Book Review: Storm Front

Storm Front cover

I hope everyone is doing well, and prepared to head back to the daily grind.

It is about time for me to restock up on titles, especially because of new releases that be happening this month, but, before I do, I got a request from a Patreon donor to read a title, and let me have their copy to read.

Today, I will be reviewing that title, which is called Storm Front by Jim Butcher.

Chicago is place where peace is maintained by a balance between the everyday lives of ordinary people and those that take part in its criminal underbelly, with occasional problems resulting from the occult.

Harry Dresden is usually called upon to explain the unexplainable, but when he is called in by Chicago P.D. and is also requested by a civilian to find a missing spouse that may have dabbled with magic, he finds himself in the middle of a gruesome murder case and many suspect him of being the culprit.

Now, he must find the real killer before he experiences an unwanted outcome.

I must say, I really enjoyed this book.

Even though I cannot say that I was pulled right into the world from the moment I started reading this book, like I have with many other books, my attention was captured rather quickly and I did not want to stop reading for any reason, though I do have to satisfy the same needs that every other human being has.

Many of you guys who have been following me through my ups and down know that I have delved into the detective, mystery, and crime fiction genres quite a bit, with Detective Conan being the series that I cover well, but this is a bit of a new venture for me, and Jim seemed to do all the right things, including not making too many things obvious.

This is what I want to see from writers today, and Jim delivered, unlike many of the other writers who think that can pull of what Agatha Christie and the other great writers could do.

Nice job, Jim.

Hopefully, he can continue delivering this quality in his others, but because I am following quite a few series than have more than ten books, I am not sure that I will be able to check out his other work until a good number of the series that I follow end, one of which has 90 books and counting.

I also liked how I got the kind of atmosphere that I was expecting.

While I have read a few works in the detective, mystery, and crime fiction genres, many of them could be categorized as a whodunit or a story in which the detective must prove somebody that the audience knows is guilty.

This book, however, is considered hard-boiled fiction, much in the same vein as Sam Spade, who appears in Dashiell Hammet's The Maltese Falcon and, like Ms. Marple, Arsène Lupin, and Hannibal Lecter, was featured in the Gosho Aoyama's Mystery Library segment of a volume of Detective Conan, with a mix of fantasy, and hard-boiled fiction is said to have a gritty tone with tough-acting detective.

During the early part of this book, it really did give off this kind of feeling, more so than its magic aspect, as I expected it to, and it makes me want to give Jim a bit of applause in that respect, though it did kind of make me less interested in checking out the works of Dashiell Hammet and the other writers well-known in the world of hard-boiled fiction, as I like more of a peaceful transition into the story.

If he was not able to pull this off, I probably would have been a bit mad, because the hard-boiled fiction genre is supposed to be way different from what could be found in Detective Conan, the stories from Agatha Christie, the Sherlock stories from Arthur Conan Doyle, and Katou Motohiro's Q.E.D. and C.M.B., and fans of hard-boiled fiction would not be pleased.

Fortunately, it looks like Jim actually took the time to find out what a hard-boiled fiction story is, so nobody is really going to burn his house down over a lack of research.

Even if Jim does not get my patronage, I think that plenty of people would be pleased with the proper atmosphere this book has.

Another thing that I liked was the two cases presented was connected.

While this is nothing new to the world detective and crime fiction, this instance was a bit different because it felt a bit more natural than the many other moments that I had seen this done before, and had more hints.

In many of the stories that I have read, when there are different cases, two cases become connected because two different detectives realize their cases are connected, or the detective reveals that the two cases are connected, without much hint that they really are connected, so it comes off feeling like the author just needed to make the case that much more mysterious.

Here, however, there are a few signs that the cases themselves are actually connected, though I already had a feeling that there were connected, since that is usually the norm in the world of detective, mystery, and crime fiction.

If Jim were to encroach on the same territory that Agatha Christie, Arthur Conan Doyle, Edgar Allan Poe, and Gaston Leroux, the latter of which I do not think should have ever tried to enter the world of detective fiction, since I was not that impressed by Joseph Rouletabille in Mystery of the Yellow Room, I think that he would have probably done a nice job at it, because he merged the cases rather smoothly.

This is how the cases should be merged, as opposed to just merging them together because more than one detective is on the scene, even if it may happen in real life, and Jim seems to understand that much, and it makes me feel like giving him another round of applause.

It was also kind of nice that there were a few things to laugh about.

While I cannot name many scenes that stood out as being hilarious, like the mask incident in Detective Conan's Mist Goblin Murder Case, which ended up being an important clue to solving that case, or that could not be found in the kind of entertainment released where I live, I still got in a bit of chuckle every now and then, which helped to lighten the mood a bit.

Now, everyone could enjoy a good laugh or break from the tension every so-often, since continually getting the main genre vibe may not always be a good, but many people do not seem to be capable of smoothly transitioning between comedic moments and serious moments, which ends up completely ruining the book or series and disappoints the fans because the tonal shifts do not feel natural, or makes the comedic moments less funny.

Fortunately, Jim Butcher seems to understand the need of this balance and uses his comedic moments to lighten the mood, as they should, and it makes me want to applaud him even more.

Yes, tonal shifts are more of a problem in manga and anime than in the media made and distributed where I live, but a lot of the entertainment produced where I live also tend to focus more on comedy and/or eye candy, unless it is a book like this, than it does it presenting a story, so I think that moments like this should praised regardless of medium.

After all, I do not want the writers that come after Weston Kincade to think that it is okay to insert comedy whenever they feel like it.

Then again, if even prose fiction writers forget the important of smooth tonal shifts, then I would be okay with reading being as dead as math involving fractions, since most people in the real world mainly do math with only whole numbers and decimals.

For now, Jim gets a good grade in my book for being able to balance these two aspects.

The thing that I liked the most though was how magic was incorporated into this story.

In many series featuring magic, magic spells seem to be all powerful and items used to cast spells seem to have unlimited uses, which makes the battles seem to be as boring as the beam struggle between Mikoto Misaka and Therestina in the Poltergeist arc of A Certain Scientific Railgun.

If a story has magic, readers want the magic to not make either character look like some kind of god or come out with a full-on victory all time.

This is why I am not too much of a fan of the stories written where I live featuring magic, because, like superheroes, they do not really utilize magic in a way that seems like any side has done strategizing before or during the fight.

However, in this book, Dresden uses his items to their limits and even seems to be thinking of ways to defeat his opponents with what he has on hand. As a result, the magic battles themselves do not come as boring as the normal do, nor do they happen as frequently, since there are not too many wizards and such in this book.

Seriously, if magic were utilized more like this, I would not be as put off as I am, though I am more likely to give them a try than a story featuring vampires, werewolves, zombies, and the like.

Unfortunately, this is just one of the areas where western and English fiction will continually fail, because hardly anyone is going to have magic users that are adept in the art of magic as Mikoto Misaka is with her power over electricity, which seems more unique that how other electricity users seem to utilize it.

Still, I feel like Jim deserves some major props for not making the magic shown in this book to be all-powerful, otherwise a lot of the other nice things about this work would would not have been present if magic were all-powerful.

Outside of those things, I cannot think of anything else that I particularly liked.

Because my attention was captured rather quickly, though not as quickly as I would have liked, and maintained for the duration of the time I read this, delivered the kind of atmosphere that I would expect from hard-boiled fiction, and did not have magic that was all-powerful or magic items with unlimited use, this book was a fairly decent read.

Although I liked the book, there are some issues.

However, aside from things too minor to talk about, there was only one thing that really annoyed me.

I had a hard time getting immersed into the world of the book.

Now, this book was not as agonizing as The Book Thief, which too many pages interesting, but the start of this book felt very tedious.

Yes, I did say that this was my first foray into hard-boiled fiction, especially because I have not read anything featuring Sam Spade or anything like him, but that does not change the fact that readers want to have interest captured from only one chapter.

After all, if the first chapter cannot hook somebody, there is not much chance that the subsequent chapters will be able to change things.

Unfortunately, this book was not able to capture my attention that quickly, and I was made to wait for subsequent chapters, for when things did get exciting.

This might have garnered the interest of those who are fans of hard-boiled fiction, but not people like me, who only knew about the film adaptations of The Maltese Falcon prior to reading volume 21 of Detective Conan, which has the profile on Sam Spade that I brought up earlier.

I guess this is why I do not usually recommend a title to everyone, except to try something out, because being able to capture everybody's interest is practically impossible.

Sadly, I cannot really think of a way to improve this aspect, because it would take away from the enjoyable parts, so I call only mark this down as minor annoyance, since I might be able to deal with better if I give the other books in the Dresden series a try, much like how I had troubles with the pacing of A Certain Scientific Railgun Volume 1, yet I was fine with the subsequent volume.

Fortunately, as I stated before, this is the only problem with the book, so Jim Butcher did not do anything else terrible.

While there was only one issue, it was only bad enough to limit the potential audience, and did not hurt the quality of the book too much.

Considering that there was quite a bit to like, and only one minor annoyance, this was definitely worth reading.

I recommend this to fans of Jim Butcher and hard-boiled detective fiction.

As for everyone else, I would not say that this book should be avoided like the plague, as it might be worth giving a try, but I cannot really recommend this title if you have not read anything in the hard-boiled detective fiction genre, due to how long it took me to get interested.

If you have read this book, what are your thoughts on Storm Front? Please leave a comment and let everyone know why you liked it or hated it, especially if your reasons differ from mine or you disagree with me.

Also, if you liked this review and would like to see more, or you have a book you really want me to check out, please consider supporting me on Patreon, so that I can continue finding worthwhile reads.

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Copyright © 2015 Bryce Campbell. All Rights Reserved.