Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Jim Butcher's STORM FRONT, Part 4

SCHEDULE NOTE:  “Links of Interest” will be back next Wednesday.


As I said earlier, the mystery may drive the urban fantasy plot, but the worldbuilding is strictly fantasy.

Butcher's world contains many of the standard tropes and characters of a English-based fantasy-- magic, magic users, vampires, the fae, other magical creatures, and a magical realm--the NeverNever.  

In later novels, he'll toss in Odin and a Valkyrie as well as Biblical demons and their slayers from the Christian belief system, among others.  


Butcher's wizard magic is generic and found in many fantasy novels and games.  The primary methods of magic are--

Evocation--physical expression of magic.  Flames from the hands, etc.  Must be line of sight to the victim.

Potions--ingredients reflect elements of what you want to achieve.  See page 100 for an explanation.

Thaumaturgy--Evil magic in Dresden's world.  "As above, so below."  Voodoo correspondence.  Not evil in other fantasy worlds.

Invocation--prayer or supplication to a powerful being.  I don't recall Harry using this, but black wizards call evil beings.  The Knights of the Cross also invoke God.


In the novels, there are four types of vampires.  STORM FRONT mentions them, but Bianca, a Red Court vampire, is a minor character.  

Each type of vampire has been used elsewhere in folklore and fantasy. 

Red Court--Bat-like and hideous but with the illusion of human beauty.  Their venom is addictive.

Black Court--The traditional vampires like Dracula.  They are few in number and secretive.  

White Court--Psychic vampires who feed on strong emotions, particularly sexual ones.  They often kill during the feeding. The ability is inherited.

Jade Court--Asian vampires no one seems to know anything about.


The fae are only mentioned in passing in STORM FRONT. 

They fall into two rough divisions: the Summer Court (the Seelie) and the Winter Court (the Unseelie).  Neither court is absolutely good or evil which is a foreign concept to them.  They are as capricious as nature.  

Butcher primarily follows standard folklore conventions in creating them. 


Toot Toot, the tiny nature fairy that Harry captures and questions, is a dewdrop fairy.  Short of stature and memory, they can be a nuisance, but they are first-rate information gatherers.


The creature "He who walks behind" that left his mark on Harry's soul after Harry defeated but didn't kill him is an Outsider.

These are beings outside our universe--the Outer Gates--with powers so great that one of the laws of magic forbids calling them.

I think of them as Cthulhu's relatives.


A magical world where most of the magicals reside. The two Fae courts own most of its territory.  It has special entrances through the real world.  

Wizards live in our world, but use the NeverNever as a fast means of transport around our world.


In STORM FRONT, special aspects of wizards' magical ability and skills are mentioned.

The soulgaze is when a wizard and another human meet eyes, and they can see into each other's soul to get a sense of that person.

The sight is the ability to see beyond reality to the magical aspects of a person and reality.  Harry uses it several times in the novel.  The most memorable time is when he looks at the magical corruption of evil magic at the lake house. The sight can't be used for very long.  The drug Three Eye duplicates this experience for nonmagicals and drives them mad.

A death curse is the final act of a wizard who flings his death curse upon the person killing him.  It requires so much life force that it will kill him if his enemy doesn't.

The Laws of Magic are also mentioned.  (Listed on Jim Butcher's website.)

The Laws are:
1. Thou shalt not kill by use of magic. 
2. Thou shalt not transform others
3. Thou shalt not invade the mind of another. 
4. Thou shalt not enthrall another. 
5. Thou shalt not reach beyond the Borders of Life. 
6. Thou shalt not swim against the Currents of Time. 
7. Thou shalt not seek beyond the Outer Gates.

Thou shalt not kill and not enthrall are both mentioned in STORM FRONT.


All of these fantasy elements are presented only as they relate to Harry, his past, and the plot of the novel.  

Few are presented in great detail so the reader isn't inundated with massive amounts of information to process.  

Most of the information that will have a great impact on the coming novels is lightly touched, and, again, is only presented in asides or as elements of the current novel.  

For example, Harry makes a comment about his fairy Godmother and how scary she is.  Later, The Leanansidhe, or Lea, will become a major character who will both hinder and help Harry in her sociopathic fae way.  

What is most original about Butcher's worldbuilding is his use of the various types of magic.  One of my personal favorite uses of magic in STORM FORCE is Harry's calling of the wind in the destruction of the first scorpion when he pushes the elevator upward to squash it, his dramatic windy entrance into Marcone's restaurant to regain his cut hair, and his wind levitation up onto the balcony in the lake house as his dramatic entrance before the black wizard.


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