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Book Review- “Cold Days”

Cold Days cover_lgWow! Has it really been 10 years since I first discovered the Dresden Files series of books by Jim Butcher? It really seems like it’s been shorter, but I just checked and yeah I started reading the books right around 2003 when the fifth entry had been released. I read the first two and thought they were just okay, but the third installment in the series “Grave Peril” hooked me. After that the books were consistently entertaining. So much so that they were something I looked forward to reading every spring when they came out.

The series hit a major high in 2010 with “Changes,” the 12th book in the series. “Changes” was a book that paid off so many plot threads and also was true to it’s title. I tried to keep that in perspective when I read the next book in the series, “Ghost Story,” but something about that book just felt off. So I was worried that the series might be losing steam and direction. Well having just finished the latest book in the series “Cold Days” (the 14th book in the series) I’m happy to report that the Dresden Files is still a series that is exciting, and a ton of fun to read.

In “Cold Days” wizard Harry Dresden is trying to get his life back together after having it blown apart in “Changes” and sort of dying in “Ghost Story.” Unfortunately for him the Queen of the Winter court of the Sidhe (AKA Faerie Folk) has other plans. In “Changes” Harry agreed to be her enforcer, the Winter Knight and she plans to make him live up to that obligation.

So “Cold Days” opens with Harry rehabilitating from injuries and adjusting to life in Mab’s fortress. It makes for a few slow chapters, but then Mab gives her enforcer a mission and that’s when the book takes off because that’s when Harry returns to Chicago and the family and friends he left behind.

Harry Dresden is a fun, identifiable, and very cool character, but one of the things that makes his adventures so entertaining is the eclectic cast of characters in his life. Butcher is aware of this and gives them all a chance to come back into Harry’s life in a big way. When they enter the narrative in “Cold Days” it’s in bold and usually heroic ways that will make long time fans of the series clap and cheer. I especially loved the return of my favorite character in the series, former police detective Karrin Murphy.

It was also a lot of fun to see Harry interacting with these characters. I’m especially interested in the dynamic between Harry and Murphy andJim-Butcher-2010-profile_book-jacket-205x300 they got several satisfying moments together. One dynamic that I found myself appreciating more was the one between Harry and his vampire half brother Thomas. I always liked Thomas, but there was something about his scenes with Harry that felt more genuine in “Cold Days.” Their dynamic reminded me of the great bond between another pair of monster fighting brothers, Sam and Dean Winchester of “Supernatural” fame.

I don’t want to get too much into plot because there are lots of twists and turns and Harry’s mission from Mab is complicated by the strange going ons on the island of Demon Reach, which has appeared in several previous novels. Harry uncovers some cool revelations there that make me excited for the book going forward. It also gives “Cold Days” a pretty impressive scope and scale. Harry doesn’t just need to solve a mystery in this book or put down a bad guy. The fate of Chicago and perhaps the world is on the line.

That of course means we get some pretty impressive action scenes. I don’t want to say too much about them for fear of spoiling their surprises, but some of them do rival the craziness of “Changes.” I can tell you that there were many moments in “Cold Days” where I stopped and chuckled at the unexpected and awesome insanity that I had just read.

So all in all, “Cold Days” is a return to form for the Dresden Files series. It reminded me why these books have been such fun and comforting reads over the years, and it added enough new elements to the series to make me excited about where Butcher is going to go next. That’s a pretty impressive feat for the 14th entry in a novel series.

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