I waited with a proverbial bated breath for this latest episode of the Harry Dresden series. I am enchanted by Jim Butcher’s writing and the world he has created. And I’m in love with Harry, Chicago’s resident wizard. Look him up. He’s in the Yellow Pages.
I’m reading it again. All my favorite authors are between books, so this is my time to reread the last books they released and pick up all the missed nuances, subtle hints about what will be coming next and more. I figure if a book it good enough to read twice, it’s good enough to read a third and fourth time. I have read some of my favorite books often enough to have memorized large sections of them.
I read Cold Days on Kindle then listened to the audiobook. Hearing the audiobook again seemed the right choice. James Marsters is a great narrator and has become the voice of Harry Dresden. One of the books used a different narrator and fans were seriously upset. I wasn’t as bothered as some others were, but I do prefer Marsters.
The previous book, “Ghost Story” in which Harry was neither entirely alive nor quite dead was difficult for Harry’s fans. I liked it well enough, though it certainly was a change from previous Harry Dresden adventures. I was positive it was a bridge to the next phase of Harry’s wizarding. I was right.
In “Cold Days,” Harry is back, in the flesh. Changed, less careless of life having lost it once … but as Winter Knight, he is powerful in new ways. This is just as well because his foes are stronger than ever and they aren’t going away.
“Cold Days” is very satisfying. Although Harry gets pulverized, attracting violence like iron shavings to a magnet, I am consoled knowing Harry will survive what would kill an ordinary mortal. He has already survived death. Earlier books ended with more resolution than these last few books. Now, each book is an episode in a continuing story line heading toward what I expect will be some Dresdenesque version of the apocalypse.
Jim Butcher is a clever author. He extracts Harry from impossible predicaments in which he faces overwhelming odds, then adroitly weaves these events into the storyline, taking Harry and the series into the next book. He wastes nothing. No phenomenon is accidental. Everything is part of a giant jigsaw puzzle, a piece of a picture to be finally revealed.
Which brings me to my single criticism: the sudden inexplicable alterations of existing characters in which they reverse their previous persona. From a reader’s point of view, sudden turnarounds are jolting. I understand that “out of character” reversals drive the story in a specific direction. There are no rules about this sort of thing, but having an evil character suddenly become good or vice versa is disorienting. It takes a bit of time, with me sitting with my eyes crossed saying “whut?” until I am able to realign my thinking. Dropping a few hints … a line of literary bread crumbs as it were … might be helpful. But it’s a quibble. For all I know, there were hints I missed because I was looking the other way.
I’d keep reading the books even if the characters started walking on their hands and speaking Latin, but wouldn’t mind less abrupt transitions. It’s not a matter of believability; more like giving readers a chance to catch up with the author who for obvious reasons is way ahead of us. If you are already a Harry Dresden fan, reality is unlikely to be your issue. You probably left it behind a long time ago.
Harry’s world of wizards, demons, ghosts, strange immortal beings, mythological creatures and weirdness of every type is far removed from reality, but within the rules Jim Butcher has created for the Dresden world, it flows better if characters’ personalities change in accordance with what we know of them. Just saying.
I love the Dresden universe. My world has more than enough evil to keep an army of wizards busy, but the evil on my reality plane consists of grey bureaucrats, corporate executives and smarmy politicians. Fighting them is like trying to punch a hole in jello. You can’t beat them; they have no substance.
In Jim Butcher’s world, the bad guys are solid, big, and seriously badass. This is where Harry fights evil for me. He takes his lumps and then some, but he’s out there battling for justice and good, even when it seems he’s taken the wrong turn. Despite appearances, Harry is never bad. He is stubborn, too wedded to his own opinions and habits. He’s a poor listener and does not heed advice, a combination that has cost him dearly. He persists in assuming he knows best, not only for himself, but for his friends and is taken aback when his friends object. Sooner or later, he will get the point.
He is changing. He has grown. He is painfully — in the most literal sense — aware of his mortality and fragility. He knows he’s made terrible mistakes he can never set right. He’s become more a planner, less inclined to charge headlong into danger unless it is the only possible course. Mindless violence is no longer his default setting. This is good.
I’m sensing a climactic conclusion to the series coming. I with the series would go on forever, but Jim has said it will be 20 books and a trilogy. I’m not sure if the trilogy is part of the 20 books or in addition to it. I keep meaning to ask, but on some odd level, I’d rather wait and see.
At least I know there will be more than a few additional stories. Lots of relationships to work out. There’s a future to plan and it has become one of my homes away from reality. Harry’s awesome world is my metaphysical escape from the woes of life. Harry’s woes are ever so much more entertaining than mine. Maybe in my next incarnation I will have magic, but in this life, I guess I will settle for unmagical me.
I listened to the audiobook and read the book too so I wouldn’t miss the pleasure of James Marsters‘ fine narration. Audiobooks for me are like watching a movie, but I get to cast the characters, do the cinematography, and I don’t have to slice and dice the story so the studio can fit it into two hours of screen time.
I hope the next installment of the Dresden Files is well along toward publication. I’ll be waiting and ready to read when it comes around! Don’t miss this installment. It’s rich, complex and I promise it will grab you and take you for a ride you won’t forget.
The Dresden Files:
Book 1: Storm Front
Book 2: Fool Moon
Book 3: Grave Peril
Book 4: Summer Knight
Book 5: Death Masks
Book 6: Blood Rites
Book 7: Dead Beat
Book 8: Proven Guilty
Book 9: White Night
Book 10: Small Favor
Book 11: Turn Coat
Book 12: Changes
Book 13: Ghost Story
Book 14: Cold Days
- How Much I love Jim Butcher (wired.com)
- The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher (paranormalbibliophile.wordpress.com)
- One of the Best Books in the Series: Jim Butcher’s Cold Days (tor.com)
- Harry Dresden’s Magical Chicago (teepee12.com)
- Cold Days – Jim Butcher (nutstosoup.wordpress.com)