Oh man was I ready to give this book a slating.
I've read all the Dresden books. I've seen the characters develop, relationships become more and more complex and an entire world taking shape. Then, meh. 3 star books that I enjoyed but didn't necessarily improve on anything.Over the past few releases, I felt the books were becoming tired and stale. Dresden is now becoming an undefeatable superhero who faces the giant, evil henchman around the middle of the book, nearly gets killed, then comes good as the final quarter is reached. Over the past few releases. Plot threads seemed to drift ever onwards with minimal reservation. Dialogue became too familiar, repetitive and unlikely.
In many ways this book suffers that same fate - at least the first part of it does. It seems to amble through very familiar (albeit likeable) territory.
Butcher was losing interest it seemed.
Then the ending. The last 60 pages.
Jeez he packs stuff in doesn't he? Butcher - whilst never purporting to be the most sure of writers - is an intricate plotter. What he lacks in prose (which isn't a slight but more an observation on his casual style) knows exactly where this series is heading.
And then the final page - almost a Deus ex Machina moment insofar as you can't see THAT coming.
Now I can't wait for the next one and it's a year away.
I'm not getting any younger and if something happens to me in the next 12 months, I know who's getting my death curse.
on 24 December 2010
OK. I realise now that it has taken me five years to get to this point, and for the series itself, ten. And it's been an interesting and entertaining journey for me. But here is, as the title would suggest, where everything changes. This is the Dresden equivalent of Holmes and Moriarty at the Reichenbach Falls, or of the Battle of Minas Tirith.
Here things really become different. This is one where Jim rips up what has gone before, and makes, in many ways, a fresh start. Many of our reference points are removed here, leaving a feeling that this book really does change things about.
Having said that, there are some things that don't change. The series, as I've noted before, has a reputation of starting with a bang. Turn Coat did, but this one is a new shock.
"I answered the phone, no big deal, until I heard the message: 'They've taken our daughter.'"
The phone call is from Susan Rodriguez, his ex-girlfriend who was turned into a vampire by the Red Court back in Book Five, Death Masks. He is told about something he didn't know - he has a daughter, Maggie, kept in secret from Harry for her protection. And that Arianna Ortega, Duchess of the Red Court, has found out, kidnapped her and plans to use Maggie against Harry as revenge for the death of her husband, an action precipitated by Harry.
Over the next three days Harry's task, with Susan and half-vampire Martin, is to find his daughter and save her from the evil vampires. Whilst she initiates the kidnapping, Queen Arianna also manoeuvres towards a proposed peace settlement between the Red Court and the Wizards: something that would be greatly desired by the Council. Thus given a choice of saving Harry's daughter or ending the war, the Wizard's actions seem restricted - exactly Arianna's point. The actions are further limited when a serious and mysterious illness dehabilitates many of the Council who remain at the Council Centre in Edinburgh.
Further help is denied when newly appointed Gregori Cristos (in Turn Coat) has many of the Senior Wardens arrested, including Captain Anastasia Luccio, who was involved with Harry in Turn Coat. Harry is pretty much on his own here, with only his closest friends to help. Them and Queen Mab, who for reasons of her own is enlisted to help in a pact made with Harry.
To do that, Harry has to pay back some old debts, all at a cost. He also uncovers secrets and makes serious sacrifices that will affect him, and those around him, forever.
So: we finally see a resolution of sorts of the Vampire Wizard War, though perhaps not the way it what was expected to be initially. I must admit, considering that Susan is now a half-vampire why the Court hasn't considered using her against Harry before, particularly if they are as ruthless as we are led to believe. However she has kept Maggie a secret from Harry (and everyone else) for that reason, though I'm not sure it would be that easy to do.
In terms of overall plot development, the arrival of Maggie now means that we're into what I jokingly referred to as Dresden: the Next Generation in an earlier review, though this is not developed here. However some of our regulars do have their star moments - the training of Molly as an apprentice finally comes to fruition, Mouse has an interesting development and Karrin excels herself as a friend of Harry.
There are some new elements. We have some new characters: Esteban and Esmeralda Bastiste, collectively known as `the Ebs', are sent as hired assassins to kill Harry. Though rather deranged, I did think they were a little bit underwhelming.
Less disappointing was the fact that, as you might expect from previous Dresden's, Jim does do epic battles well. Here there is an epic battle at Chichen Itza, where Maggie is to be sacrificed, between Harry and his friends and the might of the Red Court. We discover that Arianna's aim is to sacrifice Maggie in a blood ritual which would release a death curse which would travel up the family tree from the sacrificial victim to all her siblings, then to her parents, then to all their siblings (like Harry's half brother, Thomas), to the grandparents, to the grandparent's siblings, ad infinitum.
What works best here is that the book has jaw-dropping moment after jaw-dropping moment. We have the appearance of an ancient God, the emergence of the Red King, and Harry visits the domain of the ErlKing. Most importantly, here's where a lot of those plot lines previously told comes together: Harry's past, Harry's responsibilities, the Vampire-Wizard War, Harry's friendships.
And just when you think the tale's been wrung out as much as it can, the ending is a stunner, which, in a page, changes things again.
In summary, those readers who have made the journey, as I have, to this point are going to be shocked and horrified by some of the things that happen here. There are characters that come to the fore and unexpected betrayals. This book is life-changing for Harry and many of the key characters we have got to know, in both positive and negative ways.
This, for me, puts Harry above the genre competition by a mile. If I may have felt that there were previous books that treaded water a little in places, this one definitely doesn't. This is where everything that has gone before counts and for the reader makes what happens here have an emotional punch that makes reading all the books up to this point pay off. Big time.
The thirteenth novel, I understand, will be called Ghost Story and is due out March 2011 (though we have short story collection, Side Jobs, already out in the US and due later this year in the UK.)
I can't wait.
on 24 April 2010
Harry Dresden, over the span of the series (much beloved by me from its very start, for who can resist the gruff, self-deprecating humor of Chicago's only practising wizard - no love-potions!- and his plethora of assorted friends and foes?) has come a long way. In the beginning, we had this cock-sure P.I. with a dark past and a chip on his shoulder the size of Texas...but events and heartache and the influence of his trusted circle of friends have helped him cope and stay sane.
Now, author Jim Butcher has his main character come full circle, mainly in the form of Susan Rodriguez, half-vampire, full guerilla. "They have our daughter."
"They" being the Red Court, a background story on the sidelines for some time now while Harry dealt with conspiracies, Denarians, family (mainly Thomas) and wizard-only stuff.
This revelation sets off a story that never allows for a breath of relief, only a sip of cold water, then the race is on again.
Characters and stabilizing influences from the previous books (and it's a bittersweet joy to see how the development/radical shifts in the past two books sets the scene for this one) are not present, Jim Butcher makes sure, in a credible way, that Harry is on his own, and there's hardly anyone who he can call on in his rage and despair. Emotions and inner turmoil rule this novel, the Harry who had been so happy about *finally* being a little more Zen...gone. He'll stop at nothing, politics be damned, calls in old debts, browses his Demon Green Pages, and even pitches in, after being denied help from other sources, with Johnny Marcone and the CEO of Monoc Security, aka Sigrun's dad, aka Odin, before his daughter is used in a ritual of blood-magic of devestating proportions!
After this, nothing remains the same.
on 30 January 2012
I seem to have flown through the last six or so books in The Dresden Files in the past year they're that addictive. This one follows on nicely from Turn Coat and all the fallout from that story is still prevalent in Changes.
In a lot of ways, Changes is fairly predictable. You largely know how its going to play out and what choices Harry is going to make along the way. That doesn't make it any less fun to read. There's some nice resolutions to a few small plot threads that have been lingering for a while (some frustratingly so!) with Murphy getting her fair share of time in this one. I'd have liked to have seen The Alphas in there somewhere but their absence is neatly explained in the short novella epilogue in the Side Jobs book.
There's similarly resolutions to some of the major plot points in the series, though there's already signs of some serious repercussions to come, hinted at in the last couple of chapters and backed up by the Side Jobs epilogue.
If I've sounded very positive so far and you're wondering why only 4 out of 5, its largely down to a single plot point that so far as I can tell was never explained and I sort of get the feeling that maybe the story had been written one way (which would make sense with how the main story is resolved) and then amended later leaving a stray plot point somewhere in the middle of the book (I'll refer you to the hitman who tries to take a shot at Harry in the church and who he says he was hired by).
Overall though, thoroughly enjoyable. Sort of curious about how the series will progress from here!
One final note. Do not, whatever you do, read the synopsis for Ghost Story (the subsequent book in the series) before you've read Changes. Unfortunately, I did as I was trying to work out which one was Book 12 of series and it literally ruined the last 2 pages of Changes for me.
on 3 July 2010
I was really lucky when I discovered the Dresden series, White Night had just been released into paperback and I was able to read them all from Storm Front through to White Night virtually back to back... (including the novelette which was more about Thomas and also the prequel to Storm Front) So for me therefore it wasn't a question of would Harry survive? More - how did he survive? As I knew he made it to the next book..
After White Night however, like all other fans - I then had to wait impatiently for each new book to come through in hardback to see what happened next..
Changes.. Parenthood changes you without a doubt and the gentleman that is Harry (opens doors, holds coats for ladies - even if it does drive Murphy mad and rescues damsels in distress) is about to be suddenly hit full on with the lengths that he would go to as a parent to keep his child safe.. No matter what the cost.
In Macs pub, there are 13 tables, 13 bar stools, 13 carved pillars and 13 ceiling fans.. The question is though - will Harry make it beyond book 13 (I count 12 + the prequel) or is the cost this time just too high for Harry Dresden - Wizard to pay..?
I really enjoyed this book and I've easily fallen in love with the books as a series. I have a suspicion and my own thoughts for the last handful of pages in the book Changes on who, what, why and when.. but you'll have to read them yourself and make your own decisions.
on 29 April 2010
This book was excellent, as i have found everything jim butcher has ever written to be, but i think not his best book. The writing seems a little rushed, lacking some of the subtle tension that the other books had, and is also a little predictable, some of the solutions that Harry came up with were easily foreseen. It also makes use of a cliffhanger at the end, the first of the series, normally Butcher leaves subtle questions at the end which leave you satisfied but thirsty for more, the ending of this book does not satisfy and seems a bit unfinished. This book is also one of the only ones in the series that cannot stand on its own, it concentrates too much on previous books but that cannot be helped as it seems that Butcher is winding up the story. In all, an excellent read, a definite page turner and the series is my favorite of all time, Butcher is a fantasy master and I would recommend the series to anyone but this particular book, however, is not my favorite of the series.