Urban fantasy is a relatively new literary genre, but it’s one that’s produced quite a lot of good material. And nowhere is that more evident than in Storm Front, the first book of Jim Butcher‘s fantasy series “The Dresden Files.”
Our hero–well, our protagonist, anyway–is Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden, a wizard living in Chicago who’s forever trying to make ends meet. When not helping clients or brushing off skeptics, Harry works as a “psychic consultant” for the Chicago Police Department. And when he gets called in to solve a gruesome murder-by-magic, Harry finds himself thrown into an intricate web of deception and malice.
This story had me hooked from the first page. The reader gets Harry’s first-person hardboiled perspective from start to finish, which serves to both inform and entertain (as all good writing should). The plot itself is a standard Whodunnit, but complications arise as Harry must tread a careful line between his obligations to the mundane world and his duties to the White Council, which governs the use of magic.
The use of magic itself is something that Mr. Butcher really nailed on the head in this story. Harry takes a lot of time to explain the dynamics behind spells, along with all the dangers that come from wizardry and why it’s a good idea to have the Seven Laws of Magic in place. And because everything is sketched out ahead of time, Harry’s more inventive uses of magic come off as inspired instead of Just Another Plot Contrivance.
I’ll admit I was disappointed in not being able to learn more about certain characters, but then, this is only the first book of a larger series. And because Storm Front was such an enjoyable read, I look forward to delving into the rest of Harry Dresden’s adventures.
Bibliography: Butcher, Jim. Storm Front. New York: Penguin Putnam, 2000.