Cold Days: A Novel of the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher
Genere(s): Magic, Urban Fantasy, Wizardry, Noir Magical Mystery
Guess which Mab wants first? Of course, it won’t be an ordinary, everyday assassination. Mab wants her newest minion to pull off the impossible: kill an immortal! No problem there, right? And to make matters worse, there exists a growing threat to an unfathomable source of magic that could land Harry in the sort of trouble that will make death look like a holiday. Beset by enemies new and old, Harry must gather his friends and allies, prevent the annihilation of countless innocents, and find a way out of his eternal subservience before his new found powers claim the only thing he has left to call his own… His soul.
Review: Jim Butcher does it again and while he breaks some of the rules that he has established in Harry Dresden’s world, readers need not worry they will not be left out in the cold. In my review of Ghost Story, the book preceding Cold Days, I said that Butcher had brought Harry back to the character that millions of readers had grown to love. I was wrong, Ghost Story only hinted at the old Harry; Cold Days truly marks the triumphant return of our favorite spell slinging private dick. This novel is yet another set of practical learning lessons that Harry must navigate through in his usual got his butt kicked and snarky way. These two qualities are two of the things that have always driven me to Harry as a character, he never knows when to shut up and he gives as good as he gets. Harry’s new “job” has a steep learning curve and the conflict that this curve causes Harry lets us look back into aspects of Harry’s personality that we might have forgotten. These little reminders might have upset some readers, but I enjoyed the trip down the Harry Dresden psychological memory lane. I enjoyed the large part of the story that Toot and his irregulars played in the story. Their increased role was a definite throwback for me as memories of Butcher describing the fairy summoning ritual and payment in pizza in the early books in the series. The evolution from Fairy Recon unit to fully fledged fighting force has always been a fun subplot for me. Harry’s interaction with some of the old crew left me feeling a bit flat, especially those with Karen. It was good to see Molly being more of a character and less of an emo/hobo/punk wannabe. I fully understand that in many ways she is the yen to Harry’s yang, but it was getting ridiculous. I do have to say that if Butcher had Harry say that he remember Molly when she was in a training bra one more time, I think I would have stopped reading the book. That training bra reference has gone from quaint to overdone and kind of creepy.
This book is full of action, the action is almost non-stop and the pace could have retarded some of the personal interactions between Harry and some of his cronies. There was a rogues galley of supernatural interactions and through those interactions both violent and devious we get to learn more about the way the world of magic works. There were several times when Harry got whiny about his lost gear, I understand why this would bother him so much, and these points in the book were written to show internal conflict and Harry’s increasing power, but after a few iterations I wanted to ask Harry if he wanted some cheese with that whine. I am glad Butcher saw fit to finally arm harry with a Winchester repeater. I think that Butcher has an affinity for some of the firearms of yesteryear and lets face it it looks really cool on the cover of the book.
As you can tell by the amount of criticism in this review that this was not my favorite book in this series; it was not my least favorite book in the series either. The action was great and while I never feared for Harry’s life, I really enjoyed his uniquely Harry solutions to the myriad problems he faced. Seeing Harry learn to depend on his life-long friends again was a treat as well. I hope that in future installments Harry Dresden will learn and retain that lesson like another magic slinging character named Harry did. Cold Days is a page turner, it never seems to slow down and for me there were not many places where I felt like I could put the book down and not spend the next few hours wondering what was going to happen next. Butcher’s command of pop culture is hard to match and his seamless inclusion of pop culture references into the story brought me much joy. If you decide to read this book, be ready to have the preconceived notions that Jim Butcher has put in your head to be crushed. Be prepared to experience an epic fast paced story that has ramifications for our world and several others to boot. If you are a fan of this series you know things are never as they seem and there is no such thing as a simple solution for Harry Dresden. In the cold days of winter this book is like a cup of hot chocolate with magical marshmallows.