Storm Front, published nearly 11 years ago in April of 2000, is the first book of Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files series, featuring Harry Dresden of Chicago; devil-may-care wizard, rugged yet dashing gentlemen and ass-kicker extraordinaire.
From the author’s website (where sample chapters await your perusal):
Harry Dresden is the best at what he does. Well, technically, he’s the only at what he does. So when the Chicago P.D. has a case that transcends mortal creativity or capability, they come to him for answers. For the “everyday” world is actually full of strange and magical things — and most of them don’t play well with humans. That’s where Harry comes in. Takes a wizard to catch a — well, whatever.
There’s just one problem. Business, to put it mildly, stinks. So when the police bring him in to consult on a grisly double murder committed with black magic, Harry’s seeing dollar signs. But where there’s black magic, there’s a black mage behind it. And now that mage knows Harry’s name. And that’s when things start to get… interesting.
Magic. It can get a guy killed.
From my thoughts, where spoilers may await your perusal:
This first installment of the series starts off with a bang and introduces us to Harry, of course, as well as Lieutenant Karrin Murphy of Chicago P.D.’s Special Investigations unit. Grisly murders: check. Damsel in distress client: check. Bad guy gunning for Harry: check!
I’m not trying to say that this book reads like a checklist. On the contrary, when I first read it I was wowed by the novelty of the story. Novelty to me, at least. I was immediately captivated by Harry, the unlikely hero who advertises his services as a wizard in the phone book and has to field crank calls as a matter of course. He doubts himself but still tries to do what’s right, and not just because there’s a Warden of the White Council waiting to lop off his head with a magical sword if he steps out of line.
No, not a checklist… my reason for checking off several aspects of the story was to point out that Butcher sets the scene early on for an edge of your seat read that packs a wallup of a punch. He also squeezes in a hell of a lot of information about Harry’s skills and indeed, his whole world, without making you feel like you’re slogging through lengthy information dumps.
Another tidbit that took me by surprise was that Harry really takes a beating throughout the course of this book. Oftentimes, the hero/protagonist eeks through the story with barely a skinned knee, but Harry… oh, poor Harry, just gets the crap beat out of him! And he feels his pains, he doesn’t just pop back upright like a Weeble Wobble and tarry forth to fight evil. Nay… he crawls and pukes and bleeds and has to get tucked into bed just like reg’lar folk do when they’re hurt as badly.
That really impressed me. That, and the way Butcher grabs the reader (or listener, in this case, though I have read the actual book) by the scruff of the neck and drags them right into the story. You almost feel as though you can hear the sizzling demon spit, feel the cold rain on your skin and see the flash of the lightning. I also have to say that I absolutely love the way Harry is so snarky and literally laughs in the face of danger. Fun to read but awesome to listen to.
James Marsters is the reader on this audio book, as on all of the others, and I noticed that his reading wasn’t quite as animated in this first book as he was in Side Jobs, which I recently finished. Not that I was bothered by it, but one thing I’m looking forward to as I re-listen to the entire series in preparation for the release of Book #13, Ghost Story (which sadly just got bumped back three months to a July release) is to see how Marsters changes his reading style a bit to add more emotion. Because I tell you, in the later books when he yells “Fuego!”… it really gives a girl shivers!
One of my fave lines from the book: “Paranoid? Probably. But just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean there isn’t an invisible demon about to eat your face.”
Wiser words were never spoken.
Check out my other Dresden Files reviews: