Jim Butcher: Strom Front (2000) Book One of the Dresden Files

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I didn’t see this coming. A while back I reviewed Simon R. Green’s Something From the Nightside. A so-called Paranormal-Noir or Paranormal hard-boiled detective novel. I enjoyed Green’s book although I knew that his Nightside novels  were often compared to Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files and that most people thought Butcher’s series was superior. I was very keen on trying Storm Front, the first Book of the Dresden Files and see what I would think. I was convinced I would like the Dresden Files much better.  Well . . .  I didn’t. And that for a simple reason: I found it too silly. It’s not without merits, I can see the appeal because, even more than Green’s Nightside novels, this is classic hardboiled detective terrain. Only the detective is a wizard. Even that would be OK but the magic that is used in this book did just not work for me. Dresden often conjures up things, and casts spells, and to do so he uses some fake Latin which was really painful to read. Ventas! Fuego! Scorpis!  . . .  Most of it sounded like some kind of Esperanto. I can’t help it but I’ve had a classic upbringing, I had to learn Latin and some old Greek at school, sloppy fake Latin conjuring is just not going to do it for me. I see that part of it is meant as a parody (or at least I hope so) but that didn’t make it any better.

The story as such was interesting enough. Harry is called by the police to help in the investigation of a grisly double murder. Two people have literally been turned inside out and it is obvious that the perpetrator used powerful black magic. At the same time Harry is  hired to look into the disappearance of someone’s husband who has been dabbling in magic.

In typical hardboiled style, women are after Harry, he gets beaten up more than once, the mob takes an interest in him, the Council of the white mages suspects he is the killer and so on and so forth. Some of it is quite amusing. Harry has a ghostly assistant who resides in a skull and who likes to chase girls. Some of the repartee with clients, journalists, police is amusing too.

Some people complained that Green squeezed the same amount of story that takes up 350 pages in the Dresden Files into barely 200 pages. I must say, I liked the condensed  approach much better. After I finished Something From the Nightside, I felt compelled to read the next in the series. I don’t think I’m going to read Book Two of the Dresden Files.

32 thoughts on “Jim Butcher: Strom Front (2000) Book One of the Dresden Files

  1. A shame you didn’t like this one. I read it a couple of years ago and enjoyed the silliness. But I have to admit, I haven’t read the next in the series yet. It’s good, but wasn’t addictive for me.

  2. I started this a couple of years back after several people recommended it to me, but I just didn’t rate the writing. If I want light entertainment I have tons of good choices already on my shelves, this one just did nothing for me. I didn’t finish it.

    Admittedly the supernatural genre doesn’t particularly appeal to me, but I’m not opposed to it either (I watch both Supernatural and True Blood on tv, though I’ve absolutely no intention of reading True Blood). Generally the titles I’ve seen just don’t seem very well written, the standards just don’t seem as high as say readers expect in the crime genre.

    • If I wasn’t such a obessive book finisher, I think i wouldn’t have finished this. Towards the end I thought it was really painful. I’ve enjoyed a few supernatural series beginnings and although the writing is often nothing special, they still worked far better than this. I was going to write a post comparing some of the TV series with the books as I’ve tried a few now. It might be good as a warning. While True Blood is better as a TV series, compared to Jim Butcher, Charlaine Harris is the better writer.
      I think the main problem with some of the paranormal crime is that thye use the hardboiled tropes but fail on the style side. Noir needs a specfic type of writing, dialogue … All missing here.

      • I absolutely agree on the style side. From what I’ve seen most of them copy the obvious tropes, but they miss the taut nature of the original source books. They become mere pastiche, not a development of the form.

        • I agree. I was wondering whether he was writing a parody but I’m not so sure. I think it’s rather a pastiche.
          I wonder what would happen if someone wrote something like this, paying a lot of attention to style and getting that right as well. I think what annoyed me more was the voice and the plotting was lame too.

  3. This is interesting. I have recently been recommended this series by a friend, in part because of its humor. Sadly, I haven’t had a classical upbringing and have never studied Latin so I will probably not experience the same annoyance with the slobbiness of it.

    • There is plenty of other silliness I found annoying but the Latin was just like when you watch an American movie set in Spain and all the actors speak with a heavy Spanish accent. Let’s see how you will like it.

  4. Oh my, you’re to be applauded for finishing this one, Caroline. I too studied Latin and that’s just lazy writing unless it’s meant to be parody like you said. The cover is enough to turn me off.
    I used to be compulsive about finishing books, but if I still hate it after 100 pages, I’m done.

    • I think I didn’t hate the first 100 pages all that much, it got worse later. I expected something different. I think it had potential.
      With rare exceptions I always have to finish and sometimes it does pay off.

  5. Too bad that this was so disappointing. The idea of a wizard standing in for a hard boiled detective is a neat one.

  6. Sorry to know that you didn’t like Jim Butcher’s series as much as you had hoped to, Caroline. The fake Latin is sad. The character of Harry’s ghostly assistant who resides in the skull sounds quite interesting though. I enjoyed reading your conversation with Max in the comments. I liked what you said – that style and dialogue are crucial in hardboiled fiction. Hope you enjoy your next book more.

    • Thanks, Vishy, I am. :9 I’m reading Siri Hustvedt and my readalong book. Both are great.
      The fake Latin was too silly for me. Soe of the hardboled fiction I’ve read had the greatest dialogue.

      • Wonderful to know that you are reading Siri Hustvedt now. Which book are you reading? Hope you enjoy reading it and your readalong book. Happy reading!

  7. I always read your reviews, even if I know I’m never going to read the book! Paranormal is not a genre I’m drawn to, so I can quite understand your finding this one silly. I should think it would be easy to collapse into implausibility. But one day you’ll recommend something really wonderful that’s paranormal and I’ll have to give it a try!

  8. “…this is classic hardboiled detective terrain. Only the detective is a wizard.”
    That was what did for me! Not my thing I fear.

  9. Too bad this one didn’t work for you, but I have a feeling I know where you are coming from and it isn’t my genre either. I think I’ll stick with regular run of the mill hardboiled detective fiction. The other time slip book you read and wrote about appealed a bit more. Anyway, it’s an interesting twist on the style, but maybe one for a different audience than myself.

    • He has such a huge fanbase, it could have been good. I noticed that the paranormal books I really enjoyed were mostly written by women. The have a bit of another take,and I don’t mind to read about some kick-ass heroines once in a while.
      I think what many like about Harry Dresden is that he sn’t all that hard but that was what got on my nerves after a while. He’s whiny and the problems are ultimately not that big since he’s a wizard and will always find a way out.

  10. I got in to this series very heavily and perhaps because I went about it the wrong way.

    I had never read an urban fantasy and on a whim I picked up Proven Guilty, a later case in the series, and could not put it down. I enjoyed it so much that even though I couldn’t read them in order I read them all anyway.

    And you’re right, Storm Front is a weaker novel but I feel you might be missing out on something delightful by stopping now if this is your type of genre. My thinking is that Butcher was just getting a shaky foundation built with the first book but in the end has put together a very nice home.

    Also, I agree with your thoughts on the fake Latin. It does sound a bit silly and I have never learned the language myself. But it becomes easier to accept when it is explained that the words themselves are not important but the intention behind them. After that I sort of forgot it was a lame attempt at a joke and the words became their own entity and sometimes part of the plot.

    I hope you give the rest of the series a chance. Storm Front to me is like the bad pilot episode of what ends up being a great show.

    • Thank you very much for your comment.
      I know what you mean about the bad pilot to a great show and if that’s the case here, then there is actualy still a lot of hidden potential.
      I’m quite fond of the genre, not that I read a lot of it but I retunr to it again and again.
      In my experience the first in a series is often the best, but of course, there is always an exception to every rule. I guess the Latin really got to me.
      How would you go about this sreis then, pick no 2 or one of those that were more highly acclaimed? Or maybe the one you mention?

      • I agree that the first in a series is usually the best but I think we should take in to account that this is Burtcher’s first published novel if Wikipedia is to be trusted. I don’t think it’s too far of a stretch that this is the author just starting out and getting his footing.

        I didn’t read any two installments in order when I first began reading this series due to a lack of supply at my bookstore but I didn’t find it mattered terribly. But I understand how some people have issue with that. If that’s the case move on to Fool Moon. If not Grave Peril is said to be where the series really begins to pick up momentum.

        Also, after reading the comments I’d like to add that I think people are approaching this series at the wrong angle. This isn’t a hard boiled detective novel where the P.I. sits in a dank office in a haze of cigarette smoke, half finished bottle of whiskey on the desk, .45 in the left drawer, calloused knuckles, and a mysterious dame knocking on the door.

        Harry Dresden, as a character, has always struck me as just some regular guy. He eats at Burger King, drinks Coca-cola, reads old paperbacks, enjoyed the Star Wars movies, and spends time with his friends. His major fault is that he’s always trying to do the right thing which more often than not gets him in way over his head, escaping by the skin of his teeth but not without losing something very important in the process. This always leads to what feels like natural character development from book to book.

        I know this comment is getting a bit long winded so I’ll just end it by saying that I’ve been reading each novel as they get released since I picked up the series six or seven years ago and I must admit that I’ve developed a emotional connection to the main character in the kind of way a good book should. I’ve found myself getting sad when bad things happen and almost cheering with the good. I know the genre is not for everyone but I believe Butcher has created a believable, realistic character who just so happens to be a private investigator and a wizard.

        Then again I could just be an obsessive fan with too much time on my hands. I really hope not. 😛

        • I will have to find out which one sums it up. 🙂
          The problem is that it’s marketed like a paranormal hardboiled novel and – of course – that leads to certain expectations. I think I even saw marlowe mentioned on my cover.
          Now admittedly Chandler is one of my al-time favourite writers and I love Marlowe like hardly any other literaray charcater, so obviously a compariosn to him could only end in disaster.
          I’ve read one harry Dresden short story, which is set later in the series and I liked that quite a bit.
          If I try another one I might jump to Grave Peril riht away but I still have a few other series beginnings here which I might read first.

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