I don’t know why I looked down on contemporary fantasy and urban fantasy. I don’t know what was the cause for the disdain or snobbishness I felt. Maybe it had something to do with the ridiculous and repetitive poses of women on the cover of many of them. Or maybe it was the fact that they took place in Los Angeles instead of Middle Earth. But recently I started dipping my toe into the water. After all, I had really liked the noir stylings of the Sandman Slim series. So I decided to put aside these mental reservations and pick up what has become a classic in the sub-genre. I decided to read STORM FRONT by Jim Butcher.
STORM FRONT is the first book in the Dresden Files, a series of books detailing the (mis)adventures of Harry Dresden, a wizard living and working in Chicago. STORM FRONT begins with Dresden picking up two cases. The first is a missing persons case. Although a little afield of Dresden’s typical assignments, it technically falls under the category of “lost items found.” When the woman hiring Dresden tells him that her missing husband might be involved in some bad voodoo, he takes the case. Second, Dresden gets called in to consult with the Chicago police department on a horrific crime that uses magic as the murder weapon. Black magic. Terrible, horrible magic that scares even a jaded wizard like Dresden. Of course, like many mysteries, these seemingly disparate cases come together in one heckuva final showdown. And it’s quite a bumpy ride from beginning to end, but one that readers will love.
STORM FRONT convinced me that my prejudice against urban fantasy was misplaced. Jim Butcher has stitched together the best elements of noir detective stories and fantasy. Dresden is also a great character. He’s powerful, well-trained, but no choir boy. He’s a magical Marlowe in many ways. But he’s also a very old-fashioned gentleman. That mix of good and bad makes Dresden a very compelling character and on that stands in stark contrast to Richard Kadrey’s Sandman Slim (who is more violent, ruder, and snarkier).
I was impressed with the way Jim Butcher wrote this story. It is a very impressive debut novel. The reader jumps right in, and the plot moves quickly. Jim Butcher clearly thought out the rules of his magical world, but he tells us only what we need to know for the sake of the story. I can’t wait to see what the rest of the Dresden Files contain.