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Cold Days by Jim Butcher

Cold Days by Jim Butcher
Book Name: Cold Days
Author: Jim Butcher
Publisher(s): Roc (US) Orbit (UK)
Formatt: Hardcover / Audio Book / eBook
Genre(s): Urban Fantasy
Release Date: November 27, 2012

This review contains spoilers for the previous Dresden books. Read with caution if you have yet to read Ghost Story.

Cold Days is the latest installment in the bestselling Dresden Files series, featuring the magic-wielding gumshoe, Harry Dresden. The mantle of the Winter Knight has given Harry command of Fae magic, making him second only to the Queens in the winter court. The mantle, however, comes with a price. Sworn to serve Mab, the Queen of Air and Darkness, Harry is forced to follow her orders and risk becoming addicted to his newfound power.

The novel returns to Jim Butcher’s standard tight-arc formula. There is a clear villain(s), hero, and beginning, middle, and end. But while the story is self-contained, the plot developments are built off the momentum of the previous thirteen books and carry serious weight. Throughout the series, Harry has transformed from lone wolf rebel into a White Council Warden, vampire ally, and now, Winter Knight. In Cold Days, he delves deeper into the realms of magic and Sidhe intrigue, and is forced to continue making compromises for the greater good. The consequences of the events in Changes are finally realized and our favorite spunky wizard finds himself working alongside forces he once morally condemned, no longer an outsider sticking his nose where it doesn’t belong. He becomes a confidant, increasingly entwined in Mab’s machinations yet obligated to serve her, and the more time he spends politicking with the Sidhe Courts, the more Harry realizes that they’re not as black and white as he once assumed. Following Harry, readers will discover secrets of the Sidhe Courts and unravel mysteries behind Demonreach, and the Outsiders.

Sith’s golden eyes narrowed. “When first your kind began scrawling knowledge upon stone and clay, my name was ancient. Walk carefully around it.”

Cold Days has the best lineup of characters thus far in the Dresden Files. For the first time, I found myself sympathizing with once alien characters like Toot-toot, Rashid, and Mother Summer over the standard cast. Most of the main characters (or “heavy hitters,” as Harry calls them) are familiar names with new problems. Readers know them well and their histories add a considerable amount of depth and tension to each twist and turn in the story. Enemies become allies, and perhaps friends, while some of the old guard lose their way, or sadly become obsolete. A surprising number of new characters are introduced as well, replacing waning figures from the past and making the story rich with new mysteries and relationships.

But the essential elements of the Dresden Files that we all love remain unchanged. Harry is still the self-appointed guardian of Chicago, selflessly sacrificing his romantic life and accepting heaps of bodily harm and in order to keep the peace. Fans will also be happy to see the return of Karrin Murphy, the Erlking, and Thomas Raith, among the many beloved characters glossed over in the previous book, Ghost Story. While Harry is undoubtedly the protagonist, the development of side characters like Murphy and Leanansidhe are genuinely exciting and have a significant effect on the plot.

Mab was Mab. She had no intention of keeping a Knight with a conscience. So she was planning on assassinating mine an inch at a time.

Harry’s latest adventure is a familiar joyride. Classic Dresden humor, the return of the usual suspects, and a breakneck pace make it easy to slip back into Jim Butcher’s world of urban fantasy. Cold Days is also certainly the most well-written Dresden Files novel. Jim handles multi-book character arcs with apparent ease, weaving them together to create regular plot points that would be a satisfying finale in any other novel. Another advantage to the serial format is the depth accumulated from steady worldbuilding. With this publishing scheme, the books are able to sustain a fast, witty, action-packed style while benefiting from the worldbuilding of their predecessors. Readers of the series know well the Sidhe Courts, Harry’s past with them, and the potential dangers of collusion. This frees up space in Cold Days for more adrenaline inducing action and provides the setup for big reveals (of which there are many).

The worldbuilding and character development in the Dresden Files has reached the point where Cold Days can be considered an epic fantasy. Through the accumulated worldbuilding, the plot points have become increasingly meaningful and greater in scope. Harry’s still a gumshoe, but run-of-the-mill criminals just don’t cut it anymore. He’s in the major leagues now. Since his small-time success, he’s become embroiled in ancient feuds and illuminati-esque conspiracies, and incurred the wrath of gods. I would argue that these greater plots became the focus of the series starting in Changes, and the Dresden Files’ scope transitioned beyond urban fantasy. Doomsday devices, gods, multiple planes of existence, battles for one’s soul – yes, Cold Days is epic. But don’t let that fool you. Harry is still Harry: a hopeless romantic, geek, and defender of justice who speaks softly and carries a really, really big stick.


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