By: Corey Lack
Storm Front by Jim Butcher is the first book in the now very long series called “The Dresden Files.” First, let me just make it very clear that this is not a book for children. Despite being compared to Harry Potter by some critics, you will not find heroes winning through the power of friendship and love here.
Now, in regards to the book itself, it is told through the first-person perspective of the main character, Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden, the only professional practicing wizard in the Chicago phonebook. The story introduces Harry as he goes through his everyday life while also trying to get a job as either a consultant for the police or as a private investigator. Through the story, the reader is hearing his opinions and thoughts of having to deal with believers and nonbelievers alike, as well as having him break down everything he does, be it magical or not. It does this in a believable and very entertaining way, like when he identifies a character coming up behind him without looking back. He talks about how believers think he does it through magic when actually he identified her by her perfume.
But Harry, of course, isn’t the only major character that makes their first appearance in the story. There’s Susan Rodriguez, the spunky reporter for the local tabloid, who definitely isn’t going to get herself in trouble later while pursuing a story. There’s Bob the Skull, who’s an air spirit of knowledge housed in a skull in Harry’s apartment. Next is Karen Murphy, the tough-as-nails lieutenant running the Special Investigations department of the Chicago Police department. Additionally, “Gentleman” Johnny Marcone, the stoic and cold-blooded king of the Chicago underworld makes his first appearance and definitely won’t be a pain in the staff for Harry throughout the series. Lastly, there’s Bianca St. Claire, the madam of a high-class brothel who is also a powerful vampire and will definitely be friendly with Harry throughout the series.
The story itself is a pretty simple, but effective one. Harry is hired by the police to help investigate how a couple died through magic and he finds that it is a bit more complicated when said unknown sorcerer starts targeting Harry and anyone else that might be nearby. Despite the obviously dark plotline, a majority of the story is funny and light-hearted as Harry, in ‘80s action movie fashion, makes jokes and quips at whatever happens to be making him nervous or happens to be trying to kill him, which is a good portion of the characters he meets. Additionally, it gradually adds details to the magical world rather than just dumping it on the reader, resulting in an informational overload.
Finally, the characters, despite it being a fantasy story, are very realistic. They react in ways that most people would, given the situations. Harry, for instance, doesn’t just automatically know who the killer pulled off his crimes. He has to research it and understand the ins-and-outs, which helps to also explain it to the reader. In short, Harry isn’t some all-powerful master of all magic. He’s a regular person that needs help every now and then.
In brief, fans of fantasy, action, and mystery stories would be remised in not giving this book and series a try. Between interesting characters, a good plot, and great worldbuilding, this is a book that is definitely a must-read.