Review: Changes by Jim Butcher (Orbit)


Review in a sentence:

I didn’t like Changes because I have to wait until July for the next one, Ghost Story.

If you’ve never read any of the Dresden Files novels before this might not be the right place to start. Even after eleven books it’s a great series and well worth the effort to start at the beginning and catch up. If you’ve read the series so far the opening line might shock you.

‘I answered the phone, and Susan Rodriguez said, ‘They’ve taken our daughter.’

Jim Butcher in that opening line instantly changes the dynamics of the series. Why?

Wizard Harry Dresden is a force of nature but even when he’s being a hero, doing what he believes is right, he’s not acting to save his child, so is moderately restrained. But this takes things to a completely different level; how are he is prepared to go to save her. The restraints are well and truly off.

But this isn’t the only alteration to the status quo and in that respect Changes lives up to its title. Some things are subtle like seeing Mouse in a different light (blue as it happens) to bigger things like the deals that Harry makes to get enough power in order to be tooled up when he faces up to what might as well be the entire Red Court of vampires.

What’s great about Jim Butcher is that not only does he move events along at a pace (I read Changes over three days, which is fast for me) but he’s also been setting up these events practically since the beginning either consciously or subconsciously. So in essence you get a double pay off. You get an immersive read and lots of payoffs for loyalty to the series.

Now I do have a few problems with parts of the motivations of characters in. Can you really be that selfless? There is also some interesting movie magic in Changes giving some scenes some physics defying timings. And I’m not completed blinkered by the enjoyment I got from the novel not to see them but they hardly registered when compared to other factors like the many ‘wow’ moments.

You have to ask yourself what could Butcher have done better? And apart from a few tweaks in some scenes to make them more balanced not a lot. He’s upping the stakes here in terms of who he’s dealing with and even Harry isn’t equipped for demigods. But somehow he manages to go up against them.

And that’s the strength of the series. You have an urban magician that has great power that feels real. The world he is in is real as are the enemies he faces. And when Butcher brings in other more powerful characters they don’t feel like caricatures.

In terms of character development we get to see different sides to a lot of the regulars and even though they aren’t slowly grown as they are fired out of a gun they have as much, if not more, impact that way. Murphy is now my hero.

There isn’t a lot more to say apart from I’m an idiot for not reading it earlier but on the bright side July brings the next one!

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