~by Jim Butcher
2001 Compton Crook Award Nominee
I'm not sure why, but recently I've seen Jim Butcher mentioned quite frequently and have had his books recommended to me on a fairly regular basis--in particular, The Dresden Files, which is the series he is probably best known for. So, I was bound to pick up a copy of the first book, Storm Front, eventually. Luckily, it was readily available at my local library branch as a mass market paperback, and it immediately became my "bus book."
Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden (conjure at your own risk) is a private investigator living in and working out of Chicago. He also happens to be wizard of some skill. Currently however, he is down on his luck, behind on his rent, and just a little bit worried about making ends meet. But then, almost simultaneously, a missing person case falls into his lap and he is called in by the police to consult on an investigation of a gruesome double murder. Unfortunately for Harry, as one of the only powerful magic users in the area, he quickly becomes suspect. Already on the outs with the White Council (the governing body of wizards, etc), he must work fast to track down the real culprit in order to prove his innocence. Oh, yeah--and did I mention that not only a few people want him dead?
I really liked Harry, dubious past and all, as the protagonist (although he was slightly exasperating at times) and he is supported by a good handful of decent secondary characters who I look forward to seeing again in subsequent books. Storm Front is an odd mix of fantasy and hard boiled detective fiction, but Butcher pulls it off surprisingly well. I particularly enjoyed the magic system which is based more on intent, concentration, and the focusing and directing of energies more than anything else. It also has a habit of making more modern technology go haywire, which I find to be immensely appropriate. There were a couple of very minor inconsistencies in the book in addition to it being a bit repetitive, but this wasn't enough to really detract from the story overall. Harry's (well, technically Butcher's) style contains quite a bit of dry humor which I found to be greatly amusing, but others might not appreciate it nearly as much. Occasionally the whole thing is utterly ridiculous, but in a good way. The working title of the book was Semiautomagic, which gives a pretty good idea of what it is all about. The book is a lot of fun.
Storm Front was a great introduction to The Dresden Files and works fairly well on its own, too. Enough detail is given to understand the world and what is going on without relying on info-dumps or explaining everything in depth, making it a lighter, less complicated read than expected. But, there is certainly plenty of material to be expanded upon in further volumes. I was never desperate to find out what was going to happen next in the story, but I always looked forward to reading it. Storm Front was a blast and I really enjoyed the book. The Dresden Files isn't a series that I personally need to own (yet), but I will definitely be picking up the next volume, Fool Moon, at the library.