Morgan has always been a major thorn in Harry Dresden's side. So of course, he appears on Harry's doorstep, half dead and convicted of murder.
But that's only one of the problems facing Jim Butchers wizard PI in the eleventh Dresden Files Book,. The aptly named "Turn Coat is half whodunnit and half magical thriller, with plenty of explosive magic, hard-nosed wizards, deadly conspiracy and plenty of grotesque monsters and vampires. What's more, Butcher pulls some brilliant plot twists out of his hat, including some that are sure to wrench the heart.
An injured Morgan turns up at Harry's door, hunted by Wardens and convicted of murdering Aleron LaFortier for the Red Court. Even worse, it's an airtight case against him.
But Harry can't bring himself to believe that Morgan could ever do something treacherous (even if Morgan is a big bottom-pain). His investigations take him on an unpleasant tightrope to vampire hangouts and the Council HQ, where he learns that LaFortier's death could -- if left unpunished -- lead to a very messy civil war between the weakened wizard factions. In other words, the Black Council is making a move.
And Harry has problems close to him as well -- a price on Morgan's head, the Binder's ectoplasmic hordes, and a chilling immortal monster of Native American legend called a naagloshii (skinwalker). When the naagloshii kidnaps Thomas and trashes the Raith mansion, Harry must find a way not only of saving his brother and Morgan from certain death -- but unveiling the traitor within the Council as well. Hard to do when everyone is very, very mad at you...
"Turn Coat" is definitely a turning point in the Dresden Files series, where the Black Council becomes a widely-known -- though not widely-acknowledged -- reality, and Butcher is clearly setting up a massive conflict. Relationships are shattered, alliances are strained, personalities are changed, a traitor is revealed and the White Council is more openly threatened by the Black Council. A few people even die.
And Butcher does a pretty brilliant job meshing together fantasy, political thrillers and Agatha Christie-style murder mystery. He fills the story with sharp dark-edged noir prose, fun dialogue ("Mission accomplished, my lord of pizza!"), and some literally explosive action scenes (including a pitched battle on a rainy magical island). But despite the dark, grim cast of the plot, Butcher doesn't forget to add some humor to the mix. Where else can you find a spell that uses Silly String?
What's more, he fleshes out the rather mysterious Council, and shows the motivations and sacrifices that it has been built on, as well as its reasons for being so strict and reclusive. The one problem is that the murderer is a bit obvious, and I expected someone a bit more... important.
Harry proves himself to be the right kind of guy simply by wanting to prove Morgan innocent, and by forging ahead with some really risky magic that even the Gatekeeper blanches at. But his quest for justice takes away some people that he cares about as well, leaving some terrible long-term repercussions for his brother Thomas. And Butcher takes great care to show that while Morgan is annoying and self-righteous, he's also strong and honorable. And once he was more like Harry.
"Turn Coat" also fleshes out the Council considerably, showing them more as real people -- the Merlin eats sandwiches, Mai is revoltingly rigid, and there are even bureaucromancers. And "Injun Joe" shows the incredible range of his power, as well as the sadness of his past. Butcher needs to show a bit more of this awesome old wizard, because he rules.
"Turn Coat" is a brilliant turning point for the Dresden Files series, as well as a painful series of lessons for Jim Butcher's wizard anti-hero. And the battle is hardly over yet.
As easy and welcoming as a favourite old pair of slippers, the latest Harry Dresden novel is deep in Jim Butcher's comfort zone, with well established supporting cast and set of locations. Although masquerading as a gritty, sexy , violent Chicago-set cross-genre PI/Fantasy novel, at heart this series is very soft centred. At times, with a super intelligent dog taking centre stage, it almost resembles an episode of "Lassie"
Butcher is obviously very fond of his fictional creations, especially his protagonist, the wizard Harry Dresden who is also the narrator of this successful long running series of enjoyable books. A minor irritant in these tales is how most of the other characters can't wait to fall over themselves to help our hero. So, in this book, we meet Vince Graver, a PI hired to work against Dresden; in less than 5 pages, won over by nothing more than Harry's charisma and charm, Graver is working ably for the good guys. Reprehensible demon summoning baddie Binder and even uber-nasty Skinwalker monster can't help but express admiration for the wizard.
Perhaps the closing scene of "Turn Coat", implying a tabletop RolePlaying game inspiration for this series, gives a clue as to why Butcher is so attached to his hero...maybe Harry Dresden started life as Butcher's game set alter-ego?
The story of "Turn Coat" centre on a search for a traitor in the "White Council" of good(ish) mages. An interesting plot development would have been possible here, if one of the more established allies of Dresden was revealed as being traitorous.Certainly a surfeit of potential allies was available. Instead a dull and predictable enemy is, I'm afraid, uncovered.
The various action set pieces, especially the climactic battle, are well handled, though they would have been more memorable and dramatic if a few more characters could have died. Generally, it just about avoids being too formulaic but clearly this is part of an ongoing series which the author (and, to be fair, the readers) are happy to draw out.
on 14 April 2009
well by the end of the book i was depressed. Depressed on two levels; one i was sad i will have to wait a very long time for the next installment and two because the subject matter wrenched my heart.
Afew deaths here and ends of relationships abound. but thats not to say that the book didn't totally rock it was amazing it arrived Saturday and i didn't leave my bed till it was finished.
this was a darker book than the others and like the last one left you on a cliff hanger - we never really discover what happened to Michael Carpenter ( an off the cuff remark about his physicality was not enough Mr Butcher!) nor was the no mention of my favourite character Marcone! but i did like seeing the more fleshed out characters of the council and the politics at play within it.
This book has a lot of questions that i hope get answered in the next one. Not a book to start with as too much background and this was definitely one for the fans who had read the others first but still great urban fantasy - he is the master.
Im still in two minds on how much i love this book though, like Harry i feel a little alone at the end of it and may need to read it again to pick up on the minutaie but coming on the heels of fab graphic novel backup as well was very disappointed in the whole thomas/ harry dynamic fading.
In all though a wonderful novel and like Harry himself, One needs to read it more than once to get a true measure of it ( him)
As mentioned in other reviews you really can't beat Jim in modern urban fantasy as he really is the name to beat. The characters within the tale continue to grow along with the paranoia of the greater supporting cast as the idea's of a black council that Harry's been selling for years comes more the fore in this latest offering. Well written, heart rending, comical and above all a tale that demonstrates the ebb and flow essential to a truly great journey and you have a satisfactory story even though it will more than upset a number of the established fans. Definitely a series that I heartily recommend to all readers.
on 13 February 2015
Some time ago, I read the ninth book from Jim Butcher's ''Dresden Files'' series. ''White Night'' was a decent enough book, but did conform to a couple of the more obvious clichés and this took the edge off it for me. But with the eleventh in the series, Butcher seems to have been improving as he goes along and I found ''Turn Coat'' to be far more enjoyable.
Over the years, Harry Dresden has been adept at getting himself into trouble with the Wardens, who uphold the rules of magic he is bound by. This time, however, the boot is on the other foot. Warden Morgan, who has been Dresden's chief persecutor, has committed a crime for which the sentence will be death. He comes to Dresden seeking his help to both hide and clear him. Despite knowing that complicity could mean his own death, Dresden nonetheless agrees to help, believing that Morgan could never have committed the crime he stands accused of.
Dresden's investigations unearth a conspiracy deeper than he ever imagined. It appears that the White Council of wizards may have a rival and hidden Black Council trying to cause trouble and enlisting the help of some members of the White Court of vampires. As if this wasn't bad enough, there is a virtually invincible skinwalker on the scene and it's clearly not there to help Dresden. Add in Dresden's werewolf and faerie associates and there is a lot going on.
This is the aspect of the story I enjoyed most, in that you could never be sure exactly what was going to happen next or who would be the focus of the next page. Dresden is most heavily involved, but there is such a wide range of fantastical beings around, that the styles and attitudes are constantly shifting. There were so many twists and turns that the unexpected was usually the most likely outcome. This helps to keep the reader off balance as much as Dresden was, which helped draw me into the tale, knowing I had something in common with the lead character.
Telling the story from Dresden's point of view also added to the immediacy of the action for me. Seeing through his eyes gives you the best perspective on the story, as most things happened around or to him. We also get to experience the whole range of Dresden's emotions, which run from terror to lust and through most places in the middle. With all the action going on, there are a lot of emotions flying around and Butcher describes these very well, which helped me to feel a great affinity for Dresden.
Dresden is a no-nonsense character, so he doesn't tend to waste time in detailed descriptions of people and places, usually painting in broad strokes. Only when he's under stress or focussing hardest does he go into much detail and this is usually describing actions more than locations or people. But this felt a lot more realistic, as it's how you would see things yourself in such a story, as it's natural you would remember more about the things that require you to concentrate the most. Of course, it could be that his descriptions were most vivid when talking about scantily clad female vampires that helped this appeal to me.
It helped that I really liked Dresden as a character. He's got a world weary air and a dry, self-deprecating and sometimes sarcastic sense of humour, much like my own. There are a lot of parts in the narration where Butcher plays on the series having become a TV show, as there are a lot of lines that I could see working as an aside to camera. These were generally the funniest moments of all and whilst the style may be a bit of a cliché, the lines themselves rarely were.
As good as this was, it wouldn't be any use if the story were poorly written. This far into a series, there are references back to things I've missed, but these didn't impact the flow of the book as much as with others I've read. Butcher is skilled at focussing attention more on the present than the past and I rarely wondered about what I'd been missing. This was the only negative part of the book for me, and it barely counts, having as little impact as it did.
The combination of all these factors made it an enjoyable read, although it does fit nicely into the kind of things I like, which helped. I always enjoy tales of the magical and fantastic and Butcher combines this with a slightly Chandler-esque feel that I also enjoy. Butcher seems to be growing with every book and I'm pleased to see that the more clichéd aspects of the story that I felt spoiled the flow of ''White Night'' are gone here. What's left is an exciting and fun story and I'm certainly looking forward to seeing if he can keep this up. This far into the "Dresden Files" series, "Turn Coat" may not be the best place to start, but it's certainly well worth reading.
This review may also appear, in whole or in part, under my name at any or all of www.ciao.co.uk, www.thebookbag.co.uk, www.goodreads.com, www.amazon.co.uk and www.dooyoo.co.uk
on 29 March 2011
This is the 11th book in the series so there will be some spoilers for previous books and minor ones about this book. Given that the next novel in the series is called Changes, I thought it would be the one that shakes everything up, but in Turn Coat there are some serious, and perhaps irreparable, changes.
Morgan, hardcore warden and one of the biggest pains in Harry's life, turns up on his doorstep half dead and asks Harry for help. He claims he's been framed for a murder and he needs Harry to hide him and find out who is really responsible. As a much younger man Harry was almost executed by the White Council because of some issues with dark magic. Morgan was the one who would have wielded the sword and despite Harry being put on probation Morgan never believed Harry's innocence. He's hounded Harry for years and has been waiting for him to slip up so that he can lop off his head.
So for him to come to Harry for help shows how serious the situation is and how desperate he must be. Morgan is like one of those hardcore marines or grey haired drill sergeants you see in the movies. A veteran who always obeys orders and has become this implacable force who you would bet on if he were pitted against a much younger man. He's just that scary and dangerous. Straight away alarm bells started going off for me and not just because of Harry's quandary about whether or not he should help Morgan. Harry's not yet 40 years old, but Morgan is well over a century and that means whoever did this to him has some serious magical mojo. Then there's the actual murder victim, one of the White Council itself, who are the top wizards in the world.
In previous books the stakes have always been high, but in Turn Coat the dial has been turned up all the way. The repercussions of proving Morgan's innocence, or guilt, will have serious and long-lasting effects on the White Council, their war with the Red Court and their standing as a major power to be reckoned with. At the moment the White Council looks weak and ineffective and it makes the wizard community look divided as one of their most trusted is apparently the killer. Civil war is exactly what someone wants but all of this manoeuvring also points to something Harry has been talking about for a while. A Black Council. To accomplish the murder of a senior member of the White Council requires an awful lot of power, connections and patience. Other events in the past have pointed at someone behind the curtain pulling strings and manipulating some major players and this is the strongest proof that it's not just a wild theory. I won't say any more, but this time the topic is discussed and not just mentioned in passing.
Harry is up to his neck and almost immediately at the start of his investigation he comes up against some dark forces that are just too powerful for him. He's getting stronger all the time, adding new skills to his toolkit and is on track to becoming one of the most powerful and versatile wizards of all time. I also think he will eventually take his place on the White Council (which would probably give the Merlin a heart attack!), but he's still decades away from that, maybe a century, and right now he's outclassed.
Thankfully Harry is also smart enough to realise his limits and he calls on his friends, allies and even a few enemies to help him. What unfolds is a twisted and dark tale where it's not just Harry and Morgan's lives on the line. I think in every single Dresden book, Harry gets beat up, physically and quite often by magic whilst investigating. In this book he takes a real emotional beating as well, just as he did in Small Favour.
I hate the phrase, nothing will be the same again. It's overused and has become a cliché, but I think some changes in Turn Coat cannot be undone. The biggest and most surprising of these actually comes towards the very end of the book after the dust has already settled on the main story. There's so much going on this book, it's hard to talk about it without spoilers, but in short Butcher has apparently done the impossible yet again. This is the 11th book in the series and he's produced something fantastic. That's not easy to do twice in a row, never mind eleven times. In fact, Turn Coat is a contender for my favourite Dresden book to date.
I can't wait to see what happens in Changes and I'm very glad that the series was picked up for a few more books because the story is far from over.
Ever since I picked up Harry Dresden's debut adventure 'Storm Front' I have been a dyed in the wool fan. I put most of my critical faculties on hold when it comes to Jim Butcher's wizard-cum-PI, so please bear that in mind when reading this review.
Even if I weren't a huge fan of Dresden Files however, I would still be pleased with Turn Coat, because Jim Butcher has finally done what I've been hoping he would do for about the past three books, which is focus on the White Council and actions of the mysterious, oft-referred to in passing Black Council working in its midsts.
Its been a standing complaint of mine that JB has repeatedly hinted at fascinating and critical events occuring in the wider world that Harry occupies, but refused to bring them front and centre. That was certainly the case with war between the Red Court Vampires and the White Council, which unfolded mostly off the page, and looked like it was going to be the case with the Black Council. Instead however, JB has thrust the latter front and centre in Turn Coat and at the same time has allowed extra insight into the workings of the White Coucil of Wizards. For that alone Turn Coat deserves most of its stars.
Add in the usual convoluted but clear plotting, wry humour (mostly courtesy of Harry), punchy action and strong atmospeherics and you get a slam dunked five star book. Yes, its not going to appeal to readers who are new to the series, but that's also true of pretty much every Dresden File novel since Summer Knight or earlier. Some other reviewers are also correct when they point out that some of the series supporting characters barely get a look-in this time around but that is inevitable now that Harry's world is populated by such a large and well drawn cast of individuals.
In fact my only real criticism of the book is that the identity of the bad guy is just a little too obvious from the moment he appears (though how he's ultimately brought down isn't). I was so sure I had him pegged (and it turned out that I did) that some of the suspense was lost. I might also have a poke at JB for introducing the issue of Harry's headaches at the beginning, making quite a big deal out of them and then seemingly forgetting to mention them again after page thirty or so. Then again its entirely within JB's powers to bring them back as a key plot device in the next novel, so I'll hold fire on that for the moment.
So overall another barn storming adventure for Harry and his friends, enemies and those who could easily be both. If you're reading this and you're new to Harry's world then go and pick up Storm Front rather than starting here. If you're already a fan like me though, and up to speed on events so far then you'll find Turn Coat to be another hugely enjoyable episode of the Dresden Files.
First Sentence: The summer sun was busy broiling the asphalt from Chicago's streets, the agony in my head had kept me horizontal for half a day, and some idiot was pounding on my apartment door.
The last person PI Harry Dresden, wizard of the White council, expects to find on his doorstop, is Morgon. Morgan had tried to kill Harry once and they were anything but friends. When Morgan tells Harry he is innocent of killing a Council member, Harry believes him and decides to help. Morgan is not Harry's only problem. There is a nearly invincible skinwalker on the loose and looking for Harry.
This is not a light, happy wizard book. This is a tough, occasionally brutal, supernatural-among-the-humans book and I loved it. Butcher includes just the right amount of humor to offset the horror, even down to some of Harry's expletives: "stars and stones," "god's beard," and "Hell's frickin' bells." I love that even the supernatural use Craigslist and compare themselves to John Steed of the Avengers.
Butcher creates his world so well, down to providing an interesting prospective about the White Council being involved in mortal politics. The characters are wonderful, particularly Harry, about whose Mother we learn more; his apprentice, Molly; his brother, Thomas; and his Foo dog, Mouse. He brings them to life, as he does the entire story.
Butcher's writing is wonderfully visual. We believe Harry's world exists and it is not a comfortable place to be. There is a ritual on the mountain top that is particularly visual. The story is very well plotted and the suspense is palpable.
This series is not for everyone, but I plan to keep going as long as the author does.
on 3 May 2009
Turn Coat is the eleventh volume of Jim Butcher's Dresden Files, supernatural adventures featuring Chicago-based wizard and private investigator, Harry Dresden. With any long running series such as this, it would be a rare reader, indeed, who would choose to start reading it so far in, with so much back-story to get through, so the question becomes: will this book satisfy the series' fans? Does it push all the right buttons, and continue Harry's adventures in an enjoyable and interesting way? Well, the answer has to be an unqualified `Yes,' although that's not to say that readers won't have individual criticisms with some aspects of the novel.
After last year's Small Favour, which culminated in a climactic battle with the Knights of the Blackened Denarius, and the crippling of Harry's friend and Knight of the Cross, Michael Carpenter, Turn Coat re-enters Harry's life a few months later, and the tone turns even darker, if that were possible, with the arrival on his doorstep of Morgan, the warden and wizard who despises and distrusts Harry above all, wounded, accused of murdering a senior member of the White Council of wizards, and begging his aid. If Harry helps Morgan, a man he detests, and is caught, he will face execution with him, but if he refuses, an innocent man will die and the true assassin escape, leaving a traitor at the heart of the Council.
Of course, Harry cannot abandon Morgan, and soon he is facing bounty hunters from the Never-Never, encountering White Court vampires, and being pursued by a Skinwalker, a next-to-immortal, shape-shifting nightmare from Navaho legend, all while being unable to trust the wizards of the council who should be his allies. He doesn't face these trials alone, though, as numerous friends and allies from previous books are on hand to offer support: Harry's vampire half-brother, Thomas, stands with him, and suffers for it; Molly Carpenter, his apprentice, gets a chance to prove her metal; even Billy and Georgia, the werewolves, and Toot-Toot and the other little folk of the Za-Lord's guard battle with him on the side of right, at the end.
As ever, Harry is a witty and wry hero, always ready with a quip and a pop culture reference with which to spit his defiance into the teeth of the most powerful and intractable of enemies, while also growing progressively more wizardly as he ages and matures. Butcher's writing skills are as good as ever, and he's at his best in the action scenes, banter between Harry and his friends (and enemies), and descriptions of his use of magic. Fans will be pleased that we finally get to see inside the White Council's headquarters, in tunnels under Arthur's Seat in Edinburgh, and that we find out more about the mysterious island in Lake Michigan which made its appearance in Small Favour (although there's clearly more to come there), and frustrated, although perhaps not surprised, that there are no more revelations about why Queen Mab of the Sidhe has been behaving so strangely, or what the Archangel Uriel has planned for Harry's future.
If I have any gripes, it's that some characters get relegated to the sidelines: Karin Murphy of the Chicago PD, though as redoubtable as ever, seems to have less to do this time around, and Bob the Skull hardly appears at all, but then when dealing with such weight of series history, it's perhaps inevitable that some old favourites won't always get as much space in the story. All I can do is hope that next time around they get to play a larger role, and that there are more revelations to come, as the pursuit of the Black Council continues. I'll certainly be putting in a pre-order for Dresden 12, as soon as it's possible to do so, and eagerly awaiting the continuation of his adventures.
on 20 April 2009
The adventures of Harry Dresden continue in this book, and if you've been following the books I will spare you from the recap, and avoid including a paragraph that would effectively be a blurb.
With the events of the last book the White Council has run into hard times, and things turn from bad to worse as they are beset by enemies from all sides and they start to fracture from within.
There is some great character development amongst members of the White Council, Harry's relationship with the werewolves, and Thomas's fight against himself is explored further... and it seems to have turned for the worse.
There is once again, to be expected from Jim great action and mayhem in this book. It's definitely a landmark in the series as things become more sinister for Harry and the White Council than ever before, and the storm clouds haven't even started rolling in yet.
If you're already reading the series, I doubt this review will make much of a impact as you'll probably get to this book eventually. So all I can say is. Pre-order the next one. It's worth it, and in between the wait for new Dresden Files books - read Codex Alera.