Book Review: Cold Days

Book Review: Cold Days by Jim Butcher

Harry Dresden is back! And — dare I say it? — better than ever.

(Spoilers for earlier Dresden books ahead, so proceed at your own risk.)

In this 14th novel of the Dresden Files, Harry is back from the quasi-dead, but there’s no time to rest and recuperate. As the new Winter Knight, Harry has to survive Queen Mab’s rather deadly version of physical therapy before setting out to obey Mab’s commands, reunite with his friends, avoid menacing fairies, and – oh, yeah – save Chicago and perhaps the world from a looming apocalypse.

Every time I pick up a Dresden Files book, I’m reminded all over again of how much I enjoy this series, what a way with words Jim Butcher has, and just what a bad-ass Harry Dresden really is. Some series linger on way past their expiration date (I’m looking at you, Sookie), when clearly there’s really not much else to do or say with the characters. Not so in the Dresden Files. Cold Days continues the ongoing story and enriches it, drawing on past stories and mythology, adding layer upon layer of complexity to the challenges facing Harry, and moving the story in some creative and unexpected directions.

Cold Days deals very much with Harry’s new role in the Winter Court, but to understand the action, it’s important to have read the previous books. Familiarity with book 4, Summer Knight, is especially helpful. Harry’s strongest allies, including his brother Thomas, apprentice Molly, will-they-or-won’t-they love interest Karrin Murphy, and big doggie Mouse are all back at his side, fighting against new super-scary villains and fighting in alliance with some surprising new partners.

I really won’t say too much more about the plot, a) because it goes a mile a minute and covers a tremendous amount of ground in the course of 500 pages, and b) because you’re really better off experiencing it on your own.

I wasn’t really sold on the previous volume in the series, Ghost Story, but the one before that, Changes, was blow-your-socks-off great. To a large extent, the events of Changes are much more important to the on-going narrative than those of Ghost Story, and lead nicely into the central action of Cold Days. I would rate Cold Days as among the best in the Dresden Files series. By the end of Cold Days, Jim Butcher has set some new players into action, rearranged the power structures, given new roles to familiar characters, and left Harry facing a potential threat to his own well-being, a looming menace to the world at large, and some weighty decisions to make concerning his personal life.

If you’re a fan of the series, you will absolutely want to read Cold Days. If you’ve read bits and pieces of The Dresden Files, or maybe only watched the sadly short-lived TV series, let me tell you that it’s worth continuing with the books to get to the really stellar volumes such as Changes and Cold Days.

And if you’ve never read any of the Dresden Files books? Well, what are you waiting for? Jump in, start at the beginning, and enjoy! But clear any other books off your reading calendar — once you start The Dresden Files, you won’t want to stop.

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