Storm Front (Dresden Files #1)
August 4, 2016 3:53 PM - by Jim Butcher - Subscribe

For Harry Dresden, Chicago's only professional wizard, 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.
posted by Fizz (10 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I just finished reading this book. I've long heard good things about this series. That being said, this first book in the series didn't pull me in the way I was expecting it to. I think it is because the central mystery of this novel felt a bit weak. In my opinion, it takes far too long for that urgency that so many good mystery novels have to begin and it didn't really pick up until only half-way through. But, maybe it's because there's so much information to introduce in this first book of a series.

I've been told by several people who are hardcore fans of Jim Butcher that this series picks up and vastly improves with the third or fourth novel, that the first two are a bit hit and miss. Still, there were some fun characters (Bob the talking Skull) and I enjoy Harry's self-deprecating humour. I'll definitely be going back to this series for more.
posted by Fizz at 4:01 PM on August 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I reread this one after having read most of the series and was surprised at how generally paint-by-numbers the first one was. The humor definitely sharpens over time, and Bob is an eternal delight. The seventh one was my favorite, if you want to continue with the series, although I don't really recommend the books from eight onward.
posted by tautological at 5:09 PM on August 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

For anyone interested, Kevin Hearne's The Iron Druid Chronicles is also very similar to this series. Only, it's a modern-day Celtic Druid who is dealing with various supernatural/paranormal events.
posted by Fizz at 6:25 AM on August 5, 2016

This first book is like the pilot that is aired as the first episode of a TV series. The characters haven't been fleshed out by the author, the rules of the universe aren't quite nailed down, the pacing is irregular. It gets much better as Butcher gets into the character of Dresden. The later books also dispense with the sitcomish secrets leading to misunderstandings leading to drama sequences.

Also a lot of time is spent in each book on the series arc; some of the pacing issues in the first book are because of it. On first read through one can't see it of course.

There are a short stories between the main story arc that are worth seeking out including one that takes place before Storm Front.

Bob is one of the greatest supporting characters ever.

PS: Ugh, it's important to add the author name to google searches for the book.
posted by Mitheral at 8:49 AM on August 5, 2016 [2 favorites]

I'm on book 11 or 12 in this series and it definitely gets more interesting and complex as more characters are added and the first ones are fleshed out. And as relationships develop. And as Big Bads get bigger and badder.

I do remember the first book being not bad, but also not great, and being told it gets better, and it does.

The short stories Mitheral mentioned are all collected in a book called Side Jobs, and the Wikipedia Dresden Files page has a list of the order/when to read them.

Looking forward to getting deeper in the series with y'all!
posted by danabanana at 11:15 AM on August 5, 2016

Just read this, on element that I noticed in the "world building" was that it felt like a bunch of assumed history was alluded to, enough that I remember checking if it was actually a first novel. The general sense of magic being great but use it a sparingly as possible because 'reasons'. And there was one character, a street smart cop that seemed like he'd be an ongoing dumped on in funny ways player that did not last long.

Yep and totally Team Bob, whoa, imagine going out on the town with Bob, put anything in the Hangover movies to shame.
posted by sammyo at 2:38 PM on August 5, 2016

Agree with much of above - this first book isn't very compelling but it's a serviceable intro to the series. The books get way better real quick.
posted by davidmsc at 2:31 PM on August 6, 2016

The books do improve, up through four or five before they drive off a cliff. They are all pretty decent light summer readong. It never reaches the heights of the River of London or Felix Castor series, but for modern mages chucking fireballs, it's readable.

That said, the series does have major flaws: for instance, whenever Harry says something about old-fashioned chivalry, think of that as actually being Butcher that says that. And if you ever worry about a woman becoming independently powerful and autonomous, don't worry, she'll be cut down to size soon enough.

Also, remember Harry is Chaotic Good, the Council is Lawful Good, and the enemies are Chaotic Evil. That drives the major conflicts.
posted by happyroach at 2:29 AM on August 7, 2016 [2 favorites]

The books do improve, up through four or five before they drive off a cliff. They are all pretty decent light summer readong.

Yeah, the Dresden books (along with Kim Harrison's Rachel Morgan series) are pretty good textbooks in how not to write a series. The first couple Dresden books are a little weak, for reasons stated above (Butcher didn't seem to have a good idea of where he was aiming), then #3-5 are pretty good as he gets his feet under him, then the accumulated weight of unresolved plot starts to slow him down, around #9 or 10, he seriously prunes his plots, and it feels kind of clumsy, like he's realized that he can't keep dragging all the baggage, but he often doesn't resolve things so much as end them. (He also does the usual thing of having overly elaborate social structures for groups that can't be all that large -- the Alex Verus series, which Dresden fans might also like (and Jacka wisely seems to be resisting the tendency of books to engorge as series go on) -- you pretty much can't think about numbers at all in these novels and just go with what the writer tells you).

Nevertheless, there are some good characters and plots and clever use of magic and crazy set pieces, and Butcher has a fondness for Chicago that really shines through, so they are worth a read. Some of the horror elements are scary, and Butcher does a pretty good job of not constantly undercutting them with humor. If you don't love the characters and plot by about #4, I would put down the series and try something else, but the first half dozen are pretty fast reads.
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:27 AM on August 7, 2016 [2 favorites]

I think I started with book three, and came back to the first two for completist reasons. There is a lot of good groundwork laid - enough to probably have kept me reading - but they're definitely clunkier. For what it's worth, I did think the series was taking a nosedive but the last book seems to have drawn me back in. I do wonder if the author will manage to do justice to some of his characters, though. I worry about Murphy.
posted by PussKillian at 7:44 PM on August 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

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