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Cold Days (Dresden Files) Paperback – September 3, 2013
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Jim Butcher's Dresden Files have always contained a wonderfully manic combination of screwball comedy, High Urban fantasy, and the detective genre. As is traditional in a good noire story, our lead is a capable protagonist who finds himself in a dangerous situation that is rapidly spinning out beyond his ability to control, thanks mostly in part to a cadre of dangerous women who run the gamut from murderous matron to femme fatale to a literal Ice Queen. Expounding upon his troubles are Harry's increasing list of character flaws. Although Harry possesses magic, he isn't particularly wise; Although he's intelligent, he's not a very good deductive reasoner; and even though he's become powerful due to deals brokered in previous books in the series, he's hardly an invincible combatant. What he is, is a man as prone to making things worse for himself through accident as well as intent.
But, like any good protagonist worth rooting for, Harry remains a motivated scrapper determined to do the right thing and he isn't alone; like the Harry from those OTHER books, his previous deeds have earned him a collection of friends and comrades as determined to keep him alive as he is to get himself killed through his endearingly self-destructive bouts of suicidal stupidity. Mister Butcher as always chooses to balance moments of fist-pumping triumph for our hero with face-palming groans of disbelief at what he's lumbered into THIS time. As a fan of Mister Dresden, I'm inclined to imagine instances where instead of taking humiliating beatings, and demoralizing lectures, he instead coasts through his enemies with consummate ease, soul-crushing putdowns, and invincible skills; luckily for Harry, Butcher is a much more capable writer than I am and understands that the essences of a truly entertaining story are conflict and risk. If Harry was an undefeated juggernaut who could snark his through every encounter and argument with lazy ease, these stories would lose a rich element of growth and suspense that helps make them such fun escapist fare; (To make an old comparison: we like Superman, but we ADMIRE Batman. After all, if Superman fell off a building, he'd dust himself off none the worse for the wear; Batman would be a cowled smear on the asphalt and yet, it doesn't keep Batman from challenging things comfortably outside of his weight class).
Putting it all together, I give Cold Days my highest recommendation as a humble Reader. The events in this book are as momentous as they were in Changes (book 12), and without giving away any unneeded spoilers, things will change quite dramatically for characters that we've followed for years. The revelation of the purpose of the Summer Knight was genuinely surprising as was the maturation of Fix, a relatively minor background player for years who in this tale steps his game up considerably, samurai style. Sad fates await some (depressingly sad in fact), but the scope of the conflict becomes far clearer. For me, the thirteen hours I spent reading this book evaporated in no time and left me hungering for more. And just like all the times before, I'll have to wait a good long while to see what happens next. ( There's a fresh mystery that'll make your head "split" when your realize it won't get resolved this go-around, hur-hur-hur).
In closing, read this book. Terry Goodkind went mad with power, Robert Jordan died before he could finish things on his own terms, Piers Anthony became a bit lecherous and unpalatable, and we're slowly losing the great Terry Pratchett. If you were to ask me who gets my vote for which popular entertainment writer to sacrifice a few dozen unrecoverable hours of your precious and finite life to, it's not a hard decision to make;
In Jim Butcher, I trust.
Unfortunately Harry got him self into a bit of a pickle. This of course more or less the normal operating procedure of Harry Dresden but this time he is not operating on his own but are forced, due to previous sins, to work as the Knight of the Winter Queen which limits Harry’s freedom quite a bit. The fact that his first task is to kill an immortal is of course not simplifying matters.
Not very surprisingly Harry goes about it with his usual, shoot first, shoot later then shoot some more tactics. Unfortunately he also seems to have gotten back to his habit of getting sucker punched every so often and spends quite some time being shot up in various ways. I have to say that I was a wee bit disappointed at this. I was hoping that he, as the Winter Knight, should have been able to deal out a bit more damage than he did. He generally had to rely quite a bit on his friends, to which the relationship have gotten complicated to say the least, to do the fighting for him.
On the plus side a lot of his friends, not so much friends and (temporary) allies are back. I especially like Vadderung even though his appearance was fairly brief.
As usual there are a lot of action, quite some. Investigative work and plenty of entertaining dialogue in this book. The story is quite interesting and it does indeed move the general story as well as Harry’s relationship with the various actors forward by a fair amount.
I could have been without Harry being suckered as much as he was but on the whole this was a quite entertaining book. More so than the last book in the series. There were quite a few twists in the story, especially at the end. I do whish that Harry gets free of this Winter Knight role though. Either that or that he gets some more power so that he is not “just” a subordinate of Mab.