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Storm Front

Storm Front  - James Marsters, Jim Butcher I have some very bad news. Please brace yourself.

Ready?

Okay.

James Marsters is not British.

I know. I know. I feel your pain. It's my pain, too.

The good news is, he's still totally crushable. Not as crushable, of course. But his so-called "real" voice is pretty awesome. I know, because I just listened to him read a whole book to me.

(That sounds as if I lured him over with my famous three-chocolate brownies, locked the doors, remembered that locking doors is pretty useless when the person you're trying to imprison is on the same side of the door as the unlocking mechanism, barred the doors with my lizards' tanks, told him said lizards were rabid and venomous and very very hungry, and told him that the price of leaving safely was to read aloud to me for several hours. I'm willing to let that impression stand.)

So: James Marsters is still worth listening to even when he's speaking in (sigh) an American accent.

Oh, and this book is pretty good, too.

And hard to classify. I want to see if my library carries it, because I want to see where they shelve it. Do you put it in the fantasy section on the grounds that the main character is a wizard, or do you put it in mystery fiction because he's a private detective who uses his magical powers to solve crimes?

I'm annoyed that I hadn't heard of this series until it was mentioned in a John Hodgman podcast, because this book is pretty much perfect. There's pretty much everything to like, and almost nothing not to.

I use those qualifiers because in this first volume, there's a teensy bit of mild-mannered sexism. Nothing to set off my really big alarms, but a couple of the little ones made some annoying noises. For instance, at the scene of a truly gruesome and obviously magically-committed crime, Harry says that he thinks the murders were committed by a woman, because they were obviously motivated by hate and "women hate better than men."

Um, yeah. When I see two people having a very separate relationship with several of the better-known internal organs, my first thought is, "Girl fight!"

That's a pretty minor incident, though; and my expert on these books swears up and down that Harry stops being this kind of hard-boiled dork in the rest of the books.

Harry Dresden is otherwise an extremely enjoyable character. He's very human. He has convincing emotional reactions to the horrors he witnesses (he's violently ill after viewing the aforementioned crime scene). He's awkward with women. He misses his mom and dad, who died when he was young. He's talented, intelligent, and very powerful, but he gets angry, impatient, and bummed out. And through it all, he has a great sense of humor.

His magical abilities are very balanced out by weaknesses, plus he's up against some seriously powerful enemies, so the story stays interesting. The world-building is awesome. And there's only one scene where the author draws things out and says, "Oh, so that's what happened. Okay. Now I get it," and then waits a page or two before telling the reader what the heck is going on. Most of the time, he shares all the information he has right away.

And every character has a skillfully tailored voice, so you can --

Oh, wait. That's only the recorded version. Which I hesitate to call the only version worth bothering with, since the book really is good enough to sit down and read on paper. Whether you're a fan of mysteries, urban fantasy, or just plain fast reads, go ahead and grab this.

Still, if you can get James Marsters to read it to you, go for that. I hear he loves chocolate.