I’ll be honest. We’re three weeks away from the release of the new Kate Daniels book and I am desperate to find things that will tide me over until I can get my hands on Magic Breaks.* The obvious nicotine patch was The Dresden Files, one of the most popular ongoing urban fantasy series. It didn’t hurt that my husband (whom I have successfully hooked on Kate Daniels) has been advising me to read Dresden for months.
Book 1 of The Dresden Files, Storm Breaks, introduces us to a modern Chicago that’s just a tiny bit different from our own. Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden is the only wizard in the Chicago phone book, and most of the calls he gets are from cranks who want to mess with him. He gets by, however, because Detective Karrin Murphy of the the Chicago Police Department calls him in as her consultant when a crime scene is just a little too weird.
Storm Front follows Harry as he tries to juggle two cases. The first involves a missing husband named Victor Sells, whose wife Monica seems to actually think Harry is the real deal for once.
The second, and more disturbing, case involves two murders: a high-class prostitute and a mobster killed when someone caused their hearts to explode out of their chests.
I enjoyed Storm Front; it was a quick and compelling read. And yet, it felt a tad predictable. Nothing about the mystery, or about the world-building, really surprised me or made me sit up and take notice of Dresden’s world. I felt like I’d read this all before in other urban fantasy books.
Which is a slightly unfair reaction. Storm Front was published in 2000, after all. Fourteen years later, things that were innovative when Butcher first wrote them have become routine, even clichéd, parts of the urban fantasy landscape. But in a genre that I expect to surprise and intrigue me, that sense of familiarity was definitely a drawback.
I also didn’t love Harry’s attitude towards women, which occasionally verges on chauvinistic. However, Butcher manages to pull off a rare feat: in a first-person narrative, he finds ways to undermine Dresden’s worldview, whether it involves Murphy being a total badass or a sharp reporter getting the best of Dresden almost every time they meet. I think we’re supposed to roll our eyes at Harry when he gets a bit dumb about women, but I kind of wish Butcher had picked a less annoying character flaw for Harry.
In the end, however, the true test of a series’ first book is whether you want to read the second. I definitely did. This classic series may now feel a little worn, but it still has a lot of charm.
Rating: Library Loan
* Moral dilemma time, folks. Should I buy Magic Breaks for Kindle? I adore Amazon’s convenience and can’t imagine life without my e-reader. But the Amazon-Hachette battle has left me very uneasy. While I acknowledge that Hachette is a giant multizillion dollar media conglomerate that can defend itself, thanks-very-much, more and more I worry that buying e-books from Amazon makes me complicit in their plan to become a monopoly. And not the fun kind with top hats and second prizes in beauty contests.