June 22, 2014

Storm Front - A Novel Of The Dresden Files

I must admit that it took me 4-5 tries before I managed to finish Storm Front (Dresden Files). I bought the book because I'm always curious to see what made one particular book so special that it shot to the bestseller lists (especially if it's in the sff genres), and this one even has its own comic strip and TV show!

This time, I finally managed to finish it. Perhaps because I was in a different frame of mind or perhaps because it had been a while since I'd read a CSI-style fantasy (this book reminds me a lot of Laurell K. Hamilton's Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter series, which I greatly enjoyed before the latter turned into a XXX series).

Anywho, I thought this book was somewhat entertaining (though I already knew in the first couple of chapters whodunit). There wasn't anything surprising, the plot was fairly straightforward, and the magic was using tropes already employed before (should I blame my voracious reading for ruining the latter for me?).

Recommended for those who want a very easy read, and aren't too versed in the fantasy genre just yet.

Excerpt - Our P.I. Dresden decides to make a couple of potions, but first he needs to convince his interactive grimmoire-ish partner to help him out...

   The lights came up and revealed a long table in the center of the room, other tables against three of the walls around it, and a clear space at one end of the room where a brass circle had been laid out on the floor and fastened into the cement with U-shaped bolts. Shelves over the tables were crowded with empty cages, boxes, Tupperware, jars, cans, containers of all descriptions, a pair of unusual antlers, a couple of fur pelts, several musty old books, a long row of notebooks filled with my own cramped writing, and a bleached white human skull.
   "Bob," I said. I started clearing space off of the center of the table, dumping boxes and grocery sacks and plastic tubs over the brass circle on the floor. I needed room to work. "Bob, wake up."
   There was a moment of silence while I started getting some things down from the shelves. "Bob!" I said, louder. "Come on, lazybones."
   A pair of lights came up in the empty sockets of the skull, orangish, flickering like candle flames. "It isn't enough," the skull said, "that I have to wake up. I have to wake up to bad puns. What is it about you that you have to make bad puns?"
   "Quit whining," I told him, cheerfully. "We've got work to do."
   Bob the Skull grumbled something in Old French, I think, though I got lost when he got to the anatomical improbabilities of bullfrogs. He yawned, and his bony teeth rattled when his mouth clicked closed again. Bob wasn't really a human skull. He was a spirit of air--sort of like a faery, but different. He made his residence inside the skull that had been prepared for him several hundred years ago, and it was his job o remember things. For obvious reasons, I can't use a computer to store information and keep track of the slowly changing laws of quasiphysics. That's why I had Bob. He had worked with dozens of wizards over the years, and it had given him a vast repertoire of knowledge--that, and a really cocky attitude. "Blasted wizards," he mumbled.
   "I can't sleep, so we're going to make a couple of potions. Sound good?"
   "Like I have a choice," Bob said. "What's the occasion?"
   I brought Bob up to speed on what had happened that day. He whistled "no easy trick without lips), and said, "Sounds sticky."
   "Pretty sticky," I agreed.
   "Tell you what," he said. "Let me out for a ride, and I'll tell you how to get out of it."
   That made me ware. "Bob, I let you out once. Remember?"
   He nodded dreamily, scraping bone on wood. "The sorority house. I remember."
   I snorted, and started some water to boiling over one of the burners. "You're supposed to be a spirit of intellect. I don't understand why you're obsessed with sex."
   Bob's voice got defensive. "It's an academic interest, Harry."
   "Oh year? Well, maybe I don't think it's fair to let your academia go peeping in other people's houses."
   "Wait a minute. My academia doesn't just peep--"
   I held up a hand. "Save it. I don't want to hear it."
   He grunted. "You're trivializing what getting out for a bit means to me, Harry. You're insulting my
   "Bob," I said, "you're a skull. You don't have any masculinity to insult."
   "Oh yeah?" Bob challenged me. "Pot kettle black, Harry! Have you gotten a date yet? Huh? Most men have something better to do in the middle of the night than play with their chemistry sets."
   "As a matter of fact," I told him, "I'm set up for Saturday night."
   Bob's eyes fluttered from orange to red. "Oooooo." He leered. "Is she pretty?"
   "Dark skin," I said. "Dark hair, dark eyes. Legs to die for. Smart, sexy as hell."
   Bob chortled. "Think she'd like to see the lab?"
   "Get your mind out of the gutter."
   "No, seriously," Bob said. "If she's so great, what's she doing with you? You aren't exactly Sir Gawain, you know."
   It was my turn to get defensive. "She likes me," I said. "Is that such a shock?"
   "Harry," Bob drawled, his eye lights flickering smugly, "what you know about women, I could juggle."
   I stared at Bob for a moment, and realized with a somewhat sinking feeling that the skull was probably right. Not that I would admit that to him, not in a million years, but he was.
   "We're going to make an escape potion," I told him. "I don't want to be here all night, so can we get to work? Huh? I can only remember about half the recipe."
   "There's always room to make two if you're making one, Harry. You know that."
   That much was true. The process of mixing up an alchemical potion is largely stirring, simmering, and waiting. You can always get another one going and alternate between them. Sometimes you can even do three, though that's pushing i. "Okay, so, we'll make a copy."
   "Oh, come on," Bob chided me. "That's dull. You should stretch yourself. Try something new."
   "Like what?"
   Bob's eye sockets twinkled cheerfully. "A love potion, Harry! If you won't let me out, at least let me do that! Spirits know you could use it, and--"
   "No," I said, firmly. "No way. No love potion."
   "Fine," he said. "No love potion, no potion either."
   "Bob," I said, warningly.
   Bob's eye lights winked out.
   I growled. I was tired and cranky, and under the best of circumstances I am not exactly a type A personality. I stalked over, picked up Bob by the jaws and shook him. "Hey!" I shouted. "Bob! You come out of here! Or I'm going to take this skull and throw it down the deepest well I can find! I swear to you, I'll put you somewhere where no one can ever let you out ever again!"
   Bob's eyes winked on for a moment. "No you won't. I'm far to valuable." Then they winked out again.
   I gritted my teeth and tried not to smash the skull to little pieces on the floor. I took deep breaths, summoning years of wizardly training and control to not throw a tantrum and break the nice spirit to little pieces. Instead, I put the skull back on the shelf and counted slowly to thirty.
   Could I make the potion by myself? I probably could. But I had the sinking feeling that it might not have precisely the effect I wanted Potions were a tricky business, ad a lot more relied upon precise details than upon intent, like spells. And just because I made a love potion didn't mean I had to use it. Right? It would only be good for a couple of days, in any case--surely not through the weekend. How much trouble could it cause?

   I struggled to rationalize the action. It would appease Bob, and give him some kind of vicarious thrill. Love potions were about the cheapest things in the world to make, so it wouldn't cost me too much. And, I thought, if Susan should ask me for some kind of demonstration of magic (as she always did), I could always--
   No. That would be too much. That would be like admitting I couldn't get a woman to like me on my own, and it would be unfair, taking advantage of the woman. What I wanted was the escape potion. I might need it at Bianca's place, and I could always use it, if worse came to worst, to make a getaway from Morgan and the White Council. I would feel a lot better if I had the escape potion.
   "Okay, Bob. Fine. You win. We'll do them both. All right?"

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