Reread of The Dresden Files
Book 1: Storm Front
by Jim Butcher
Welcome to Part 8 of my reread. Click here if you missed the Part 7!
Harry reaches his building and races up the stairs to his office to come to Murphy’s rescue. He pauses outside the open door and calls out Murphy’s name. No answer. Inside the office, he hears labored breathing and a scuttling sound. He also smells gunpowder. Angered, Harry strides into his office and surveys the room.
Murphy was lying behind Harry’s desk, blood staining her left shoulder. Harry kneels down next to her and checks her injury. There is a lot of swelling, and Harry realizes she’s been poisoned and calls 911 for an ambulance. In pain, Murphy accuses Harry of setting her up. Murphy handcuffs herself to Harry.
“You’re under arrest,” she wheezed. “You son of a bitch. Wait till I get you in an interrogation room. You aren’t going anywhere.”
I stared at her, stunned. “Murph,” I stammered. “My God. You don’t know what you’re doing.”
“Like hell,” she said, her lip lifting in a ghost of its usual snarl. She twisted her head around, grimacing in pain, and squinted at me. “You should have talked to me this morning. Got you now, Dresden.” She broke off in a panting gasp, and added, “You jerk.”
“You stubborn bitch from hell.” I felt at a loss for a second, then shook my head. “I’ve got to get you out of here before it comes back,” I said, and I stooped forward to try to gather her up.
The scorpion talisman attacks, no the size of a large terrier. It tries to sting Harry, misses, but some venom splashes on his cheek, burning him. Being handcuffed to Murphy makes it difficult to dodge the scorpion’s attack. The scorpion’s claw wounds Harry in the leg. Murphy becomes incoherent and then the venom blinds her.
Harry discards in plan to use magic to cut the handcuffs for fear of killing himself and Murphy in the process and curses his dad for never showing up to slip out of handcuffs. Finally, Harry manages to pull himself and Murphy out of the office, leaving behind his staff and blasting rod. Harry drags them to the elevator while the scorpion burst through his office door.
Harry frantically jabs the elevator button as the scorpion advance, and Harry realizes that the scorpion is still growing in size. As it charges, Harry holds up his left arm and activates his shield bracelet. The scorpion bounces off the shield as the elevator doors open. Harry throws himself and Murphy into the elevator.
The elevator descends, and Harry finally has a moment to think about the scorpion. He realizes its to smart for an actual scorpion, and it must be a construct, like a golem or a robot. Victor must have realized his talisman was missing and put a spell on it. Suddenly, the elevator stops and the control panel starts to smoke. Above, the scorpion has managed to pry open the elevator doors, and has dropped down onto the roof of the elevator.
Harry desperately racks his brain for a plan as the scorpion, now the size of a small car, tears the roof apart. Harry gets the idea to push the elevator car up with a massive column of wind and smash the scorpion between the elevator and the ceiling of the shaft. “Vento servitas!” shouts Harry, and the elevator rockets up, pushed by the wind, and smashes the scorpion to pieces and turns to ectoplasm goo.
However, the elevator brakes were destroyed, and the elevator begins to plummet back down towards the ground. Harry uses his shield bracelet to form a cushion of energy around himself and Murphy. The elevator smashes into the ground floor and the doors open and Harry and Murphy tumble out to find two astonished EMTs.
I was alive.
I blinked at that, somewhat stunned. I was alive. I looked down at myself, at my arms and legs, and they were all there. Then I let my head fall back and howled out a defiant laugh, a great, gawping whoop of primal joy.
“Take that, Victor Shadowman!” I shouted. “Hah! Hah! Give me your best shot, you murderous bastard! I’m going to take my staff and shove it down your throat!”
I was still laughing when the EMTs gathered me up and helped me and Murphy toward the ambulance, too stunned to ask any questions. I saw them both give me wary looks, though, and then trade a glance with one another that said they were going to sedate me with something as soon as they got the chance.
Harry continues his adrenal filled rant and notices his shield bracelet was destroyed. Outside, it is raining and Harry’s elation vanishes. “The storm had arrived.”
Harry has funny pamphlets titled “Real Witches Don’t Float so Good” and “Magic in the Twenty-first Century.” Harry had actually written some himself. He’s really committed to showing the world about the supernatural.
While Murphy is incoherent from the scorpion venom, she reveals she has multiple ex-husbands who all have told her that she makes “things just a little harder than they need to be.” Poor Harry, he’s trying to save her life and all she can talk about is arresting and interrogating him. We meet one of those ex’s later (the second husband) while the first dies off screen of a heart attak midway through the series.
We get the first Harry Dresden Wily-e Coyote planTM with the wind and the elevator. Good thing Harry remembered his physics and used his shield to basically act like packing peanuts to distribute the force of their impact so they wouldn’t die when they hit the ground. Butcher’s devotion to realistic physics in his magic series is always great to see.
And it’s always fun to see a Harry rant while he’s on an adrenaline high.
Harry is still handcuffed to Murphy as Harry and an EMT carry Murphy. Harry’s hands are too big to slip through the cuffs but Murphy’s aren’t. Harry works her cuff off her hand, taking a little skin with it. They set Murphy down on the curb and the EMTs begin to work on her. Harry tells the second EMT she’s been poisoned and that EMT patches up Harry’s leg wound real quick. As the second EMT begins to also work on Murphy, Harry slips out of the scene before the police arrive.
Harry realizes that the storm has come in from the west and hasn’t reached Victor Sells lake house. So if he hurries, he can race the storm. Harry doesn’t have time to retrieve his staff and rod. All Harry has is his mother’s pentacle talisman and years of formal training. First, Harry has to get a car. Harry quickly walks down to McAnally’s and finds the place packed.
They were the have-nots of the magical community. Hedge magi without enough innate talent, motivation, or strength to be true wizards. Innately gifted people who knew what they were and tried to make as little of it as possible. Dabblers, herbalists, holistic healers, kitchen witches, troubled youngsters just touching their abilities and wondering what to do about it. Older men and women, younger people, faces impassive or concerned or fearful, they were all there. I knew them all by sight, if not by name.
They had heard two wizards were about to throw down and had come to McAnally’s for shelter. Harry walks over to the bar and asks to borrow Mac’s car. With a grunt, Mac throws him his keys. Harry turns, and finds Morgan standing at the pub’s doorway.
Morgan accuses Harry of using the storms to fuel the spells to kill people, and orders Harry to sit down. Morgan wants to prevent Harry from killing anyone else. Harry tries to explain that he knows who the real killer is, and that he’s going to be killed in the next hour if he doesn’t stop him. Morgan draws his sword. So Harry grabs a chair and hits Morgan in the stomach, and then hit him again on the back, knocking Morgan to the ground senseless.
Harry flees the bar, knowing he just burned that bridge.
Even though Murphy handcuffed and tried to arrest him, Harry still feels bad about abandoning her. But, hey, he doesn’t want to die, so you can’t blame the guy. She’s with the EMTs, and it was out of his hands anyway.
And Morgan continues to be a giant dick. While his plan would be laudible if Harry was the real killer, we know he’s not. And Harry can’t afford to sit around and die. Great moment when he slams that chair into Morgan’s back. Of course, if Harry survives Victor Shadowman, the Council is really going to hate him.
One crisis at a time. It’s like that proverb when your only chance to escape is to jump off the cliff. So you jump and hope you can figure out something before you hit the ground.
Mac is a great guy. He doesn’t even question Harry when he barges in and asks to borrow a car. Just grunts and hands him the keys.
Mac’s car was a ’89 TransAm, and Harry drives it as fast as he could (the speedometer tops at 130 mph, Harry went faster at times). Luckily Its Sunday and traffic is light. Harry manages to get ahead of the storm just as he enters Lake Providence city limits. As Harry pulls into Victor Sells lake house driveway, the car dies. It had lasted long enough to get Harry here.
Harry surveys the house. Their could be magical alarms or traps, illusions or other spells just waiting. Harry needs to know and so opens his Third Eye.
The only thing I can say is that I felt as though a veil of thick cloth had been lifted away from me as I opened my eyes again—and not only from my eyes, but from all of my senses. I could abruptly smell the mud and fish odor of the lake, the trees around the house, the fresh scent of the coming rain preceding the storm on the smoke-stained wind. I looked at the trees. Saw them, not just in the first green coat of spring, but in the full bloom of summer, the splendor of the fall, and the barren desolation of winter, all at the same time. I Saw the house, and each separate part of it as its own component, the timbers as parts of spectral trees, the windows as pieces of distant sandy shores. I could feel the heat of summer and the cold of winter in the wind coming off the lake. I Saw the house wreathed in ghostly flames, and knew that those were part of its possible future, that fire lay down several of the many paths of possibility that lay ahead in the next hour.
Dark emotions cover the house like mold, and skulls adorned everywhere. Death lies in the house’s future, maybe Harry’s. Ghost and restless spirits have been drawn to the place like rats. Harry is both repulsed by the sight of the evil power in the house and attracted to it. Real power was here. Power to change the world to Harry’s desires. This is what he had turned his back on and his reward had been suspicion and contempt.
Harry realizes he could kill Victor right know, burn the house to the ground with the dark energy contained within. Anger surges in Harry. With such power, he could challenge the Council and their pathetic watchdog, Morgan.
The silver pentacle that had been my mother’s burned cold on my chest, a sudden weight that made me gasp. I sagged forward a little, and lifted a hand. My fingers were so tightly crushed into fists that it hurt to try to open them. My hand shook, wavered, and began to fall again.
Then something strange happened. Another hand took mine. The hand was slim, the fingers long and delicate. Feminine. The hand gently covered mine, and lifted it, like a small child’s, until I held my mother’s pentacle in my grasp.
The pentacle was a symbol of white wizardry, or order and rational. Harry calms down and remembers that magic came from life. “There is no truer gage of a man’s character than the way in which he employs his strength, his power.”
I was not a murderer. I was not like Victor Sells. I was Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden. I was a wizard. Wizards control their power. They don’t let it control them. And wizards don’t use magic to kill people. They use it to discover, to protect, to mend, to help. Not to destroy.
The anger fades. The hand touching his is gone, but a lingering whiff of perfume remains. Harry gather his courage, and walks forward through the “spectral landscape littered with skulls.”
Harry has his “Galadriel tempted by the One Ring moment.” I guess Harry get to remain Harry, and travel across the sea to… Err, no I guess he gets to go duel a Black Wizard with nothing but his wits.
I really liked how the spirit of Harry’s mother brings Harry back from the edge. Her spirit makes a few more appearance and we learn a lot more about her past.
Harry got a bum deal. He made the right decision, rejected his master’s offer to go to the dark side, and instead of getting an attaboy from the good guys, he got probation officer that is constantly threatening murder.
I really like the Sight’s description. Its a neat premise and always enjoy the description Butcher comes up with when Harry uses it throughout the books. I really liked how he can see the trees that the lumber came from. Nice touch.
Well, Harry is marching into his Mordor. Good Luck!