Whether or not you like Harry Dresden will depend on your tolerance for annoyingly cliched tools used to entertain you. I mean, I like reading Ian Fleming, so it would be silly (or at least inconsistent) for me to claim that Jim Butcher is particularly egregious or untalented. Butcher is not a great
writer — at least not in this book — but he's not an altogether bad one, and Storm Front
is a moderately entertaining caper about a Chicago wizard/PI who has the usual problems of scraping up rent, a missing person to find, mobsters on his case, shadowy nemeses who want him dead, femme fatales, and magic and vampires and faeries and a lecherous talking skull thrown into the mix for fantasy flavor.
Suspensions of disbelief are always required in UF, and my biggest one was actually a fairly prosaic concern: dude has magic powers
, in a world where those are pretty rare (the book is not altogether consistent about whether the wizarding world — yeah, I'm gonna call it that — is "secret" or just generally goes incognito) and yet he's struggling to pay his bills. Okay, I get it, Magic Has Rules and you can't just conjure up a pile of gold, but still, as the only wizard in the entire Chicago area, and supposedly a pretty formidable one (despite the fact that he gets his ass kicked by everyone he meets, magical and mundane alike), you'd think Dresden could come up with more innovative ways to profit off of his talents than advertising in the phone book as someone who will find your lost wallet.
Some of the worldbuilding is intriguing (the White Court, the rules of wizardry which seem to be reasonably well thought out without being excessively infodumped) and some are just lazy (vampires, faeries, ghosts, etc., Butcher seems willing to drop the whole fantasy kitchen sink into his universe).
As a character, Harry Dresden is a neckbeard's wet dream, a clueless virgin who most of the gorgeous women he meets (all
of the women he meets are gorgeous) throw themselves at, so he can manfully refuse their advances and congratulate himself on what a stand-up guy he is for not exploiting the chicks whose boobs he's totally not ogling. We get lots of passages about what a tortured bad-ass he is: his "soul-gaze" routine, where he looks into someone's eyes and they see into each other's souls and most people faint because Dresden is so, so dark inside
, man! — is kind of contradicted by everything else he does, which is bumble around cluelessly, get bushwhacked by thugs with baseball bats, bullied by cops and mobsters, and try to figure out those mysterious confusing lady-creatures.
That said... the book was fun in a well-trodden way, there were some small bits that were neat, and I found it passably entertaining. Do I really want to go on and read the rest of the series? Practically every Dresden fan says that the first few books aren't very good but Butcher gets a lot better deeper into the series. That's not exactly an alluring prospect: "Read two or three mediocre books before you really get into it." But at some point I'll probably pick up the next one.