Cold Days: A Novel of the Dresden Files Hardcover – November 27, 2012
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“Harry Dresden is perhaps the best-written supernatural detective working today.”—SF Revu
“If there is an author that defines urban fantasy, it is Jim Butcher.”—Fresh Fiction
“What would you get if you crossed Spenser with Merlin? Probably you would come up with someone very like Harry Dresden.”—The Washington Times
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At the end of the previous book, Ghost Story, Harry wakes up and finds that Mab, Winter Queen, has kept his body alive with the help of Demon Reach island. He’s a bit grumpy about it. Mab means for him to keep his word and he is now the Winter Knight. First, he has to spend months at Arctis Tor in physical therapy. Thankfully, he has a competent and beautiful therapist, Sarissa, to help him through it. Unfortunately, he is tested nearly daily by Mab herself and this often means sharp pointy things being flung at this head.
Harry is introduced to the Winter Court on his birthday with a big party. Of course, these are the fae and a party wouldn’t be complete without some serious injuries. Maeve shows up in her vagazelled birthday suit and taunts Harry in a variety of ways. Then a Red Cap makes the mistake of harming Sarissa and this gives Harry the opportunity to show off his new powers as the Winter Knight. Once the festivities have tamed down a bit, Mab quietly sets Harry on his first task for her: kill one of her strongest minions, a specific immortal. Harry is going to be hard pressed to carry out that order!
Back in Changes, Harry had a lot happen to him that changed his life – he lost his office, apartment, car, etc. Now in this book, I actually see Harry has changed. We’ve seen Harry pressed to the limits before, having to make hard decisions. These things over time have aged him; some have given him wisdom and some have subtly changed him in other ways, like becoming more cynical. Now he has the mantel of the Winter Knight and that means he not only has this magnificent power, he also has these animalistic urges to protect what is his and destroy anything that threatens him and his, and sometimes even those things that deny him his will. Harry has this roiling mass of violence and lust just beneath the surface that he has to keep in check all the time, or does he? The poor man will be tested sorely!
First things first: very few people know that Harry is still alive. All his friends think he is dead. So you can imagine what it’s like for him to stroll up as the Winter Knight. Ha! There was a plethora of feelings here as he reunited with his friends. Some were angry. Some were happy. Some had very mixed emotions. Then Harry himself has quite a few emotions about being alive and being the Winter Knight.
Harry doesn’t have a place to stay in the mundane world, so Molly puts him up at her swanky apartment. Apparently, she did a job for the svartelves and they were quite pleased with her work. I should mention that all that physical therapy and combat training with Mab has left Harry well muscled. Molly wasn’t the only one who noticed.😉
Harry ends up at Mac’s for a brew and a sandwich when the Outsiders make an appearance. We’ve had little snippets of the Outsiders in previous books but this is the first book where we get some solid info on them. There’s some senior characters that have been working hard to keep the Outsiders out and few people know the extent of these efforts. Harry wasn’t the only one whose mind was blown by some of the big reveals in this book concerning the Outsiders. Lots of good stuff going on there.
I liked that Bob the Skull ended up with Waldo Butters. Bob is very fond of the internet – ha! Harry needs to pick Bob’s brain on how to kill an immortal and indeed there is one way that Bob knows of. Pretty soon, Harry’s friends are rallying around him to assist in stopping yet another disaster. But first there is the Wild Hunt to contend with. Let me just say that the Kris Kringle bit was awesome.
There’s a significant reveal about Demon Reach island and that was unexpected but also deliciously evil. Demon Reach has definitely developed it’s own personality these past few books. The final big fight scene involved nudity and that made me laugh in the face of all the grimness. Well done! There’s some silliness with Karrin Murphy and her motorcycle that started off OK but then felt a little forced later on. There were several unexpected outcomes to the final fight and at least one of them is a game changer. Jim Butcher continues to surprise me, even though this is the 14th book in the series. Book 15, Skin Game, is out and I suggest you have it ready to go because you are going to want to know how events in this book change the lives of your favorite characters going forward.
Narration: Once again, James Marsters is Harry Dresden. I wonder if he has a leather trench coat and carved staff that he takes with him to the recording studio to channel Dresden. I really enjoyed his performance in this book. He had an evil Sidhe grimalkin (which is a large talking cat) to perform – and he did it awesomely. Then his voices for Mother Winter and Kris Kringle were also great. Hearing Kringle be so cheerful about hunting was a little chilling. Mother Winter! So powerful! So evil! And perhaps a touch of dementia going on. It’s simply another great performance.
To fully "appreciate" this book, it's important for the reader to have read Summer Knight , the 4th installment in this series. In this volume, the reader is introduced to the Sidhe (Faeries) and their politics and machinations. The Sidhe consist of Summer and Winter, who are constantly at odds with each other, and both are ruled ruthlessly by Titania, the Summer Queen, and by Mab, the Queen of Winter and Darkness. In a previous installment Harry has reluctantly consented to be Mab's Winter Knight, and now that she has restored the wizard's mortality, she gives him her first command: Kill Maeve, the Summer Lady. . .and Mab's daughter. Only Maeve is immortal and can't be killed by a human--unless it's Halloween.
Over the course of saving Chicago, and trying to prevent Demonreach blowing up, and wrestling with his conscience about what to do about Maeve, Harry is reunited with some old friends: Thomas, his brother; Molly, his apprentice, who is an accomplished wizard herself; and Karrin Murphy, formerly of the Chicago PD. As they race to save the island--battling fierce foes both in and above the lake's water--Harry is constantly forced to make instant life-or-death decisions. . .and he's discovered something very concerning about himself: As Winter Knight, Mab has given Harry enormous power. But the power is dark and predatory--power he must resist.
**SPOILER ALERT!!** The chemistry between Harry and Karrin is becoming unmistakably romantic. But will they succumb to it? That's the cliffhanger going into the next installment.
COLD DAYS is an uneven, often meandering read that every now and then gives the reader a poignant moment, or a belly laugh from one of Harry's quips. But my goodness. With naagloshi, skinwalkers, Faeries, rawheads, shape shifters, Outsiders, svartelves, malks, the Hunt, the Erlking, and even freakin' Kris Kringle. . .there's just too many ghouls to keep track of. If I could give the author a single, simple suggestion:
Less is more.
~D. Mikels, Esq.
Top international reviews
1. They are now pretty much critic proof. Jim Butcher has got the formula pretty much perfected, so if you're already a fan of Harry and his world you'll almost certainly enjoy the next volume, whatever Amazon reviewers or other critics might say. You might enjoy some marginally more than others, but overall if you liked all the previous books you'll like this one too.
2. The 'Dresden Files' sub-title really makes no sense any more. The books are now so far beyond their fantasy private-detective origins that I can barely remember the days when Harry was working out of a shabby office in down town Chicago.
'A Dresden Epic' would probably be a better sub-title now, because that's what they've become. Ghost Story: A Dresden Files novel was a bit of a return to smaller scale story-telling, but Cold Days ramps up the scale once again. If Ghost Story was a chance to pause and reflect after the destruction of the Red Court and the end of the vampire/wizard war, then Cold Days marks the start of an entirely new phase in the Dresden series; one where the stakes are even higher than before.
Butcher reveals this fact with a truly epic scene in the Never-Never, which expands the reader's understanding of the wider universe and makes him or her realise that all the books prior to this have only uncovered a tiny part of the bigger picture. Its a great way to expand the Dresden universe and send the series off in a brand-new direction. In fact the whole book seems to be setting up new plot threads and dynamics, but Jim Butcher is skill-full enough by now to weave all the developments into a satisfying and compelling story.
If I have a complaint about Cold Days its that the finale does become a slightly overblown affair that risks veering towards the ridiculous, with characters undertaking feats that are almost superhuman at times. It doesn't quite trip over that line but it does come close.
I would also say that, as the Dresden universe expands and focuses less on Chicago and the 'real world' and more on the Never Never, the series also risks losing the human scale that grounded it and made it so compelling. Wars against creatures from parallel dimensions are all very well, but a bit more pounding the pavements of the Windy City, uncovering supernatural crimes, and fewer massed battles wouldn't go amiss. May be then calling the series 'The Dresden Files' wouldn't seem quite as ridiculous.
Oodles of stuff for any follower of the series to get into - you must have read the earlier books in the series to make *any* sense of this book though, if you are new to the series - this is not the book to start with. Left me a lot to think about and speculate with my fellow Dresden fen. I can't really find anything in the book to be truly critical of - and yes I know I'm doing the literary equivalent of fan girl squeeing but really that's the feeling I'm channeling right now. :) If I could rate this higher than five stars I would.
The plot is a direct continuation from Ghost Story, as Harry wakes as the Winter Knight. Regular readers will expect him to rapidly face off against the Big Bad, come off worst, fight a series of running battles becoming progressively more tired and injured and finally triumph in a spectacular conflict.
Unsurprisingly, this happens.
What will thrill diehard fans is that we - finally - get an explanation for what happen in Arctis Tor all those years ago. And it was worth the wait, creating an overarching mythos that ties the plots of all of the early books together in a way that almost seems planned. This alone makes the book worthwhile, but there are many trademark geek references (including Grimtooth's Traps!) and what must count as the best use of a Queen song in modern fantasy.
Cold Days misses out on 5 stars because of the repeated explanations (we get it, magic doen't work well over water, shut up about it now...) but is still a must read for Dresden fans everywhere.
And if you are not a Dresden fan, go and read book 1 asap.
This book is worth every bit of the 5 stars I've given, but if I was marking out of 10, I'd probably knock half a mark off for a very specific reason. Jim Butcher is fantastic at writing the Dresdent set piece stories - he's got it down to a charm, with the non-stop action, 24 hour deadlines, new characters, old characters, and the amazing epic showdowns. And he manages, extremely well, to develop the characters and to let us get to know them in the course of each story. But I'm missing some familiar aspects of Harry's pre-CD world - the apartment, the Blue Beetle, Mister the cat, things that gave the action a grounding in some sort of every day reality, as did some of the shorter stories in "Side Jobs". Of course Harry always ends up in some even more epic battle at the end of each book, but I enjoy the more mundane stuff as well and hope we get a bit more of a mix in the next books.
As with every Dresden book, the second time of reading is always my favourite! There are so many details and I always miss loads of them first time round. Some of the most important plot developments happen in the course of a couple of sentences, easily missed, and I'm sure I'll find even more when I read the book again. Can't recommend this series of books enough!
Jim Butcher has woven a complex fantasy world that I do prefer to the lightweight Potter stories (which are not well written). I believe that the Dresden TV series flopped but I see why it would be very difficult to create on film....it's visuals are monster fights without the trappings of pretty symbols and stunning backdrops to name the more obvious. Having said that, the Dresden Files are a good read....although I do hope that we will return to Dresden's Chicago reality sometime soon.
The cast of supporting characters is much more interesting and enjoyable than the monster battles and huge injuries Harry suffers.
Jim Butcher is a clever story teller, writes well and is developing new books like chapters, always fast paced but too heavily weighted with improbable monsters and magic folk.
Harry Dresden's often flippant cheap wit is irritating and does not strike quite the right chord, and one wonders when he will learn a little diplomacy and grow up a tad.
If you like fantasy then read well written fantasy and this is in that category.
Harry is a Faerie Knight not a detective and the result is that this book, while maintaining writing standards, is nowhere near as entertaining as the earlier novels. Butcher needs to find a way of getting Harry back to his own "normality" as he is in danger of sliding into a kind of generic urban fantasy and losing his unique qualities.
Following on from Ghost Story, the book delves into the Winter court and Mab's plans for the main character, Harry Dresden. The previous book saw many questions raised, and though some are answered, there were a few that were not. Our hero is taken from death and brought into the world of being the Winter Knight, fraught with danger and misery.
In the course of the book, we meet with old friends, old enemies and get a tantalising glimpse of the enemies Dresden will have to face eventually. We learn more about the Winter court, Bob the skull and Mab's animosity, Demonreach, the Gatekeeper, Molly and even some secrets about Dresden himself; with the hint of something special on its way.
Although it's understandable why Dresden would not go and see her, face to face, it was still disappointing that the reunion was delayed for another book; those of you who know Ghost Story will probably understand who I mean.
High on action, wit and sarcasm, the latest Dresden Files will leave you begging for more... looks like you'll have to wait with the rest of us.
Harry's life just keeps getting more and more difficult; his path to Power more difficult, dark and dangerous.
Hell, when most of a Faerie want your head on a stick and your heart on a platter, and they're not even your prime concern, what do you expect?
It's Halloween, and the resurrected Wizard Dresden, Warden & Winter Knight faces the most difficult of his twin responsibilities. And learns the true meaning of both mantles.
Will it be too much, even for a soul like Harry's?
Finding out all these answers is one of the best reads I have had this year. I love Jim Butcher's characterisations.
You will too. A quality read, worth every penny and every second of the read. The pace, the pressure build relentlessly, and the finale? Oh my! I never saw that coming!!
I just wish it lasted longer. Now write the next one, damn you! :)
I will however contine to read Dresden but feel that the books are coming to their natural conclusion and if htey should end in the next one or two then I would be left happy, feeling that the characters were put to bed at the right time without going stale.
I am very much looking forward to the new novel when it comes out...Is it May already?
Still a solid entertaining in a series that doesn't take itself too seriously.
Any number of (frozen) chickens are coming home to roost in this fantastic instalment: so many, in fact, that I began to lose count of them all, though will doubtless track them better once I've avidly re-read it a few more times. Harry is no longer the sometimes-bumbling, always well-meaning supernatural gumshoe he was of old. Stuff has happened (for more details, see Butcher's previous published works) & he is not the only one who's changed as a result. The scene is set by the opening in Arctis Tor, stronghold of Mab, the Faerie Queen of Air & Darkness. Harry is now the Winter Knight & not particularly happy about it, but ... well, trapped in the role.
Butcher spends a fair few chapters trying to embed Harry in his new world, & I think the party scene drags on a little too long (five chapters or thereabouts: really, Jim?) but stick with it. For me, & I'm guessing many others, the book really begins to come alive and starts ticking over (just like the crocodile: you'll get that once you've read the book!) when Harry slips through a portal back onto his home turf of Chicago & discovers, with a familiar sense of wry resignation, that things are exponentially worse than even his newly-extra-cynical self has been led to believe. If you know Butcher, you'll be able to guess that the plots, sub-plots, twists, turns and psychotic breaks begin to come thick & fast from there on out. I'd suggest you sit back & enjoy the ride.
Harry as Winter Knight is darker, less goofy and considerably less naive than in former times (& books). This leaner, meaner version takes a bit of getting used to & you can see/sense Butcher planting the seeds of future trouble liberally amongst the rollicking narrative (parasite on the brain, anyone?), which has always been one of his best and favourite ploys. I am expecting Ferrovax to show up any day now, put it that way. Harry's sense of humour has not quite atrophied, but is colder and edgier than of yore: no bad thing, perhaps, but ... slightly disconcerting, sometimes. On purpose, of course: Butcher manages to write very casually, but is always on the ball. Pay attention, or you'll miss stuff.
As Winter Knight, he's picked up a few new sidekicks; most notably the fabulously psychotic and sardonic Cat Sith, King of the Malks and feline wizard extraordinaire, who effortlessly steals every scene he's in; but it is when his old allies begin to gather that I started to get very happy with the writing. His Little Folk minions, enslaved by the pizza he's been bribing them with for years, show up trying to drive his new ride & stick around to watch his back ("Lean forward a bit, my lord!"). He hooks up with Bob pdq & a slightly less crazy Molly drags his ass out of trouble & greets him with a Star Wars quote, just to remind him he's home.
Expect to see Thomas, Murph, Butters and Mouse back on the case, too: the first and last were the characters I was most glad to see again. Also, in an intriguing and very tantalising twist (damn you, Butcher, you wily genius) Mac, the monosyllabic tavern-owner and micro-brew specialist is revealed as, we may have suspected, even more of a mystery. A few hints are dropped, but his secrets are yet to be revealed.
With enemies aplenty, a guilty conscience and eventually a brand new leather coat (yay!) Harry tears around wearing himself out, desperately trying to keep a lid on any number of crises. Demonreach is in the mix, with trouble brewing below. Faeries galore, the Summer Knight (remember Fix?) is gunning for him, the Wild Hunt is on the loose with Santa flanking the Erl-King & the Outsiders are back, trying very hard to run rampant. Fights, magic, relationship ambiguity & Bob quoting "Firefly" (a reference Harry himself doesn't get, though it made me squeak): it's all here.
One of the many joys of the Dresden Files series is the way Harry is constantly evolving, changed by his adventures rather than simply shrugging them off and moving on to the next wacky scenario: it's never the same old, same old. Nor do the characters around him remain the same: everyone is subject to change, to having to live with the consequences of their own choices and actions, as well as his. Nothing is simple here, nor easy, which keeps you coming back, keeps you wanting more. Jim Butcher is a master of his craft by now, & long may he reign.
Buy. Read. You won't be sorry.