WARNING SPOILERS FOR EARLIER BOOKS IN THE SERIES AHEAD!
Harry Dresden is back from his ghostly’ adventure in Ghost Story. In Cold Days he’s got a new job and first assignment is to kill someone who should be impossible to assassinate. Being Harry and Chicago’s only Professional Wizard/Private Detective combo he needs to find out why they need to die. Oh, and while he is doing that he also has a world to save.
Honestly this is going to really hard to review without spoiling earlier books so if you are sensitive to these things skip to the summary.
So here is the thing about The Dresden Files up until Changes (the 12th book), there was a story arc but it was in background to the monster-of-the-book detective-fiction-mould that allowed Jim Butcher to establish and explore relationships and to give lots of supporting characters centre stage. In the last book, Ghost Story, we saw what happens in a world without Harry being able to play hero. But in Cold Days it’s all about Harry and I’m not sure I like it.
At least I don’t think I’d like it to be permanent change of direction for the series. It’s partly a problem with plotting. Butcher has got very confident with his world and his character’s place in Dresden’s life but at the same time this books feels like a role-call in passing to important characters that aren’t Dresden. They play second fiddle to the plot.
It is a really good plot. Butcher chucks in the kitchen sink to make sure that it roars along. And I really enjoyed it. But Butcher has set a time pressure on this story and everything has to happen in short order with no time for characters to talk or reflect. In fact it’s all deflected as they have a world to save like right now!
There are some twists which really make you reconsider the roles the fae of Summer and Winter and their fight for power. And I loved the scenes with Mother Summer, I really wanted more of them as Butcher does those types of observations really well. I think it’s partly that he’s homeless and the routine from earlier books has been blown away that makes me want to see him back in his familiar surroundings, though here is a scene, like the bedroom in the Labyrinth, where is apartment is recreated that is way more creepy that sweet.
As I said I’m torn between liking the skill that Butcher has, the story has a satisfying journey, and missing the character interactions that made earlier books sparkle.
I think the real problem is that Butcher has six more ‘Dresden File’ books planned and an additional trilogy of ‘apocalypse’ books, which, to me, could go one of two ways. This book was setting up the stakes for the next few books and it’s all Harry, Harry, Harry from here on in or the next book has his supporting cast back in a proper supporting role and it’s all Team Harry. I’m so hoping for the later.
Harry Dresden is back in action. He’s got a time limit and by limiting the story to action, action, action Butcher looses some of the sparkle from earlier books. That doesn’t mean that it’s not gripping and engrossing but by the end it doe leave you feeling that you’ve slide on ice rather than feeling the characters have carved a deep and long impression of themselves.