I discovered the Dresden files when he was on book 5 Death Masks. I liked it so much my next vacation at the beach I read books 1-4 in a week. I’ve kept up with them since then. I generally devour them the week they are released. I love the audiobooks too. James Marsters does a great job reading them except Ghost Story which was read by John Glover. Well Cold Days is book 17 and Ghost Story was book 16.
In the last book Harry was for all intensive purposes a ghost. Which was interesting but being in that state it took away one of his traits that I like so much – the ability to kick ass in any kind of fight. Yes when you are all wispy you can’t toss spells around or throw punches or use any weapons. So the fun underdog wins the battle part of the typical entry in the series was gone. **SIGH** I did miss it but in this book Jim Butcher made up for it by a final battle that was chapters long. I kid you not CHAPTERS long.
You see due to some technicalities Harry has his body back. Now he also is the human knight to the winter queen who happens to be the faerie Queen Mab of legend. She’s always been a terrifying presence on the edge of Harry’s life. Since the books are written in first person the only view we get of her and others is through Harry’s perspective. He’s always seen her as a malevolent character. Even at the start of the story when she’s personally over seeing his physical rehab by trying to kill him each day – she’s not seen as a wonderful benefactress. Yet as this story unfolds there are things we learn about her that make her more sympathetic. She has a large weight of responsibility to the real world both mundane and magic that Harry (and thus we) weren’t aware. Also in a private moment we learn the Queen like all fae folk was once human. Fae are born as halflings and have to choose which side they will take, just how or when the choice is usually made we aren’t told. We do see one halfling be forced into a side but it’s an extraordinary circumstance made by battle and insanity of courtly fae that sets up the situation.
I have to say I like glimpsing the magical beings but my heart lies with the magical humans like what Harry was when he was just a wizard. This story spends a good amount of time in the Winter Court in Never Never which is the magical realm occupied by the fae. Not my favorite setting in Dresden. I don’t mind the White Court, vampires in Chicago as much as I do the Never Never. I guess that’s because what brought me into Dresden was the concept of a wizard private investigator. We’re far from that now but the roots of seeing the magic world in the mundane is what I loved. I didn’t want to live all in magic in this urban fantasy – when we do it’s just fantasy and that’s way down my genre list from urban fantasy. I’m a picky reader I know but hey there is so much out there I have to be. Only so many reading hours per life ya know.
What I did enjoy in this book was the return of action. Dresden isn’t just his bad self again – he’s his bad self augmented by the Winter Knight mantel and Queen Mab’s daily attempted murder training sessions. So he can really kick ass as seen when the final battle rages for a quarter of the book. Ya know I kinda think Jim Butcher missed writing the action too. As much as I was glad to have it back, even I – the action glutton – thought this was a bit much. Still it was fun but didn’t touch reanimating Sue the T-Rex to ride her through Chicago to get to the big supernatural battle though. Nope that’s still my happy geek moment in the Dresden Files.
The other thing that was good to see back was Molly. She’s not the terrified, tortured, homeless waif we saw in the last book. Actually we learn why she was being trained so harshly by Harry’s godmother. Molly is now a not just a good wizard in her own right but a a powerful one. She works as a full team member without any issues on Harry’s part, except well the effects of the Winter Knight but I’ll let you discover that for yourself. To see the team back together – Butters, Molly, Thomas, Karrin, and Bob along with Toot-Toot!!! (I adore Toot-toot!) working together to solve all the emergencies that are colliding at the same time. It’s wonderful to see them and awesome to see the characters have grown.
That is why I’m okay that it’s not a series about a PI who is a wizard in Chicago any more. The characters out grew it. Every character including Bob have grown and changed given the stories that have happened and the time passed. That’s why I can keep coming back, it’s formula with growth. That’s why I don’t miss the PI stuff but I do miss Chicago. I want Harry back there not living off in fantasy land. That’s all.
I love how threads and points from earlier books are paid off here in this story. We learn more about Harry’s island Demonreach and what his role is with it. We learn why Harry’s godmother was frozen in Mab’s garden in a past book. We learn more about the Outsiders. More about the structure and nature of the fae’s courts. So it’s a big world expander that ties up some things.
All in all it took me a day and half to read, yes it was a page turner. I loved it and am left waiting at least a year to find out how the heck Harry gets out of being the Winter Knight without being a ghost for real the next time. I suspect Santa Claus and Demonreach will have a hand in helping him with this one. Yes you read that right Santa Claus – he’s the Winter King don’t ya know. Oh and he’s more if you read the subtle clues in the final scene where he chats with Harry after the huge battle. Hint – brush up on the pre-Christian origins of our jolly one in red.
If you’ve not been introduced to Dresden Files let me have the honor of highly recommending them. You can’t go wrong starting at the beginning in book or in audio book and working your way through. It’ll be an adventurous action filled ride that leaves you longing for the next one. I just warn you when you get here to book 17 Cold Days it’s gonna be a long wait for the next one -but it’s coming!