Storm Front is the first book in the urban fantasy series The Dresden FIles by Jim Butcher. For anyone who is unfamiliar with the genre, urban fantasy is characterized by its setting in a city during the modern day. Although my favorite fantasy novels tend to be set in a medieval type world, it is wonderful to imagine what it would be like if magic existed in our scientific and technologically driven historical era. I would take the ability to conjure fireballs over a microwave any day, but I digress …
Harry Copperfield Blackstone Dresden is a wizard who works with the Chicago police department’s Special Investigations division. As most (sane) readers would expect, the vast majority of the police officers think that Harry Dresden is a crazy and expensive charlatan. Karrin Murphy, the head of Special Investigations, harbors doubts of her own but also recognizes that Harry Dresden is remarkably effective at explaining otherwise inexplicable cases. Storm Front revolves around Dresden’s investigation of a brutal murder that leads him into the realm of the supernatural, complete with fairies, vampires, and a warlock.
Indeed, the cast of secondary characters is truly impressive. The adorable, yet tough-as-nails Karrin Murphy is probably the most prominent example of Jim Butcher’s skill at populating the novel with interesting personalities. However, the Mafia boss Gentleman Johnny Marcone and the sex-obsessed air spirit that inhabits a skull (aptly named “Bob”) are also extremely compelling.
While the plot is strong, Jim Butcher’s writing style is one of the main reasons to pick up Storm Front. I am constantly amazed by the fluidity of his prose; I often can read a hundred pages and feel like I still want to keep going. Also, Harry Dresden is a certified smart-ass. His thoughts, as the novels are told entirely from his first person perspective, and dialogue are full of wisecracks and sarcasm, although Harry does wax philosophical at times and tends to follow his impressively reliable moral compass.
The Dresden Files is currently up to its fifteenth book with Skin Game, but that is no reason to be daunted about beginning the series. Thankfully, Jim Butcher always ends the particular tale that he is telling within a single book. There is always a surprisingly long and awesome climax (that can last for a hundred pages at times) and resolution. I would not recommend reading the books out of order because there are important threads and character developments that span the series, but the ending of each book is satisfying in its own right.
Storm Front is a must read novel for any fans of fantasy literature. Go buy it!