What can one say about the Dresden Files that hasn’t already been said?
Not much really. It is hailed as a brilliantly written, amazingly addictive, and fabulously inventive story that is the measure by which most Urban Fantasy novels are judged. Its hordes of fans love it, and many, many authors have desperately tried to create the next Harry Dresden. And you know what? I can’t blame either group, because I think I’ve come down with a bad case of Dresden Fever myself (this modern day wizard selling me on what a kick ass thing great urban fantasy can be.)
In Storm Front, Jim Butcher introduces readers to Harry Dresden: a wizard for hire. This new age man of mystery begins the novel sounding very much like an emo private investigator more than a sorcerer of the White Council, and the story itself even opens like an old fashioned private eye film.
The building was quiet – absolutely devoid of sound except for the gentle tap of someone rhythmically counting out his boredom. A noise that unerring led down an empty hallway to a small office.
From under the wooden entryway escaped a bar of light, a pure light from the sun shining through a window rather than the metallic light of fluorescents, and if one followed back along that brilliant gleam, he would find himself in a simple office occupied by a lone man, who sits behind the only desk in the room. Clad in black, it is easy to see that the tapping heard down the hall is his doing. For while he sits stoically behind his desk, looking outwardly calm, it is easy to perceive that he is impatiently waiting for a call or a visitor. Someone, anyone who might need his help. Because he has that look about him: the visage of a helper; someone a person in need can go to for answers to shadowy problems or rescue from dangers he can barely perceive.
Naturally, there will be a price for his help. No one in this world can live on appreciation alone, not even this strong, silent man with the strange staff sitting within easy reach of his long, finely boned hands. (Hands that a person with discernment could tell were equally capable of punching someone in the jaw or weaving a spell of magic.) And Harry (for the letters on the door clearly labeled him as Harry Dresden) seemed to need someone to walk into his office, or for the dusty phone he stared at to ring. Perhaps the stack of unpaid bills on his desk attested to the why of his current desire.
Ring! Ring! Ring!
With carefully practiced professionalism, our dark-haired detective answers the phone, listens patiently to the caller’s problems, explains how he can help, and sets up the appointment with a lady who sounds like she desperately needs his help, a woman who also seems more than willing to pay him a nice fee to find someone. Sure, it is a job too easy for one of his obvious skills, but a paying customer is a paying customer.
Before Harry can pat himself on the back too much for the luck, the phone rings again. A job with the police. One of his special jobs. The kind that no one except a wizard like himself could undertake — which means there is a corpse somewhere that died by less than normal means.
With two people needing his help, Harry Dresden unfolds from his office chair, prepared to head out into a world that denies magic in order to save these very unbelievers from the very things they so vehemently deny exist!
The story that progressed from this point was an urban fantasy masterpiece, part detective/part paranormal mystery. One that absolutely sucked me in and turned me into a Harry Dresden fan. There was so much to love about it, in fact, that I find it difficult to isolate only a few things. But if I was forced to do so, I’d say that my favorite thing about Storm Front is Harry Dresden himself. His constant inner monologue with his readers is so good, so lifelike that by the end of the book I felt that I knew this wizard for hire and could count him as one of my friends. Every stumble he made in his investigation, had me hanging on the edge of my seat. Every fight, I was desperately routing for him to survive unscathed. And by the end, I was glad to know there were another fourteen books where I could visit my new friend at.
Like I mentioned, there isn’t too much I can say about Harry that hasn’t been said before and said more eloquently by others. So instead of trying to add to their applauds, I will simply add this sentiment.