Here I go again – starting a new series. I’m not quite sure when The Dresden Files first caught my attention, but I think it was around the time the thirteenth novel came out and graced front displays of every book store. Something tells me that was the moment I decided I wanted to check it out. To be honest, the genre is not something I would normally pick right off the bat. I’ve head my fair share of spooky fluff in my teenage years *cough*Laurel K. Hamilton *cough*, so my expectations towards something like “urban fantasy” were quite low. The Dresden Files kind of reinforced those feelings, but not in a bad way.
How many books out there can revolve around a private detective? Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe pretty much cemented the image of a roguish, sharp-tongued, fedora-wearing anti-hero. Harry Dresden is kind of like that… but he is also a professional wizard! Normally he is struggling to find a client and earns his living making dubious potions for desperate housewives, but once in a while he gets a call from the Special Investigations’ Karrin Murphy to assist in an mysterious case or two. The first book opens with a double murder under impossible circumstances, which sends Dresden and Murphy down the tangled leads towards a dangerous wizard and a new drug ring dominating the streets of Chicago.
The problem with Harry is that, while being likeable and cool, he is also kind of an ass. And the worst part is that the author doesn’t intend him to be that way. Jim Butcher casually writes it off as Harry being old-fashioned. But guess what, he comes off like an unapologetic chauvinist (and that’s coming from the last girl to throw a feminist card at a book). His first suspicion is that the murderer is a woman, because “Women are better at hating than men. They can focus it better, let it go better. Hell, witches are just plain meaner than wizards”. Let the eye roll commence!
The majority of characters in Storm Front are women, but none of them behave in a sensible manner. There is the strong-willed Murphy who kicks ass and leads an investigation team, but she also manages to freak out at Harry over nothing and jump into conclusions like the worst parody of a PMSing bitch. The scene with the scorpion just kills me. Seriously?! You’re still blaming the wrong guy?
There is the sexy reporter Susan, who will do *anything* to get a story for her gossip newspaper. The whole escape scene with her and Harry made me just shake my head. Harry spends half of the book talking about how tall and fast he is, but when it comes to being able to carry/drag a girl a few dozen feet to the safe place, he can’t do it. Nope, he just lets her sit there whimpering from fear and instead runs around in panic. Don’t get me started on Susan, who defies all logic and chooses to break down in a damsel in distress act, instead of running for her life like a mad woman.
What about the victimized Monica Sells, who can’t seems to make up her mind and do the right thing? And lets not forget about Linda, who treats sex as a form of escapism, and Madame Bianca – the beautiful vampire, who’s there just to add the over-used fanged monster to the book. I swear at least half of these girls were compared to a cheerleader at some point, and I know way more about their appearance than back story. None of these character really push the plot along. They are just accessories that make the plot possible, while Harry is the only one doing any thinking. Can you say, frustrating?
On the other side Storm Front is very fun. It has its little twists and turns, and pretty cool action scenes. The magic is done wonderfully, and Harry’s all-knowing spirit sidekick Bob is hilarious. Like I already said, the protagonist is quite likeable, even if a bit annoying. It’s just that the novel, while still refreshing and entertaining, felt underdone. Like if it stayed in the editorial oven for another couple of weeks, it might have turned out crispier, or something. My quick research has shown that most readers find first two books a little amature-ish, but promise the following ones to be extremely well done. I know I want to read the next instalment “Fool Moon” right away, which I am ready to bet going to deal with werewolves, so maybe it’s a promising sign.