Book Revies: Cold Days, Harry Dresden #14, by Jim Butcher

Changes left me cursing at Jim Butcher very mightily (in a good way).

Ghost Story left me yawning.

Cold Days made me feel better that I gave Butcher another chance.

To put it plainly I had a lot of issues with his last book. Thankfully, this book picks up where the last one left off, Harry Dresden is back from the “dead”. Well, like Wesley he’s only “mostly” dead having been kept in a magical coma while Mab and Demonreach fixed his body and his spirit went off roaming on its own (see Ghost Story). Harry wakes up in Arctis Tor, the seat of power for the Unseelie/Winter court, and pretty much is immediately jumped into his role as the Winter Knight when he’s told to do the impossible by way of killing an immortal.

But, hey, it’s not like Harry hasn’t done the impossible nine times or so by now, right?

To be honest I really enjoyed this book because in many ways it was a good return to old Harry Dresden. Yes, people are still impacted by the horrible shit they were going through in Ghost Story (i.e. Karrin is still not a cop, Molly is still broken in the head, Harry’s brother is still a sex hungry vampire and Harry is still damaged regarding his daughter and, well, dead) but they are also a lot better. Karrin is not as crazed, Molly is more even-keeled and making a life for herself that doesn’t involve being Batman as done by a bag lady, and Thomas may have finally worked out a balancing act for his needs versus his morals with Justine. Not to mention that Harry kicked the dead bit but he’s still pretty broken about his daughter. I hated how bleak Ghost Story was and I especially hated that everything fell apart without Harry around; I’m sorry, Harry Dresden is probably the least capable people out of the whole team to keep his shit together EXCEPT in the middle of a crisis so I really didn’t understand why everyone looked like they’d been replaced by their mopey, teenage angst alter egos when he died. So it was good to see the characters moving on, in a sense, and being more of who I would expect them to be.

The banter in this book is really really good and it’s summed up in a good scene between Harry and Vadderung when Vadderung points out that Harry is, in a sesne, reconnecting to people through said banter.

Cold Days, in many ways, is a book about a concept called “power creep”. Power Creep is a term used in role-playing (as in Dungeons and Dragons as opposed to that naughty french maid outfit you found in your mom’s closet) and is generally defined as the gradual growing of power/capability of the characters of the game. The longer the RPG goes on, the more and more power the characters will get and the larger the threats they will face. Think about it, as a level one anything you’re pretty much pissing your pants at the sight of an animated skeleton or a squad of goblins running at you but when you’re a level twenty archmage and you can fill a football field full of fiery rage bees who are on fire that single, animated skeleton or even a whole army of goblins isn’t so much of a threat.

That’s where Harry Dresden is at. First of all, over the series, his skill and capability with magic has been increasing. Then you throw in when he was able to toss around hellfire, now he has soulfire, and he’s recently picked up the prestige class “Winter Knight” and gotten that super sweet set of abilities. Sure it constantly makes him test against his alignment (translation for the non-gamer geeks in the audience: it’s trying to constantly make him into a bad guy) but it’s Harry; I don’t honestly see Butcher taking him down a seriously dark path for a redemption story.

And so it is with Harry Dresden. Each book the stakes are a little higher, the bad guys a little more powerful to the point where now Harry is fighting entire courts of ancient vampires and THE fallen angels (not to mention now being told to kill the unkillable). I don’t necessarily think that this is a bad thing per se but it isn’t necessarily the Harry Dresden started with that fans may have really come to enjoy. I know that one of my problems with the Anita Blake series (other than the unrelenting, badly done sex where Anita became the sexiest piece of sex to ever sex some sex and EVERYTHING WITH A PENIS WANTED HER) was that her power creep got ridiculous. I don’t know if we’re there yet with this book, there were definitely points where Harry had to get saved because he was getting his ass handed to him, but it is a concern for the future. I’m pretty sure we’ll never again see the days of Harry Dresden, detective wizard for hire, again and perhaps we should really consider that aspect of the character having passed with the event in Changes.

I mean, it only makes sense considering the title of the book.

Anyway, if you are a fan of Harry Dresden Cold Days won’t disappoint.

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