A Review of Storm Front, Book One of The Dresden Files

I finally gave in to persuasion and picked up Storm Front, the first book in Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files. At the risk of the Significant Other telling me “I told you so,” I admit that The Dresden Files is crack and I’m now addicted.

Storm Front introduces us to the main characters of the series, as well as some characters I suspect I’ll see again when I read the sequels:

  • Harry Dresden – a professional wizard, perpetually broke, and relies almost entirely on his police consulting business to pay the bills
  • Lt. Karrin Murphy – head of Chicago PD’s Special Investigations unit, blonde and blue-eyed and diminutive, but hardnosed and will kick your ass if you treat her like a damsel in distress
  • “Gentleman” Johnny Marcone – the “Godfather” of Chicago’s underworld
  • Susan Rodriguez – a relentless reporter for the Midwestern Arcane, sexy and has the hots for Harry
  • Bianca St. Claire – vampire and madam of the escort service The Velvet Room
  • Warden Morgan – a wizard assigned by the White Council as Harry’s watchdog
  • Mac – the monosyllabic proprietor of McAnally, a pub and haven for Chicago’s wizardly community
  • Toot – a dumb dewdrop fairy with a passion for pizza
  • Bob – a pervy air spirit living inside a human skull, who acts as Harry’s personal computer and database of magic

In Storm Front, Harry investigates two seemingly separate cases. One has to do with Monica Sells’ missing husband. The other is Murphy’s bizarre murder case, which involves hearts exploding out of people’s chests and a drug called ThirdEye. As usual, Harry is late on his rent and has no choice but to take on both cases. He didn’t expect that doing so would lead him to a trap.

What got me hooked on Storm Front is Jim Butcher’s superb blending of multiple genres. It’s an urban fantasy with paranormal elements. Harry Dresden’s Chicago is real-life, modern-day Chicago. Magic is replaced by science. Humans are blissfully unaware of the existence of supernatural beings and treat the knowledge of such with healthy skepticism. The supernaturals are not out, unlike the vampires of The Southern Vampire Mysteries. They blend in or they hide out, and they don’t call attention to themselves.

Harry Dresden from the Storm Front graphic novel, courtesy of MultiversityComics.com

Storm Front is also a mystery and reads like film noir. I have this impression that Harry Dresden talks like Humphrey Bogart. It doesn’t help that there’s a crime, the narrative is in the first person, and Harry is an investigator. However, Mr. Butcher probably had fun playing with the tropes of the genre. Harry has an old-fashioned sense of chivalry that feminists like Murphy scoff at, but he’s not macho. Murphy is a cop, but she’s not dirty or incompetent. Monica Sells is the client in distress, but she’s not the femme fatale type. Susan Rodriguez is smoking in the femme fatale sense, but she’s only a bystander. Gentleman Johnny is a gangster, but he doesn’t delight in chaos.

The characterization of Harry Dresden is another element of Storm Front that pulled me in. Unlike your typical fictional wizard, Harry is flawed and fragile. He’s always broke and hungry. His cat bullies him and Bob harasses him when he’s home. He’s more powerful than he cares to admit, but he doesn’t pretend he can control any situation he gets into and so doesn’t charge into them headlong. In fact, Harry is paranoid. He approaches his work with seeming hesitation – he does it because he needs to eat, not because he has some altruistic desire to save the world.

Another factor that made Storm Front a delightful read is Mr. Butcher’s fast pacing and use of humor. It doesn’t matter that the ending is predictable because the focus of the story is on the why and the how. You won’t want to put the book down because you’d want to know the answers to the why and the how as soon as possible. And you won’t be tired reading it because you’d be laughing at something Harry said or did every few pages or so.

So yes, the Significant Other can smugly say “I told you so.” I enjoyed Storm Front and I’ll probably love the rest of The Dresden Files, too. It’s not your run-of-the-mill paranormal or urban fantasy. It is thoroughly believable, it is engaging, and it is funny.

Check out Storm Front at Amazon.com.


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Anna Sibal-Gonzaga is a freelance writer based in the Philippines. She likes reading books and watching movies and TV shows in the sci-fi, fantasy and historical genres. She is also a casual gamer and an all-around nerd.

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