Cold Days is the new Dresden Files novel by Jim Butcher. My review should be spoiler free for the novel itself, but if you haven’t read Changes or Ghost Story then there are huge spoilers for those books.
Harry Dresden awakes in Actis Tor and assumes his duties as the winter knight. Faerie Winter is a dangerous place and Dresden has already made enemies here in previous books. There is thread one. Then Mab, the Winter Queen, assigns him his first task. And we have thread two. Of course, a mission from the treacherous is probably not what it seems. Dresden can’t take it at face value and this thread three. Unsurprisingly, Dresden’s task takes him back to Chicago. Here are the last two threads. The first as Dresden encounters friends from his previous life. The last as it turns out that there is a supernatural “bullet” threatening Chicago and the entire Midwest.
Does it seem like a lot? Well that is just the surface. The various plot threads circle and intertwine and separate again. None are isolated and eventually they all come together. And none of the plots are what they seem at first blush. Dresden’s investigation of Mab in particular expands the scale and threat of the Dresden files dramatically.
Things I like is a Dresden book that are present:
- Dresden is in way over his head
- Dresden pontificates about doing thing the smart way, but ends up blowing stuff up
- Faeries are not nice. (Except for Toot)
- Dresden gets beat up. And then he gets beat up a little bit more
Ghost Story seemed like a bit of an experiment. This book is really a return to the series strengths.
I’m not really writing this review for a Dresden newbie. Book 14 of the series is a bad place to start. Go back and start with book one.
For those who are invested in the series – there is a lot to enjoy.
One of the nice aspects of the series is that every book the world building is expanded on. In this book that expansion is quite dramatic. That was easily the best part of the novel. Seeing the old bits was comfortable. Seeing the news ones is exciting.
After Changes, it was hard to imagine that the scale could grow. But it does. Boy, does it ever. And the huge status quo changes there is almost matched during the climax of Cold Days.
Some minor annoyances. Although the scale and scope of the Dresden universe grows so much, Dresden still solve problems in much the same way as book one. He punches them in the face or shoots a well timed Fuego (or thematically Infriga). It seems to me that at this point most foes should need more than a face punch.
Ghost Story was about learning about choice and that Dresden always has one. For much of Cold Days that lesson seems to be forgotten. Right into the denouement, the theme of being forced into a role continues.
Next, I realize it is part of the genre Butcher is using, but Dresden’s insistence to try a play the lone wolf is annoying. It means that every time Dresden encounters another character there is an angsty paragraph or two where he worries about involving them and getting them hurt. Sometimes a whole scene. Every. Time. Just once I’d like him to just be thrilled when someone gets involved.
It is book 14. Who needs a review at this point anyways? Butcher is not my favourite author (though he is always enjoyed) but this is my most awaited book of the year. Why? Because everyone reads this. I have a least 5 friends reading it tonight. By the end of the weekend, I will surely not be the only one finished. I look forward to discussing the plot and action with them in a spoiler filled fashion.