Storm Front by Jim Butcher
First, I must recuse myself. I am not a fan of first person POV. I’ve mentioned this before. I dislike first person so much that I generally disqualify books on that basis alone. This is the second 1st person POV book that I’ve read this year. The first was for the Women of Fantasy reading list. This one, Jim Butcher’s Storm Front, was also for my edification. I’m writing urban fantasy (kinda sorta), so I figured it was best to partake of some of the keystones of the genre.
Harry Dresden, Butcher’s private detective wizard, is an immensely likeable character. He’s an everyman with powers. This makes him very identifiable and, on that basis, it’s easy to understand why the Dresden Files have been popular. There’s also enough mystery to Dresden’s world to keep readers reading. What is Harry’s past? What other dangers are lurking just under the world that we, the readers, think we’re familiar with?
But alas, I won’t be reading further. There are too many things that bug me about Storm Front and what I fear is the general philosophy of these novels. Butcher doesn’t get into the nuts and bolts of the magic system, so he doesn’t really hurt himself with it. On the other hand, I wondered occasionally why Dresden didn’t rely a little more on magic. Why not use the handy wind spell to put out fire or at least bolster a dangling Harry? I can chalk it up to the wizard being too tired or too distracted, but I’m not given those reasons. I’m also never a fan of “I can’t tell X what is going on because it would be too Y.” Within a first person POV, a writer can easily make this sort of thought process sound reasonable. I don’t think it is. Honestly, within the bounds of this book, Dresden working as a consultant for the police doesn’t add much. (Considering I’ve read a few Dresden stories from Butcher’s Side Jobs, I assume this is a plot point that plays out more in later books.)
On the plus side, Butcher does a good job presenting a fast-faced, fun novel. As writer, there’s something to be learned from both side of the ledger.