WHAT MADNESS IS THIS?! Why is the Starving Reviewer, literary foodie and beggar at the indie author table, giving time to *haughty sniff* mainstream published faire? Because it’s a travesty not to read all kinds of fiction, mainstream or indie, and if I am going to eat the food, I’m damn sure going to review it! Expect the occasional mainstream review to crop up alongside the weekly indie reviews in the weeks to come.
Right, so, with that out of the way, Storm Front was dropped on my plate by a friend. “You love film noir stuff and Dashiell Hammett novels!” he said. “You love urban fantasy stuff! This is a great fusion of all that! You’ll love it!”
As my stomach was growling and I hadn’t found breakfast in the dumpster I was picking through yet, I made a surly grunt and took the proffered book to chew on. I was being promised a lot and I was skeptical if Mr. Butcher could deliver on the hype train barreling at me.
Before we find out if I was satisfied or was about to riot, let us never forget the Starving Review creed:
- I attempt to rate every book from the perspective of a fan of the genre
- I attempt to make every review as spoiler-free as possible
Being a cynical indie reviewer, of course I wanted to disbelieve the hype train but was I ever wrong! So very, very wrong.
Storm Front delivers on every promise my friend had made to me, but that doesn’t really cover it. Naturally, we have to start with the setting, an important player in both urban fantasy and film noir detective tales. The Chicago Mr. Butcher cooks up for us is one both familiar and strange, mixing the subtle shades of the supernatural seamlessly into the gritty city that feels like the natural descendent of the likes of Al Capone and the Prohibition-era gangsters. There is no conflict between the two elements, both of which seem strangely made for each other in this chef’s capable hands.
Plot and character both are liberally flavored from both genres, taking elements freely from both fantasy and hard-boiled pulps, once more with just the right balance from each. More importantly, everything is properly set-up, an important factor for both magic and mystery, never leaving the reader at a loss but also never over-explaining. The needed information rolls in at just the right points to inform and to foreshadow.
There’s a lot of care taken with the entire recipe, but most of all with the characters. Despite the fantastical elements, they feel real and that, above all things, helps carry the story onward. It just works and works well.
Really, there’s little else to say that wouldn’t delve into spoilers. Storm Front matches all the gushing praise that was thrown at me and the chef deserves every bit of credit for creating this perfect blend of the fantasy, mystery, and hard-boiled detective novels. It’s an auspicious start for what is now a long-running book series. Of course, the real proof will be if Mr. Butcher keeps this same level of excellence throughout the rest of the series. Expect me to find out in the future.
FINAL VERDICT: ***** (A masterful blend of urban fantasy, mystery, and hard-boiled detective novels! Bravo!)