Cold Days, Book 14 of the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher
Why this series means so much to me, AKA Why I will always be slanted to liking it.
2008ish was dark times for me. Without going into details, I had some personal issues that now seem kinda laughable and easily fixed, yet at the time were painful as hell. Some aspects I guess still are, but hey, what's drama without a little lasting pain, right?
As I always have at times of stress, I withdrew into worlds of fiction. Call it a coping mechanism, a distraction, whatever, I have always found solace in make believe. At other times, I have found authors like Stephen King, J K Rowling, Rick Riordan, Mark Twain, Neil Gaiman and William Blake to talk me through my pain. In 2008, I found Jim Butcher.
He had been around way before then. He was already nine books into the Dresden Files (or so, right around the time of White Night) and halfway done with the Codex Alera series. Never being a huge fan of high fantasy, I dove into the Dresden Files rather than Alera, but eventually read them all within a single month.
Why am I telling you this? To give a little context to my review and my devotion to this series. Is the Dresden Files perfect? Sometimes. Do I have problems with it? Sometimes. Will I have every book that Jim Butcher puts to paper waiting in my pre-order box until either he or I dies? Yes. In every way, yes. Mr. Butcher helped me get through a dark time and for that I will always be grateful and very fanboyish.
After stating the above, I hope that you see that what I am about to say is a less than objective opinion, but it is as close as I can come. Reading what Mr. Butcher has written always fills me with joy, even when the English major in me is catching every little bit of purple prose and "said bookism" (he said, fanboyishly).
Also, this is the thank you I wish I had told to Mr. Butcher when I met him at DragonCon a few years back. He is a very nice and talented man, adept at dealing with fanboys like myself in a gracious manner. At least I did not make a fool out of myself like I did with Eric Powell.
***Warning! spoilers ahead, for this book and the series as a whole. It's the 14th book in the series, folks, there's just things I am going to need to talk about.***
Harry Dresden, professional wizard, is back (from the dead) in this 14th installment of the Dresden Files. As the Winter Knight, Harry is tasked to do the bidding of fairy queen Mab. Her first order: assassinate an immortal.
What I liked
All things Dresden
If you are a fan of the Dresden Files, you know what I mean by that. The pop culture references, the pithy dialog, the hell yeah fist pumping moments, the clever turns of tropes, the clear descriptions and noir feel that make up the Dresden Files. Wrap that up in a supernatural taco topped with familiar creatures behaving in wild and unpredictable ways and you have a fun read.
Some major stuff has happened in the last two books of the series, and this is partially our pay off. With Harry dying at the end of Changes, every reader wondered how this would affect everyone in Dresden’s life. We got to see the spiritual side of that in Ghost Story, but here we see the physical reactions as Harry walks up to people and says “hi.” Most act in heartwarming and entertaining ways, from Mouse’s tackle and slobber to random paramedics “Huh, though I heard you died.” Plus, we finally get at least a moment of Karrin and Harry being happy with one another, if only for a moment.
This book moves like a frieght train, each word connecting to each other forming a chain that just. Does. Not. Stop. Then it does because otherwise it would require a kid named Bastion and a little girl named “Moon Child” to round out the cast. Harry bounces around from one person to the next, taking his moments before being attacked by new and exciting monsters that pose more of a threat than ever before.
I still care
Long running things suffer. That’s par for the course in any medium. Television shows do the “it was all a dream” episode, video games become rehashes or failures of the same old formula, and George Lucas decides to have a comeback tour in cinema. Mr. Butcher somehow still makes his characters and situations interesting and his plots engaging, though. I still want to see how these characters go about their lives, and Mr. Butcher seems to, too. That’s saying something.
What I didn't like
Mired in backstory
If you have never read a Dresden Files novel, then I have two things to say to you: 1) why are you reading this review? and 2) Why would you ever think about reading this book first? I can not answer the first question, but the second answer is “because you do not know any better.” The reason you do not know any better? Because the book makes every effort to tell you that. After we get through Harry’s recovery, nearly every chapter has an introduction to someone we have seen before and an explanation or mention of a past event from the previous 13 novels. As much as I praise Mr. Butcher for staying consistent, this also leads to a heavy case of continuity lock-out of new readers. A new reader would both have tons of information spoiled for them that could have been written more vague and at the same time lose the emotional weight that goes along with gaining that information the long way. I get that this series is heavy in continuity, but that’s why we have the internet now. Author’s do not have to do all the heavy lifting, they just have to make it engaging. In the next book, I suggest a fuckton of footnotes or employing the services of a Marvel comics editor to interject with “Check out Novel X for that story, true believers” instead of telling us the story.
This almost feels nit picky, so I am not going to go very far with it, but... Does every woman that tries to have sex with Harry early on in a book turn evil or at least morally gray? Does he have to believe them every time? Did we need the damsel in distress quips (poor Andi)? There are somethings that need to be left behind with the private investigator title, Mr. Butcher.
Overtly sexual and adult
This series has never shied away from strong language or sexual behavior. There have been “f-bombs” and naked people writhing in every way possible, but they never felt... This book almost made me blush, and I am a single man with a high speed internet connection, loose morals and a lot of time on my hands. The indulgence may have been the intention, to show Harry’s new place in the world, but if it was at times it went a little overboard. The same with use of the word “fuck.” I do not have a problem with it, but in earlier books it was a true “f-bomb,” meant to prove that someone was really serious about their feelings on a situation. Now it seems casually thrown around, either because everyone is really serious all the time which lessens the impact, or because Mr. Butcher said, “to hell with it, grown people cuss.” I’m fine with either, but it seems rather ambiguous given the language in the previous books.
Who would like this?
Urban fantasy readers. Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman readers. If you read through the last 13, then this is on your reading list. If you have not, go back to Storm Front, get through that (It is not bad by any stretch, but the series does not get really fun until the prisoner says “Daaaaammmn” in Fool Moon), then make your way through the series. My advice? Do the world a favor, find that sixteen year old that sneers at everything but secretly reads Harry Potter and slip it in his or her backpack.
Was it banned?
I could not find a case where this series has been banned, but the use of magic, challenges and direct references to religious views, and adult nature of these books make them a shoein to be a teenager’s favorite and a stick-up-their-ass principal’s nightmare.