Cold Days

After a number of more straightforward and episodic installments, with Dead Beat the Dresden Files shifted into high gear. Followed by Proven Guilty, White Night, Small Favor, and Turn Coat, Jim Butcher elevated his game with basically every new volume. As I mentioned in previous reviews, far from losing steam like so many other speculative fiction series, the Dresden Files continued to grow in size, scope, and inventiveness. Having matured as an author with each new book, Jim Butcher has definitely hit his stride and he definitely became more confident, more ambitious. And with so many plot threads coming together to form an impressive tapestry, the potential for what came next was indeed enormous. But with the bar being raised with each new volume, the possibility that Butcher would somehow lose control of his tale, or allow himself to lose focus and simply milk his popularity for all it's worth, remained risks that could become all too real if he did not avoid certain pitfalls that had plagued some of his peers also writing bestselling urban fantasy sequences.

Changes, the very best installment yet, proved to be the culmination of a panoply of interwoven plotlines introduced in previous novels. It raised the bar higher than ever before and nothing will ever be the same for poor Harry Dresden from here on out. A major turning point for the series and its characters, no doubt about it. For its part, Ghost Story felt like a transition novel meant to bridge what happened before with whatever will come next.

And if the plot of Cold Days is any indication, it appears that the Dresden Files has plenty of drama and fireworks left in store for its readers.

Here's the blurb:

You can't keep a good wizard down - even when he wants to stay that way.

For years, Harry Dresden has been Chicago's only professional wizard, but a bargain made in desperation with the Queen of Air and Darkness has forced him into a new job: professional killer.

Mab, the mother of wicked faeries, has restored the mostly-dead wizard to health, and dispatches him upon his first mission - to bring death to an immortal. Even as he grapples with the impossible task, Dresden learns of a looming danger to Demonreach, the living island hidden upon Lake Michigan, a place whose true purpose and dark potential have the potential to destroy billions and to land Dresden in the deepest trouble he has ever known - even deeper than being dead. How messed up is that?

Beset by his new enemies and hounded by the old, Dresden has only twenty four hours to reconnect with his old allies, prevent a cataclysm and do the impossible - all while the power he bargained to get - but never meant to keep - lays siege to his very soul.

Magic. It can get a guy killed.

Right off the bat, though I'm all for authors reminding readers of what has gone before, I feel that Butcher went all out in Cold Days. I mean, this is volume 14, right? True, minor or obscure or distant plot points should be re-introduced so as to not confuse fans who have no reread the whole sequence recently. However, there was no need to remind us of who Bob the skull is. We know about Thomas, Murphy, Molly, etc. There's no need to describe Harry's old apartment and his patched-up VW car. I doubt that newbies are jumping into the Dresden Files by reading the 14th installment. And there is so much good stuff taking place that such redundant info-dumps actually slow down the momentum of the novel. This could be construed as nitpicking, I know, but I just feel that such unecessary sections should have been removed during the editing process.

Harry Dresden's life has always been complicated. If ever there was someone who deserved to rest in peace, it was Harry. Unfortunately, he immediately discovered that the afterlife wasn't all it's cracked up to be. And if the afterlife was no walk in the park, coming back to life will come with even more challenges. Assuming the mantle of the Winter Knight could potentially change Harry and turn him into a monster like his predecessor. As if that wasn't enough, he must now find a way to kill an immortal while various factions are trying to kill him. Oh and he has about 24 hours to save the world from a magical threat that could wipe out the entire American Midwest. No pressure.

As a matter of course, Cold Days features the first person narrative of Harry Dresden. His voice as the only POV continues to be witty and irreverent, filled with dark humor that makes you chuckle in every chapter. And yet, as has been the case with the majority of the last few Dresden Files installments, it's the supporting cast that helps make this one another great read. Harry's death had a profound impact on those who were close to him, and his coming back to life will come as a shock to many of them. Once again, there are some truly touching moments involving them. Like he did in Changes and Ghost Story, Jim Butcher played the emotional impact card rather well on a number of occasions, which really made you feel for Harry and the rest of the gang.

Cold Days quickly turned into another extremely complicated and intricately plotted ensemble of storylines that linked that novel with plotlines from basically every other volume that came before. Revelations about the Summer Court, the Winter Court, Merlin, the Demonreach island, the Outsiders, other deities and immortals, and lots of other things make for some compulsive reading. Hints have always been there, yet in Ghost Story it became evident that Harry was a pawn in a game played by higher powers. We see evidence of that again in this 14th volume.

Convoluted and entertaining, Cold Days elevates the Dresden Files to yet another level and opens the door for so much more. Looking forward to Skin Game!

The final verdict: 8.5/10

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