Meg’s Review of Cold Days by Jim Butcher (Dresden Files #14)
This review will not contain plot spoilers for Cold Days. However, all other Dresden stories are fair game!
As this is a fairly family-friendly blog, I won’t write what I thought during those last chapters of Cold Days. Suffice to say, the phrase started with a “holy” and ended with just about every single four letter word in existence.
Jim Butcher appears to be playing the longest con in literary history. Typically, books in a series only refer back to three books back — five, max — because, I would assume, that’s about how much authors can handle. If you’ve got a dozen books in play, with fifty different subplots running around, things just get ungodly messy. Best to keep things nice and neat and nebulous.
By extension of this theory, one would not expect that book 14 would rely on plot pieces put into play in book one. Or the fourth book. Or the eighth. Hell, the single biggest switcheroo relied on what amounted to an insignificant moment in the third book of the series. And it wasn’t even explained. It was just dropped in there, a brief mention of this thing that happened over ten books ago.
I think this utter trust in readers to keep everything straight is my favorite part about the Dresden Files. That Butcher relies on us to be close readers and to have enough fantasy savvy to hold a truly staggering cast of characters (and their personalities, allegiances, and tendencies) in order just makes me love the man even more. And I think it allows us to sink right into this 14th book like it was the very first.
Harry Dresden is alive. This had not been the plan as alive means he is still the Winter Knight, the mortal hand of the Queen Mab, a deranged, morally corrupt and powerful fae. And if that wasn’t enough, his very first assignment from the Queen is a doozy: Kill Maeve, Lady Winter, daughter of Mab, and just as immortal as her mother.
Of course, that’s not all that’s happening in Harry’s life. To say any more would spoil the plot, but as soon as Harry returns to the mortal world he finds Chicago in grave peril and has no choice but to bring in every friend and ally he can to help save the world. Again.
The best part of this collection of allies: so much Thomas. I have been going through major Raith withdraws since the end of Changes, and to have Harry’s brother front and center throughout the majority of the text was simply superb.
The worst part of this collection of allies: Murphy. She is just a frelling mess. I know that, as a character, she’s been through literal hell and back, but I am getting less and less amused with the turn the character has taken since Changes — especially with the fact that she is suddenly being referred to as “Karrin” in the text rather than “Murphy.” It just doesn’t sit right. However, Harry’s death was one of the biggest disasters in her life, so maybe with him back for good, we’ll see a change. But, really, Murph, just take up one of the Swords and start hacking away at demons already!
But that griping aside, the book was stellar, resetting all the pieces in place to carry Dresden’s story on through the last of his books. Well, at least some of the pieces. Knowing Butcher and the fact that there are at least sevenish books to go, there’s plenty of time for the author to weave untold new dangers for Harry’s life.
As if the ones in Cold Days weren’t enough. Seriously. That twist at the end. Dear Lord, a kick to the gut if there ever was one. It had me clambering to see what the next book will be called and when it will be released (no news on either fronts, but as soon as we have it, we’ll share!).
The end really caught my heart in my chest, though. In the last line, Harry predicts that a storm is coming, and it made me think of the first book, one whose plot actually had some impact on this newest installment. That first book was called Storm Front. A title and a prophecy, it would seem, because that front is now moving through, setting up Harry for the greatest battles he has ever faced.
And I simply cannot wait to read them.