Cold Days, by Jim Butcher (The Dresden Files #14)

  • TITLE: Cold Days (The Dresden Files #14)
  • AUTHOR: Jim Butcher
  • PUBLISHER: Orbit (UK)
  • PUBLICATION DATE: 27th November 2012
  • RATING: ★★★★ (4.5)

9780356500898After only learning about The Dresden Files  in August 2011, it feels utterly surreal that I’m able to review the 14th book of the series shortly after release. It feels good. Say what you want about Butcher and the series, but it takes a special something to keep people interested for fourteen books.

It’s been a rough ride in the past few years and Harry Dresden has been through a lot. Everything changed, and then, of course, he died. Except that obviously he didn’t and it was easy enough to call that the Winter Knight agreement with Mab would not be so easily undone by Harry’s own organised self-assassination. Faeries don’t like to be double-crossed.

So: Harry Dresden is the new Winter Knight. And, of course, his first task is to kill an immortal. Naturally, to do this, he has a one-shot chance on a one-shot night of the year. Hallowe’en. As if things weren’t spooky enough for Harry, what with being back from the dead and all that, there’s also the small problem of Demonreach. It’s going to go nuclear.

At least that’s what Molly thinks. Molly, who has been in hiding from the White Council, tutored by the Leanansidhe. Molly, Harry’s apprentice, who hasn’t been the same since Citchén Itzá and the battle against the Red Court.

But when Harry goes to Demonreach, he discovers something that surpasses anything he could have expected. Whether he likes it or not, Demonreach and he have a strong connection that will tie their fates together.

And the fate of the whole city.

After everything that’s happened to Harry, you would think that by now he might have lost some of his somewhat juvenile Harry-ness, that his inappropriate jokes would have become less frequent and instead of standing around being a wise-ass, he would take a situation seriously and get on with it. Sadly, no. Harry seems, if possible, to have devolved a level whilst being almost dead, in that reading the beginning of Cold Days felt much like reading one of the earlier books in the series. Some of that new line of half-seriousness that we glimpsed in Turn Coat onwards, seems to have been lost in the spooky-spooky somewhere. And honestly? It’s beginning to grate.

Harry, just shut up.

That’s what I want to tell him half the time. Shut up and stop being stupid: if you spent half as much time as you do taking the piss and being a wise-ass actually dealing with the problem and following logical lines of thought, then I reckon you’d solve the problems that find you twice as fast and wouldn’t get half as roughed up by the end.

I guess Harry will be Harry, though…

Still, it would be nice, after fourteen books to see some character development and progression really taking root. It happens: people mature and grow and evolve. But apparently not Harry Dresden.

Still, Cold Days is an excellent Dresden book if you forgive Butcher his misgivings with Harry’s  character and focus on what matters most in any Dresden book: the story. And what a story it is… in fact, it’s one of my favourites of the series (duh, mention the sidhe and this fae-fanboy is there) and really delves into the world of the sidhe far deeper than ever before. The stage is wider and broader, too, allowing more than just Harry their time to dance.

I’ve revealed before that Molly is one of my favourite characters of the series (she’s just epic, right?) and in this book she really does begin to come into her own. Molly’s all grown up and she’s becoming a formidable witch (wizardess? Yep, like that better, personally) who has a damn good handle on her powers and one of the strongest (if harshest) teachers she could hope for. Still tutored by the Leanansidhe of the Winter Court in Harry’s stead (him having been dead and all…), Molly is stronger than Harry ever thought she might be. His days of being patronising and school-mastery with her are over: and not before time, too, since things are about to get heavy.

But even when it comes to the fae, there is nothing without reason. Mab might have ordered a death that Harry, at first, takes at face value (sure, it’s harsh, but this is Mab, right?), but when he later stops to think and the cards begin to show themselves around the table, Harry realises that there is more than is being shown and unbeknownst to him, he’s holding half the aces. With a city to save and the ever-looming presence of his daughter Maggie at the Carpenter home, Harry is running out of time to pull another trick out of the hat and save the day again.

So maybe this time it’s not up to Harry or maybe this time he’ll have to play it smart. Because, Winter mantle or no, when sizing up against the sidhe and whatever else that lurks the dark between worlds when nobody’s looking, Harry is seriously outmatched. An absolutely brilliant story, Cold Days is so tightly plotted there’s hardly the space to slip a hair between its threads. It is a long book and despite the fact that much of the “clutter” could be cut and the book shortened into a much snappier and fast-paced Dresden book, it is an excellent adventure of the kind Dresden fans have come to expect.

Whilst not the best and certainly not due the same five-star review that many of its predecessors have come to enjoy from me, it was awesome and will walk away with a 4.5. Its single failing was its length: it just wasn’t snappy enough and, I’d suggest that if Harry had grown at all as a person and cut down on the wiseassery, much of the excess weight could be cut out in order to leave a quick, sharp and slick urban fantasy adventure.

★★★★

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