Storm Front by Jim Butcher
In Book One of The Dresden Files series, we meet Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden, a wizard in Chicago who does consultant work for the police (particularly with Karrin Murphy in the Special Investgations section, i.e. the unusual stuff nobody else wants). A death involving powerful dark magic occurs and Harry is drawn into a case involving ‘Gentleman’ Johnny Marcone (the head of organised crime, but a civilised boss nonetheless) and a new mage who is not afraid to do whatever it takes to get ahead, even invoking demons in order to kill Harry.
The book is all set up for a series – the world is explained and the background established: how magic works in this world, its laws (and Laws) and logic, the White Council, Mac and his bar, etc. There are lots of nice touches that show that this is well-thought out: electronic devices don’t work well around Harry, a cane as a focus for his magic, Bob the skull (a spirit of air who resides in a skull who remembers things for Harry), the Nevernever as the source of other-worldly things like vampires, Morgan the representative of the White Council who shadows Harry after an earlier incident in Harry’s life that had him in front of the Council, the Sight that magicians have but don’t use often because of all the problems involved. Butcher has created an interesting world and an interesting character through which to investigate it.
The prose, told in the first person, is a little rough around the edges at times, perhaps indicative of a first book, but the scenario and the storytelling make up for it. There are some annoying touches: the ‘Clone War’ remarks (after the throwaway line in Star Wars, which suggested a lot of history without dwelling on it) in the book are too much, indicating future storylines but without any further elucidation to make you feel included in the story; they just irritate with the tease of possibility.
Storm Front is engrossing and the resolution exciting and satisfying, and I can understand why the series was turned into a television series (which I haven’t seen) but I don’t know if I’ll buy any of the further books. I might read some via the library though – that counts as a recommendation, doesn’t it?