on 1 October 2013
If Cold Days is the first Dresden Files novel you're contemplating buying, feel free, but make sure you buy all the other books in the series and read them first, or much of the humour -and all the reveals- will be lost on you. For old hands in the Harry-verse such as myself (and countless other fanatics), though, some are pretty cool! I thought when I finished Ghost Story that it was going to be a hard act to follow, but Butcher has risen to the challenge and raised his game. I wouldn't recommend starting this book until you've made a large pot of tea (or otherwise organised your reading-drink of choice), taken your phone off the hook/switched it off altogether and cancelled any/all plans you may have made for the weekend. Because you won't be able to put it down again. At least, not easily.
Any number of (frozen) chickens are coming home to roost in this fantastic instalment: so many, in fact, that I began to lose count of them all, though will doubtless track them better once I've avidly re-read it a few more times. Harry is no longer the sometimes-bumbling, always well-meaning supernatural gumshoe he was of old. Stuff has happened (for more details, see Butcher's previous published works) & he is not the only one who's changed as a result. The scene is set by the opening in Arctis Tor, stronghold of Mab, the Faerie Queen of Air & Darkness. Harry is now the Winter Knight & not particularly happy about it, but ... well, trapped in the role.
Butcher spends a fair few chapters trying to embed Harry in his new world, & I think the party scene drags on a little too long (five chapters or thereabouts: really, Jim?) but stick with it. For me, & I'm guessing many others, the book really begins to come alive and starts ticking over (just like the crocodile: you'll get that once you've read the book!) when Harry slips through a portal back onto his home turf of Chicago & discovers, with a familiar sense of wry resignation, that things are exponentially worse than even his newly-extra-cynical self has been led to believe. If you know Butcher, you'll be able to guess that the plots, sub-plots, twists, turns and psychotic breaks begin to come thick & fast from there on out. I'd suggest you sit back & enjoy the ride.
Harry as Winter Knight is darker, less goofy and considerably less naive than in former times (& books). This leaner, meaner version takes a bit of getting used to & you can see/sense Butcher planting the seeds of future trouble liberally amongst the rollicking narrative (parasite on the brain, anyone?), which has always been one of his best and favourite ploys. I am expecting Ferrovax to show up any day now, put it that way. Harry's sense of humour has not quite atrophied, but is colder and edgier than of yore: no bad thing, perhaps, but ... slightly disconcerting, sometimes. On purpose, of course: Butcher manages to write very casually, but is always on the ball. Pay attention, or you'll miss stuff.
As Winter Knight, he's picked up a few new sidekicks; most notably the fabulously psychotic and sardonic Cat Sith, King of the Malks and feline wizard extraordinaire, who effortlessly steals every scene he's in; but it is when his old allies begin to gather that I started to get very happy with the writing. His Little Folk minions, enslaved by the pizza he's been bribing them with for years, show up trying to drive his new ride & stick around to watch his back ("Lean forward a bit, my lord!"). He hooks up with Bob pdq & a slightly less crazy Molly drags his ass out of trouble & greets him with a Star Wars quote, just to remind him he's home.
Expect to see Thomas, Murph, Butters and Mouse back on the case, too: the first and last were the characters I was most glad to see again. Also, in an intriguing and very tantalising twist (damn you, Butcher, you wily genius) Mac, the monosyllabic tavern-owner and micro-brew specialist is revealed as, we may have suspected, even more of a mystery. A few hints are dropped, but his secrets are yet to be revealed.
With enemies aplenty, a guilty conscience and eventually a brand new leather coat (yay!) Harry tears around wearing himself out, desperately trying to keep a lid on any number of crises. Demonreach is in the mix, with trouble brewing below. Faeries galore, the Summer Knight (remember Fix?) is gunning for him, the Wild Hunt is on the loose with Santa flanking the Erl-King & the Outsiders are back, trying very hard to run rampant. Fights, magic, relationship ambiguity & Bob quoting "Firefly" (a reference Harry himself doesn't get, though it made me squeak): it's all here.
One of the many joys of the Dresden Files series is the way Harry is constantly evolving, changed by his adventures rather than simply shrugging them off and moving on to the next wacky scenario: it's never the same old, same old. Nor do the characters around him remain the same: everyone is subject to change, to having to live with the consequences of their own choices and actions, as well as his. Nothing is simple here, nor easy, which keeps you coming back, keeps you wanting more. Jim Butcher is a master of his craft by now, & long may he reign.
Buy. Read. You won't be sorry.
on 22 March 2013
I'm a big fan of the Harry Dresden series, and each book in the series seems a step up from the last. This is no exception. Its the 14th book in the series (not counting the short stories) and again its excellent. The story lines from the very first book onwards fit well together, and escalate to danger, the stakes and the resources needed to fight off yet another apocalypse, at just the right pace.
Harry has had a major boost in the power stakes he's now the winter knight, with all the power of winter at his back. However that also makes him a big target for all the enemies of winter, plus all the members of the winter court. But hey what's a Harry Dresden novel without everybody wanting to kill him. Added to that we discover more about Harry's island and why he's known as a warden. WE also find out more about the outsiders and the big enemy the previous books have alluded too. Needless to say Harry's had a major power boost but now the bad guys are from the really big leagues and Harry's struggling to stay in the game.
All the normal wit, humour, pop and geek references that you associate with harry are present, as are the frantic edge of your seat action scenes that are Jim Butcher's trade mark in this series.
If you've liked any of the other Harry Dresden books you'll love this. If you've never read them before I still think you will find this a fantastic book, a compulsive page turner, and a definite permanent addition to anyone book shelf.