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“Storm Front” conjure by it at your own risk

Malcolm Streitfeld

Anchor Staff Writer

“Conjure by it at your own risk.” Those words are written on the door of Harry Dresden, a wizard investigator whose name can be found in Chicago’s phonebooks. He is the protagonist of my No. 1 all time favorite book series, “The Dresden Files” by Jim Butcher. This is the series that introduced me to my favorite literary genre: urban fantasy. It combines good old fashioned gritty detective noir with the surreal magic of an alternate Chicago filled with supernatural creatures, all with plenty of snark and nerdy pop culture references.

Harry Dresden is my favorite literary protagonist. This perseverant rebel refuses to stay down, no matter how much life stomps him into the ground. He keeps on fighting to protect those he loves even when the chips are down. Dresden is the most human protagonist I’ve come across so far. He’s lovable but also realistically flawed, which makes him very relatable and endearing. But, before I get carried away with fanboying, let's delve into the first book of the series, “Storm Front.”

Photo by Malcolm Streitfeld

In “Storm Front,” a woman named Monica Sells asks Dresden for help finding her husband Victor, who she suspects has gotten involved in some occult activities. Not long after this, Dresden comes across a murdered couple and realizes that there’s some serious dark magic behind both this and whatever happened to Victor. His journey will get him wrapped up in the affairs of crime lords, vampiric seductresses and the ever stubborn White Council of Wizards, the last of which is determined to bring him to justice. I can’t reveal any more about the plot without spoiling the mystery for potential future readers, so from now on I’m going to go into more detail about why I love “Storm Front,” “The Dresden Files” and Jim Butcher as much as I do.

I’ll admit, when it comes to main characters, I’ve always had a soft spot for the snarky; because I also have a dry sense of humor. Harry Dresden, wisecracker supreme, is someone I instantly fell in love with. I’m a mythology nerd who wants to travel and see the world some more and that makes “The Dresden Files” the perfect read for me. Jim Butcher reveals that beneath the mundanity of 21st century Chicago lies a complex world of faerie politics, vampire factions, wizards vying for supremacy and a whole host of other ancient primordial forces who seek to control the bustling urban metropolis. Butcher crafts a setting that is familiar enough to the reader that they don’t get bogged down with fantasy terminology but is intriguing enough to make them want to learn more about it. The adventures are high-octane and fast paced, with Dresden having to rely on a combination of his wits and his magic to get out of sticky situations.

Harry Dresden is a fleshed out and well-rounded character. He changes throughout the series, so much so that who he is at the start of the series could not be more different from who he is in the latest book. Over the course of the series, he makes several huge mistakes with long lasting consequences. He learns and grows from these experiences and becomes a better person as a result. Dresden is an inspiration to me because he reminds me that I’ll always be able to recover from rock bottom and that my flaws don’t detract from who I am. I am not infallible and that’s okay.

“The Dresden Files” also features a vibrant cast of recurring allies, many of whom are as fleshed out and well developed as Dresden himself. This includes a talking skull and hopeless romantic named Bob; Karrin Murphy, a policewoman and member of the Chicago Police Department’s Special Investigations division; and Michael Carpenter, a Holy Knight of the Cross who wields the divine blade Amoracchius, better known as Excalibur. These characters are just a few examples of the vibrant cast.

The Dresden Files is an amazing urban fantasy series. If you decide to read it, prepare for a wild ride. You’ll be laughing and crying the whole way through and I guarantee it’ll make you want more.

Start reading about Dresden today. After all, he’s in the book.


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