Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: The Dresden Files #1
Publisher: Roc Books (April 1, 2000)
Length: 352 pages
My Rating: 3 stars
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 can totally see how many readers would come down with a bad case of Dresden Fever after being introduced to this guy, and if I was an author I know I would absolutely be dying to create the next Harry.
As for Storm Front itself (which I’ve actually been told by Dresden fans is one of the weaker books in the series), this is Jim Butcher introduction of his wizard for hire, and quickly it becomes clear this isn’t your average dick or gumshoe, but a new age man of mystery with modern sensibilities who just happens to be a sorcerer of the secret, powerful White Council. But even still, the author sets the stage for Harry’s initial adventure as if this were merely another old school private eye story.
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 progresses from this point is a light, fast-paced and entertaining urban fantasy tale, part detective/part paranormal mystery. One that is incredibly easy to get sucked into. There is so many positives about the narrative, in fact, that it is difficult to isolate only a few things, because the characters, plot, and aesthetics of Butcher’s story just all work, blending together to create a compelling story. But if I was forced to name the most impressive element of Storm Front, however, I’d point directly at the main character himself. Harry’s constant inner monologue so natural, so lifelike that by the end of the book readers will feel like they know this wizard for hire, count him as one of their friends. Every stumble he makes sure to elicit a gasp of shock, an inner despair. Every fight causing Harry’s new fans to desperately root for him to survive unscathed. And by the end, most people will be happy beyond belief that there are many more books where they can continue to visit their new, wizardly friend.
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. Sure, there were weaknesses in the narrative, elements which I personally didn’t love. But, overall, Storm Front was a fine read. I can’t say it turned me into a fan of either The Dresden Files or urban fantasy in general, but I definitely do not regret reading it to experience the hype first hand.