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Cold Days (Dresden Files) Paperback – September 3, 2013
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*Starred Review* Harry Dresden, the Chicago PI and professional wizard, has been having a pretty weird time of it lately. In 2012’s Ghost Story, Harry is trapped between life and death but on the trail of his own killer all the same; after discovering that killer’s shocking identity, he decides to let himself pass into death. But Queen Mab has other ideas, and that’s where the latest episode in the Dresden Files novels picks up the story. Mab, who has wanted Harry to be her hatchet man for a long time, has a job for him—several jobs, actually, a sort of shopping list of evil deeds, beginning with murder. Harry, basically a good man, doesn’t take killing lightly, especially when his intended victim happens to be immortal. Harry thinks there must be a reason why Mab wants this particular immortal killed at this particular time, and when he hits up some sources back in Chicago, he figures out she’s probably setting him up—but why? By this point, more than a dozen novels into the series, Butcher is pretty much assuming that if you’re reading the latest Dresden novel, you’re familiar with the ones that came before it. Readers coming to the novel without any previous experience might feel like they’ve tuned into an epic, multicharacter TV miniseries about halfway through, but fans of the Dresden Files, who have a lot invested in Harry, will be lining up to see whether he escapes his death as slickly as he did last time. Butcher remains the gold standard for urban fantasy. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: The Dresden Files started slowly as a paperback original series but eventually built an audience and moved to hardcover. From there, it was a short jump to becoming the quintessential urban fantasy. --David Pitt --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Praise for the Dresden Files
“Think Buffy the Vampire Slayer starring Philip Marlowe.”—Entertainment Weekly
“Fans of Laurell K. Hamilton and Tanya Huff will love this series.”—Midwest Book Review
“Superlative.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“One of the most enjoyable marriages of the fantasy and mystery genres on the shelves.”—Cinescape
“Butcher...spins an excellent noirish detective yarn in a well-crafted, supernaturally-charged setting. The supporting cast is again fantastic, and Harry’s wit continues to fly in the face of a peril-fraught plot.”—Booklist (starred review)
“What’s not to like about this series?...It takes the best elements of urban fantasy, mixes it with some good old-fashioned noir mystery, tosses in a dash of romance and a lot of high-octane action, shakes, stirs, and serves.”—SF Site
“A tricky plot complete with against-the-clock pacing, firefights, explosions, and plenty of magic. Longtime series fans as well as newcomers drawn by the SciFi Channel’s TV series based on the novels should find this supernatural mystery a real winner.”—Library Journal
“What would you get if you crossed Spenser with Merlin? Probably you would come up with someone very like Harry Dresden, wizard, tough guy and star of [the Dresden Files].”—The Washington Times
Top customer reviews
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.
This is a very satisfying adventure. True, Harry gets pulverized as if violence is magnetically drawn to him. My consolation is I know Harry will survive what would kill an ordinary mortal. After all, he already has survived death. Jim Butcher is a clever author. He managed to extract Harry from impossible situations in which he faces horrendous odds, and then adroitly uses them to move the story along. Nothing that happens is wasted. It is all part of a giant jigsaw puzzle.
Which brings me to my one criticism: sudden inexplicable alterations of existing characters where they virtually reverse their previous persona. From a reader's point of view, such sudden turnarounds are a jolting. While there are no rules about this sort of thing, having an evil character suddenly become a good one or vice versa is disorienting. It takes a bit of time, with me sitting there and says "what?" until I am able to realign my thinking. A few extra hints along the way might not be a bad thing. 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 even if the characters started walking on their hands and speaking Latin, but I 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. 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 possible 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 fighting it is like trying to punch a hole in jello. You can't beat them; they have no substance.
In Jim Butcher's world, Harry fights evil for me. He takes his lumps and then some, but he's out there fighting for justice, right and good, even when it seems he's taken the wrong turn. Despite appearances, Harry is never a bad guy. He's stubborn, too wedded to his own opinions and habits. He's a poor listener and does not heed good advice, a combination that has cost him dearly. But he's learning and changing, albeit slowly. He has grown. He's 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 more of 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 would love the series to go on forever, but that is not the way of authors. There will be a few more books, relationships to work out, a future to plan, but ultimately, Harry Dresden and Jim Butcher will move on. I hope what comes next will be at half as good. Harry's awesome reality has become a metaphysical home away from home. Maybe in my next incarnation I will have magic of my own ... but in this life, I'll have to settle for regular, non-magical me.
I hope the next installment of the Dresden Files is well along toward publication. I'll be waiting and ready to read!
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