Storm Front is the first novel of Jim Butcher’s best-selling urban fantasy series, The Dresden Files. As with many urban fantasy novels, Storm Front takes the reader through one case while revealing bits and pieces about the overarching world.
Two people have been murdered, and the most gruesome aspect of it is that their hearts have been ripped out. Chicago’s police force is stumped by these strings of murders, but Harry Dresden, Chicago’s only openly practicing wizard, knows that supernatural things are afoot. Harry has seen some strange things in his days, but this case riles him more than usual. This case puts Harry in the firing line of seductive vampires, gruesome toad-creatures, and some of the darker aspects of magic.
Teaching an old dog new tricks
One of the complaints that is often leveled against fantasy literature is that it recycles the same types of mythical creatures in banal ways (e.g. dwarves living in mines). Luckily, Storm Front deftly avoids this trap by adding a certain oomph or spark to the standard formula. For example, fairies are standard fantasy fare, but in Storm Front, they serve as dimwitted informants who are easily cajoled with pizza. This satirical humor is sprinkled throughout every crevice of Storm Front. You may not learn a lot about the inner workings of The Dresden Files world, but you will have fun learning about the parts you get to see.
Chicago’s only openly practicing wizard
One of the most important aspects of a first person narrative is to have a compelling lead. Thankfully, I could not have asked for a finer example of this than Harry Dresden. What makes Harry such a compelling lead is not his combat ability, though he has plenty of that, but his ability to laugh when faced with danger. Harry is pushed to the brink of death many times, but he does not lose his wits. When presented with danger, Harry always responds with some sort of clever one-liner that livens up the otherwise darker tones of the case. This healthy dose of humor does not mean that Harry is immune to the darker nature of magic; there are times when he seems to embrace the darkness and chaos that surround him.
If I had to lodge one complaint about Storm Front (and I do), it is the lack of attention paid to the side characters. Most of the side characters seem to be walking plot devices for Harry to either flirt with or fight with. Of course, this is most likely a symptom of being a first novel, and I am certain this issue will be alleviated in future novels. Sadly, the one dimensional side characters mar an otherwise beautiful book.
Why should you read this book?
I cannot heap enough praise on this novel. If you are looking for a witty and refreshing take on the urban fantasy genre, you need not look further than Storm Front. I personally cannot put this series down and will be rapidly consuming the following books.