Finished on 12/16/2018
Genres: Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, Mystery, Crime, Paranormal, Dresden Files
The Storm’s Coming in
This is a re-read for me, as a belated part of the ‘Legendarium’ podcast book club.
This is better than I remembered. My impression from ~12 years ago when I last read this was that it was fairly meh. At the time I was not yet sold on the existence of Urban Fantasy as a subgenre yet. Now, given the experience of 12 years of reading Fantasy, I can say that the plot and pacing of this novel is better than a lot of the UF drek I have read over the years.
The Dresden Files universe is one of the darker UF universes. Underneath the normal looking world we are familiar with, there are supernatural drug dealing gangs and vampire brothels. People disappear with alarming regularity, to be eaten by the supernatural beasties which populate earth’s cities. The good guy Powers-That-Be don’t feel compelled to do a whit to save those doomed souls. Harry Dresden is a light in the dark, a man who tries to help people despite his legacy of failure.
Plot: ‘Storm Front’ in particular has a good plot. Harry is a private eye assigned a case, trying to discover who is using black magic to kill people in a grotesque fashion. With every chapter which passes the author succeeds in upping the stakes, making it more and more vital that Harry succeeds- for fear of not just more people being killed by black magic, but also to prevent himself from being killed by the Powers-That-Be on suspicion of doing the crimes himself.
Pacing: The book has average quality pacing. Each scene is vital to the plot and the reader is pulled from page to page. It almost reads like a fast-paced thriller. However a lot of the scenes contain a good bit of fluff which could have been cut.
Characters: And here’s where things start to fall apart. Only Harry, Murphy, Morgan and Carmichael have fleshed out characterization- and Harry is the only one who is really strongly characterized. The other three have their moments of three dimensional characterization, but otherwise act in a predictable, almost 2-D, fashion.
And about Harry. He’s strongly characterized, but his personality is at times tacky. He’s a ‘gentleman with manners,’ the sort of guy who would never hit a girl. He’s chivalrous in a chauvinistic way. This works really well in counterpoint to Karen Murphey, a woman who refuses to take his shit and is more than willing to call out his chauvinism. But whenever Harry is on screen with any other woman he’s just tacky. In particular the scene between Susan and Harry involving the love potion was just wretched. It read like some poorly thought out fanfiction or erotica.
Besides that one (huge) flaw, Harry is an enjoyable character. He’s a down-on-his-luck Private Eye/Wizard who’s trying to make ends meet by working for anyone willing to throw him money. He’s a bit thick, but he always pieces together the clues eventually. He has his moments of ecstasy and depression. He’s not just locked into a single state of being like some fiction protagonists I’ve read. He is, quite simply, a good protagonist to base a series around.
I can broadly recommend this to just about anyone. STORM FRONT’S plot and pacing (as well as where the rest of this series) makes for a broadly enjoyable story. It has it’s flaws, but if you’re in the mood for a light UF read and you don’t mind that chauvinism thing you can give this a spin.