Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to…
Author: Jim Butcher
Narrator: James Marsters
Audio Speed: 1.25x
Series: Dresden Files #1-2
Genre: Urban Fantasy / Mystery
Wow! Just… wow! I was pleasantly surprised and extremely impressed with the audiobook of Storm Front, the first story from the Dresden Files series by James Butcher. I really didn’t know much about the series, never watched the show, and had no idea what to expect, other than I’d heard the books are good.
Harry Dresden is a wizard for hire – think private investigator with a bit of a twist. No one really believes him, but there are the few who either heard rumors or are desperate enough to seek his help. Most people don’t believe in magic or the supernatural, and those that do, don’t know the full extent of its reaches. Harry works in and around both kinds of people, helping where he can. He even helps out the police special investigations unit from time to time, and their current case is one that leaves even Harry a bit disturbed.
Storm Front is, at its core, a paranormal whodunit, and a complex and engrossing one at that. Told from Harry’s perspective, the listener is privy to supernatural details the average person wouldn’t pick up on. I loved how Harry’s brain works as he puts the pieces together. What I enjoyed even more were the compromises Harry must make with himself in order to do what is right in the grand scheme of things. Harry has a dark past and is subject to close scrutiny by the White Council, a sort of policing agency for wizards. Harry struggles with the best way to save those who need help, without endangering his own well-being. Unfortunately, the decisions he makes, while probably best in the long run, sometimes alienate those closest to him and even put him in the line of suspicion.
What makes this book even better is the sublime narration by James Marsters. Best known for his role as Spike on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, long gone is his cockney accent. Instead, listeners enjoy a deep, rich, soothing voice that embodies all that is Dresden: his worries, triumphs, fears, and celebrations. His cadence is extremely fitting, full of sighs, lip smacks, and pauses, creating the illusion that I’m actually inside Dresden’s mind as he works his way through the case and life. While he doesn’t attempt any overly feminine voices, which is probably for the better, there are subtle changes in tempo and tone, making it easy to follow dialogue.
Overall, I enjoyed listening to Storm Front immensely. Without giving spoilers, I am extremely happy with the way this one ended. The story is a wonderful mystery, with pieces coming together slowly yet logically. The creepiness of the supernatural world added an edge to the tale, making it one of the best audiobooks I’ve listened to this year.
This time around, Dresden is pulled into another police investigation that appears to have a supernatural twist. Police Lt. Karin Murphy, still having a bit a trouble trusting Dresden after some issues last spring (previous book), reluctantly brings in Dresden when it looks like there may be one or more werewolves killing people in and around Chicago.
Overall, I enjoyed the murder mystery at the heart of Fool Moon, but I felt it wasn’t as gripping as the first book, Storm Front. However, I enjoyed learning more about Dresden, Murphy, and Harry’s love interest, Susan. We get glimpses of a younger Dresden and learn more about what put him at odds with the White Council, as well as an apparent betrayal of epic proportions. Listeners are lead to believe that Dresden’s family has many hidden and potentially disastrous secrets, something I’m certain will surface in subsequent titles. I’m intrigued to say the least.
Dresden and Murphy’s relationship took a beating this time around. It pained me to see how little Murphy trusts Dresden. Once again, his internal battles over how much to trust and share with others created an interesting and likable character, about whom I want to know more and more. Similarly, Dresden and Susan looked a little deeper at their connection, and I was happy to see her take a larger, more meaningful role in the adventure.
While I found the story of werewolf murders interesting and engaging, especially with the involvement of gangster Johnny Marcone, I had some issues with the overall breadth of the mythology and plot. I felt that the mystery got bogged down by too many players and offshooting factors. Additionally, the climatic confrontation scene went on WAY TOO LONG. Seriously long. Like over an hour plus long. It started to bore me after a while. I also felt that Dresden was in certain peril too often throughout the entire book. He endured way too much torture and pain, and although he’s a wizard, he’s still human and there is no way that someone could make it through everything that he made it through. It was just over-the-top, and too much, and I can only take so many near-death experiences.
Certainly, the absolute BEST part of the entire book is the narration by James Marsters. His voice is rich and relaxing, yet kept me on edge during the most dire of times. I mentioned to someone recently at how he seems to BE Dresden rather than reading a book, and she suggested that maybe Mr. Marsters acting background is the reason. Whatever it is, I enjoy the nuances of expression Mr. Marsters is able to convey through his performance.
Overall an entertaining addition to the Dresden Files, and I look forward to listening to more.
My Rating: B