Review: Cold Days, by Jim Butcher

This is #14 in the Dresden Files series, and I’ve been eagerly awaiting it for over a year. Combine that with the fact that the last couple of books (particularly #12, Changes) were so mind-blowingly awesome, and you can imagine that this one came in with some pretty high expectations to meet. It did pretty well, but it fell just a little short of meeting those expectations. Had it been just some random book by another author, I’d probably be raving all about it. As it is, I find myself bouncing between loving it and feeling a little disappointed in it. Or maybe that’s just the post-high blues settling in.

So, what can I say about a book and series with so many big reveals without actually spoiling it? A friend and I were jokingly messaging each other while reading it, saying things like, “Just wait until Harry and some other character do that thing in the place… you know, with the other guy.”

So yeah… it’s kind of hard to say much without getting all spoilerific, but here’s my best attempt at being specific enough to review it without being so specific as to spoil it.

While the first eleven books were about Harry’s adventures as Chicago’s only professional wizard and all the complications that entails, book #12 (Changes)… well, you know, changed things. Book #13 was mostly about the aftereffects of that and attempting some notion of recovery.

Cold Days picks up after that and shows Harry settling into something of a new role. Then he gets his first job in that new role, and it’s a doozy. In fact, it’s virtually impossible. But Harry’s life has never been as simple as presenting him with a tough problem, so it all gets much more complicated with struggling loyalties, questionable allies, plots within plots, and a world-ending timebomb ticking away. And of course, Harry saves the day with his usual wit and well-earned angst. The ending was bittersweet, with victory being filled with loss, but when did Harry every have a truly happy ending?

About the only nit I have to pick was that Butcher did a bit of preaching in the middle of the book. It happened to be a message I wholeheartedly agree with (i.e. homosexuals are OK, and even if you disagree you should adopt a live and let live approach), but it kind of stuck out from the surrounding material as the author preaching at us rather than Harry Dresden dishing out his own irreverent attitude. It did not blend in with the rest of the story and felt kind of tacked on. If Jim Butcher really wants to communicate that message, he would be better off writing a book where he showed it to be true rather than taking a five-minute break to hit us up with a public service announcement.

Still, it was good to see many of the old gang, but we didn’t see everyone. The world has certainly changed since Changes, and not all for the better. Mostly though, Cold Days revealed more about the dark subtle forces moving through the world and set up the shape of the background conflict for the next several books. I’m sure there will be diversions and unrelated struggles, but I think this set up the main storyline for the next dozen books.

I just hope that the next book picks up the storyline in short order and not two years later… which coincidentally is also when I wish the next book would come out, i.e. in short order.

*taps at veins*

Gotta get more Dresden!