Storm Front (Dresden Files #1) by Jim Butcher
Meet Harry Dresden, Chicago’s first (and only) Wizard P.I. Turns out the ‘everyday’ world is full of strange and magical things – and most of them don’t play well with humans. That’s where Harry comes in. Harry is the best at what he does – and not just because he’s the only one who does it. So when the Chicago P.D. has a case that transcends mortal capabilities, they look to him for answers. There’s just one problem. Business, to put it mildly, stinks. So when the police bring him in to consult on a grisly double murder committed with black magic, Harry’s seeing dollar signs. But where there’s black magic, there’s a black mage behind it. And now that mage knows Harry’s name. And that’s when things start to get …interesting. Magic – it can get a guy killed.
Storm Front is the first book in Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files series, first published in 2005. This is a series that many, many people have recommended to me over the last few months due to my growing interest in the fantasy genre. After discovering that Orbit were re-jacketing the entire series, I thought I’d hang on until they were released before I started buying them. I don’t know what Butcher’s long-term fans think of the new covers but I think they are a lot more ‘edgy’ than the older ones, and much more eye-catching.
These books have been likened to the work of Raymond Chandler with a fantasy twist, and it’s easy to see where people have got this idea from. Harry Dresden, Wizard P.I. is certainly very reminiscent ofChandler’s P.I. Philip Marlowe. In a lot of ways it feels very much like a classic Private Eye investigation, but what makes this story unique, and especially of the time it was published, is the use of fantasy to make it just that little bit different.
Harry is certainly an intriguing character as he deals with the pressure from the police – most of whom are exceedingly sceptical of his wizardry, but also from the White Council of Wizards who keep a constant eye on Harry to make sure he does nothing he shouldn’t be doing. Harry must try to keep everyone happy whilst trying to solve a brutal double murder and a missing man whose wife enlists Harry’s help to find him. Also thrown into the mix are fairies, a vampire, a Mafia don, and an ugly toad-like monster. There are a lot of fantastical beings in this story, and at times it feels like Butcher has thrown a bit too much into the mix, and that maybe this novel would have benefitted from focusing a little more closely on fewer characters.
The writing is quick and punchy, giving Harry a lot more character than your average narrator. Butcher leaves scattered hints here and there of Harry’s past, especially his family. I feel that these elements are going to become much more important as the series evolves, and I am really looking forward to discovering more about Harry as a character. What I love about getting stuck into a good series is always the characters. It’s never so much about the plot and the investigations. It’s about character development for me, and when you have a great leading character like Harry, things can only get better.
Storm Front definitely reads like a first novel in a series, revealing very little, but enough to make you want to read the next book, and I know I certainly will. I think this is a series that will get better and better with each book, and with the 13th novel Ghost Story just having been released this week, I certainly have a lot to catch up on!