For those who may not know, I may have already talked of games, films, music, but my one thing is books. Books are my thing; not that I am an expert at them, I just happen to love them (hence the title of the category).
I love the feel of them, I love how they make me feel in a different reality better than any screen, how flexible is their meanings and how they can convey anything I need when I need it. I love the good ones and I even like the bad ones because there is always something to learn from it.
I am not ashamed to read almost exclusively sci-fi and heroic fantasy even if I respect the classics (especially when they are as witty as a Jane Austen’s). I recognise the masters but do not swear by them and most of the time I let the books choose me. After all I belong to them as much as they belong to me ; none of us can come into true existence without the other.
But let us leave the philosophical side of my reading addictions here. What I want to talk about is the book I just finished: Jim Butcher‘s Storm Front (The Dresden Files #1).
I was warmly recommended the Dresden Files series and the first book was bought as a present to me. I was also warned that the first book was the worst of the series and that I should push myself through it. Which I did with surprising ease.
It is true that I felt the book quite grindy in the beginning. Not so much because of the story but because of how it was told. Some authors seem to think it is easier to write in the first person as you only have to manage one point of view at a time and go through the story at your characters pace. I found however that well done first person is incredibly rare. So Harry Dresden annoyed me pretty much from the start.
In Storm Front Harry Dresden feels more like it was fleshed out of a personal fantasy. A male Mary Sue if you will. It is hard for me to describe how I perceived him but I can say it leaned a bit too far on the broken but lovable anti-hero stereotype. He also gave me vibe of a grown up and slightly wittier Harry Potter, easily erring on the side of self-pity. But worst of all, I hated his “chivalresque” “old-fashioned” (call it what you must) attitude towards female characters. The fact that most said women ended up being attractive to him AND attracted to him did not help to shake the initial impression of a glorified fan-fiction.
I think it is the problem with being in the head of a character. They end up thinking too much and sounding too self-aware compared to what is naturally left to instincts and unconscious pathways of our brains. By the middle of the book I was a bit fed up of hearing Harry thinks, hesitate, make strange decisions and indulge in quite a bit of dark humoured self-depreciation. The good character concept of “Wizard P.I.” also feels under-exploited and almost gimmicky.
However, I also found out that I could not stop reading. The story, conducted as a classic murder investigation with a sprinkle of magic on top, was fast paced and engaging enough to let me forget the other flaws. The plot is linear as investigations go with a predictable final twist but overall it is believable. The almost neverending state of impending doom that Dresden put himself into is gripping and makes for quite the page turner as you wonder how the hell he is going to get out of yet another sticky situation.
Jim Butcher’s writing style is not perfect, but I understand this was his first book and at least it is simple enough to make for a quick reading. The most interesting part of the story is his interpretation of the interaction of classic magic with the modern world which is always a difficult exercise. In the book, the magic has its rules and limits and is used logically, not simply as a plot device. It is in end what made Dresden endearing to me, how he has great power but needs to use it with consideration and intelligence lest he would run out of it or fall to the dark side. This is where the story-telling proved to be as smart as the character claimed to be and really appealed to the readers’ intellect.
Overall it was an enjoyable and entertaining read with some flaws that can be overlooked for the sake of delving deeper into this good representative of Urban Fantasy. I believe Jim Butcher managed to create something solid with a lot of potential and I can understand how the concept has spawned 14 more books after Storm Front. I will, of course, make sure to read those and report back here.
In the meantime, next book review will be for Larry Correia’s Hard Magic.