my “tell me what to read” list. Let me also say that I’ve already offended at least one person by not enjoying this book. I had no idea I wasn’t allowed to like books. So, please allow me a head start before you throw things at me. I’d appreciate it. 
Harry Dresden is a literary figure I have been hearing about for quite a few years now. Everyone’s been telling me that I simply must read The Dresden files. It’s been an experience.
Jim Butcher knows how to write, and how to tell an interesting story. He has somehow managed to take a genre of overdone, typical characters and molded them into his own, unique vision. Harry Dresden is a narrator that almost everyone, man or woman, can probably relate to. He’s just trying to pay his rent. He is a wizard who has an ad out in the yellow pages. That’s real.
The first fourth of the book really sucked me in. The story was interesting. Butcher really fleshed out his world and because of that it really shines. In fact, Harry Dresdin’s world is the most interesting part of the entire book. It’s populated with neat creatures and colorful tidbits and though nothing in the book is really new, per se, it’s all unique enough to capture my attention and keep me interested. In fact, the world coupled with Butchers simple but effective writing  has the ability to make this book something special.
And then it happened and the tale turned on its head.
Butcher is really trying to do something new here. He’s using a small sized book to lay the foundation for a massive series and that’s probably why I have the problems with it that I have. If the book had been longer, perhaps I wouldn’t take as big of an issue with its flaws, but as it was they glared at me. Suddenly, after a fourth of the book, Butcher seems to realize that he has laid the groundwork for a great story but he needs to catch the reader up on the details of his world. The book suddenly becomes massive, tedious info dumps punctuated by moments of great story.
Usually if an author partakes in the tradition of info dumping they do it in an somewhat interesting way, like in a classroom in Spellwright (by Blake Charlton), but not here. This book is told in the first person and most of these immense info dumps regarding the magic system, world traditions, energy or whatever else are done in a boring, first person inner monologue with absolutely nothing to punctuate it and make it interesting. It really made the book drag and made me appreciate those interesting bits of story a bit less when they did peek through the info dumps.The info dumping doesn’t last the whole book, but if he’s not info dumping Dresdin is having some long and evolved internal dialogue about some observation and then a drawn out explanation of said observation. It just got to be too much for me.

For all the attention Storm Front has, as well as its huge fan base, I was expecting something new, unusual and refreshing but there really wasn’t anything amazingly new in it. Butcher has, however, managed to take old ideas and cliché’s and throw them into a very well done, realistic world. He should be noted for that. If I did have problems with being able to suspend my belief, and some of Dresdin’s actions simply did not make logical sense to me, the world itself was easy to enjoy and the characters in it were colorful and compelling.
I have been told that the series doesn’t really “take off” until book two. In fact, several people have told me that they couldn’t stand book one and now absolutely love the series. I do plan on giving book two a shot. While this book frustrated me, there is potential here. Butcher can write. I love the world he’s created and Harry Dresdin is an everyman type character in the sense that everyone will be able to relate and sympathize with him in some way. There is a diamond in the rough for those who don’t mind slogging through the info dumps and uninteresting internal monologue.

I’ll try out book 2. I’ve been assured on many fronts that it’s far and away better than Storm Front. I feel like I cannot adequately judge the author, or the series off of this book. 
I’m rating this one a very hesitant 3/5 stars. 

14 Responses

  • Jared

    I quit after book 1, for many of the reasons you list here.

    I'm glad you're testing the waters with the second book and not me… curious to hear how it goes.

  • Carin B.

    I enjoyed Fool Moon overall more than Storm Front I think. However, if the second book doesn't catch you then the series just isn't for you. No worries. There's millions of books out there. Thanks for trying it!

  • T.N. Tobias

    I agree with everything except that Butcher can write. Admittedly, this book is my only encounter with him but it left such a bad taste in my mouth that I want to spit when I see how much shelf space he commands at the bookstore while authors like China Mieville, Jeff Vandermeer, James Morrow, Mervyne Peak, etc.. don't have any presence at all.

  • The Evil Hat

    Book two is filled with such blatant idiocy from several key characters that I just couldn't go on. They seem like fairly enjoyable books, but not to the extent that I could completely shut off all thought while reading them.

  • Sarah

    T.N. Tobias, I didn't even think of that point (regarding shelf space) when I was writing this review. Honestly, when put in that context I agree with you more than I agree with me. It is too bad books like this take up shelf space other, more deserving authors could easily utilize.

    The Evil Hat, I think that was a large part of my problem. There was nothing about this book that allowed me to suspend belief long enough to actually completely enjoy, or immerse myself in the story. Some of Harry's actions were just ridiculous to the point of being funny. A lot of it just didn't make sense with the world Butcher created.

  • Myra C

    Well thanks for trying, it just was not the book for you.

  • K.C. Shaw

    I'm not the only one! I've read the first three Dresden books (starting with book 2, then 1, then 3) and I wasn't impressed. I liked book 2 better than the others; book 1 was meh and book 3 really, really annoyed me. I didn't like the infodumping, internal monologues that went on forever and slowed down the action, obvious plots, or the inconsistent characterization. I have no idea why the series is so popular. Then again, everyone has different tastes.

  • Mark Timmony

    Agh! Couldn't get into Storm Front, but Fool Moon (after the second or third chapter) turned that all around for me and now I can't get enough 😀

    I'm glad you gave it a go, if book 2 doesn't do it for you at least you can say you tried.

    Great review!

  • Harry Markov

    Well, I enjoy the overdone books to an extent, although I seem to be spitting some evil comments as of late… But this sounds a bit different. I'd always wanted to experience a male narrator… I've only read one series with a male narrator and well the second book was a HUGE disappointment.

  • Scott

    No no. I disagree. Please do not think book 2 (Fool Moon) is a representation of the rest of the series. Both Book 1 and 2 were projects that Butcher had to do for creative writing class back in school and although the second book improves on the first….BUT it is still the same cookie cutter (I'll need this exact spell at some point later so I'll get Bob to help me make it now) type of book. It introduces a few key secondary characters though that show up later, but you can honestly skip it (for now) in favor of the 3rd book GRAVE PERIL…which (those of us who are diehard Dresden fans) is where the series ACTUALLY takes off. In GRAVE PERIL all bets are of and Butcher introduces us to not only significant key characters we hadn't previously met, but also to the larger Chicago that Harry inhabits. Then after that the 4th book (SUMMER KNIGHT) is awesome, and the 5th (DEATH MASKS) is Knock-It-Out-Of-The-Park fantastic….

    I digress. Read the third book (not the second) if you want to know if this series is for you.

    The same is also true of Butcher's CODEX ALERA high fantasy series…the first book is so-so, the second is better and the third is just incredible. He seems to take a book or two to hit a stride, but once he does he is unstoppable!

  • Scott

    It should be noted that because of both his DRESDEN series AND his CODEX ALERA series he is hands down my favourite author ever. Patience with his series (for a book or two) is rewarded here, and is also the reason why he commands the shelfspace he does.

    Over at the Malazan boards, we call him Dresden-crack because of how we are addicted. Seriously, I can't even explain how depressed I get after I finish a book of his…I am always wanting more.

    The only other authors who command such respect from me are Steven Erikson and GRRM.

  • Todd Newton

    Just finished Book #7 (Dead Beat) in the series and I have loved every one. IMHO Dresden is a great narrator, and Butcher is a fantastic author. I'm excited to get into Codex Alera but I can't decide whether to get caught up on the Dresden books first or not.

    I think these books are easy to read, easy to understand, and easy to enjoy. People are, obviously, allowed to dislike them, but I tear through each one in about 2 days (which is really fast for me). Hope you stick with it, as the global story arc builds on itself with each installment (while having major problems to contend with in the meantime). Dead Beat really ups the ante in this regard, and it was a serious page-turner.

  • Sarah

    Todd, I do plan on continuing with the series, maybe after reading some comments on this post I'll try out book 3 next. The series has a huge following so I'm thinking there is obviously something here I missed.

    About Codex Alera, I really REALLY want to read those, too. I keep meaning to pick up book 1 at the library and then I forget (of course). Hopefully I'll get to it fairly soon.

  • I loved the Dresden files, but if you didn’t like the first one, I suspect the rest will leave you cold as well. As I see it, does the humor hit you right off? If so, the book will work. If not, as someone above said, there’s lots of other stuff out there. For me, the humor carried me through any flaws in the mechanics of the writing.

    I suspect if you don’t care for this, you might want to give the Kevin Hearne books a miss as well. There’s lots of similarities of tone and approach.

    Thank you for doing this blog.

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