Storm Front is the first book in the long-running Dresden Files by Jim Butcher, introducing us to Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden, the only wizard with an entry in the phone book in Chicago. The plot is a fast-paced magical murder mystery, which lends itself well to showing some of the no-doubt recurring characters and the "magic system" that Dresden wields. We also learn a little about the White Council, the ruling body behind practising wizards.
What interested me most about Storm Front was not so much the book itself, but the manner in which it should be read. For the first 120 pages or so, I kept picking it up and putting it down for various reasons (short public transport journeys, around making food, on brief lunch breaks) and never really settled to an extended stint. And I ended up wondering a little bit what all the fuss was about this series!
And then I sat down with a couple of hours on my hands and ended up sweeping through it, thinking 'Just one more chapter, just one more' which, as far as I am concerned, is how you should respond when reading something as action-packed and punchy as this. I equate Storm Front with an action movie - you wouldn't watch ten minutes of an action movie and then turn it off while making a cup of tea or heading out to see friends, and then watch another ten minutes a few hours later. An action movie would suffer from watching it in that way, and I think the Dresden books too. You definitely need to dedicate a couple of hours and then will find it incredibly good fun.
I thought the prose was incredibly effective - Jim Butcher presents Dresden in a first person perspective, which gives immediacy to the story. We know everything Dresden is thinking, and his uniquely sarcastic rejoinders to the events occurring in the book really added to my empathy for his character. I mean, when faced by a weird scorpion talisman that is becoming a little life threatening, I think a number of us would have something snarky to say!
The writing was also descriptive and atmospheric at key moments, rather than just business-like, which I expected it to be. I enjoyed the potion making scene between Harry and Bob, in particular.
The secondary characters were incredibly well-rounded, considering we didn't spend a great deal of time with them in this first tale (although I'm pretty sure they'll feature in future books). I particularly liked Murphy and her uneasy relationship with Dresden - I feel sure that this will develop in an interesting manner in the future. I also don't think I'm alone in liking Bob best!
One factor I found almost irritating, though, is the way that Butcher faithfully documented all the facial features and hair colour of each new character as they were introduced. It is something that I enjoy knowing about my characters, but I prefer it to be presented more naturally, rather than as a ticklist.
Certainly, this was very minor and might be a matter of taste, rather than an issue that other readers will experience as well.
To conclude, Storm Front was incredibly entertaining, with some great action set pieces and genuine tension. I think the highest praise I can offer is that I'll definitely be embarking further on this series!