Top Ten Tuesday: A Selection of Favorite Fantasy Books and Series

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Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, featuring a different top 10 theme each week. This week’s topic is Books From My Favorite Genre. I bounce between genres quite a bit, but thought I’d focus here on fantasy. My list includes stand-alones as well as series, and because I’m sticking to just 10, I ended up not including three that pretty much go without saying: of course I love the Narnia, A Song of Ice and Fire, and Lord of the Rings books! (See? I managed to mention them after all!)

My top ten, in no particular order:

  • The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley
  • Codex Alera (series) by Jim Butcher
  • The Immortals (series) (standing in for ALL Tortall books) by Tamora Pierce (review)
  • Uprooted by Naomi Novik (review)
  • The Enchanted Forest Chronicles (series) by Patricia C. Wrede (review)
  • Wayward Children (series) by Seanan McGuire (review)
  • The Eyes of the Dragon by Stephen King (review)
  • The Sisters of the Winter Wood by Rena Rossner (review)
  • His Dark Materials (series) by Philip Pullman
  • Stardust by Neil Gaiman

What genre did you pick this week? If you wrote a TTT post this week, please share your link!

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten authors I’d love to meet

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, featuring a different top 10 theme each week. This week’s topic is Authors I’d Love to Meet. I could probably go on and on with this topic, but here are the top 10 on my mind right now, starting with favorite authors whom I’ve never seen in person:

1. Seanan McGuire: I’ve loved her books for quite a while, but this year I totally binged on the October Daye and InCryptids series, as well as the Newsflesh books by her alter ego Mira Grant. Sadly, I ended up out of town for a weekend in September when she was doing a signing event at a local bookstore, but since she’s incredibly prolific (I suspect she doesn’t sleep), I’m hoping it won’t be a long wait until there’s another book launch event to attend.

2. John Scalzi: Love, love, love his writing, and definitely need to read more.

3. Katherine Arden: I adored The Bear and the Nightingale and The Girl in the Tower, and can’t wait for the trilogy wrap-up in 2019.

4. Amy Stewart: The Kopp Sisters rule! Her historical fiction is so much fun, and so full of terrific female characters straight out of history.

5. Jim Butcher: I’m a big Dresden fan, and loved Codex Alera and The Aeronaut’s Windlass too.

6. Jojo Moyes: Her books always move and inspire me.

7. Lisa See: I was fascinated by The Teagirl of Hummingbird Lane, and have enjoyed many of her books over the years. I’d love to hear her speak and learn more about her writing and research process.

8. Lisa Genova: Her books tackles such fascinating medical conditions. She’s another author I’d like to hear talk about inspiration, medical research, and the conditions she clearly cares so much about.

9. Dana Stabenow: I love the Kate Shugak series, and really enjoy reading this author’s blog posts on writing, general topics, and life in Alaska!

I’ll wrap up with an author whom I had the pleasure to meet once already, back in 2014 when Written in My Own Heart’s Blood was released — but I’d love to see her again (and again and again):

10: Diana Gabaldon: Author extraordinaire of the Outlander series!

Yes, I met her! What an amazing day!

Have you met any of the authors on my list? Which authors would you most want to meet? Please share your TTT link!

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Book Review: The Aeronaut’s Windlass

Aeronauts WindlassI’ll admit it up front: I’m a Jim Butcher fan. I’ve read all of the Dresden Files novels (15 so far), and various and sundry related stories, novellas, and graphic novels. Heck, I own the DVD of the (sadly short-lived) Dresden Files TV series. I binge-read the six volumes of the Codex Alera series a few years back. So, I guess you could say there was a decent chance that I’d love The Aeronaut’s Windlass too.

Yup. I did. Loved it a bunch.

The Aeronaut’s Windlass is the first book in a new series (The Cinder Spires), and it’s a remarkable feat of world-building. The book is set in a world in which mankind lives in huge, multi-storied towers (which are miles high and about two miles in diameter) that function as independent countries. The surface of Earth is dangerous and uninhabitable, covered by mists that conceal all sorts of dangers. Commerce is conducted in the air by fleets of airships that use etheric currents and power crystals to swoop, soar, dive, and attack.

Our loyalty is to Spire Albion (which I assume is more or less England, between the name and all the tea-drinking), and we meet a sprawling cast of characters right from the start. The main hero is Captain Grimm, commander of the AMS Predator, a non-military ship that makes its money from privateering. Grimm has a shadowy past that includes a dishonorable discharge from the Fleet, but from the first instant, it’s clear that he’s brave, noble, and a kick-ass air captain.

In addition to Captain Grimm and the crew of the Predator, we meet Gwen, a military recruit who stems from the very upper crust Lancaster family, which basically holds the monopoly on crystal production; Gwen’s cousin Benedict, who is a genetically-mixed warriorborn human; and Bridget, a large, self-conscious girl who finds an inner core of strength and courage.

And let’s not forget my very favorite character (and I suspect he’d resent anyone but himself being considered the hero of the piece): Rowl of the Silent Paws tribe, kit to Maul, chief of the Silent Paws. Rowl is a cat, and the cats in this book absolutely rock. They’re fierce warriors with an elegant and intricate system of power dynamics, clan politics, and etiquette. They mostly look down on clumsy humans, apart from the few (like Bridget, whom Rowl refers to as Littlemouse) who can speak Cat fluently.

Littlemouse was in danger, doubtless a prisoner, and the humans could not be trusted to handle her rescue with appropriate violence. They might be willing to leave someone alive, and Rowl was not prepared to tolerate incompetence where his personal human was concerned. He had just gotten her properly trained.

The action kicks into high gear when Spire Albion is attacked by a Marine contingent from Spire Aurora (Spain, as far as I can figure). The attack is sudden and devastating, and seems to have a sinister mastermind behind it whose motives are unclear. The good guys seems to be constantly outnumbered and outgunned, and the danger is vivid and terrifying — especially when highly venomous icky things called silkweavers seem to be serving the Aurorans, killing and maiming everything in their path.

Our little band of heroes is aided by a master etherealist, who has strange and inexplicable powers that allow him to see the unseen currents all around him, and his apprentice Folly, who’s another amazing and wonderful character. Folly is odd and off-kilter, but is possessed of incredible skill and instinct and comes to the rescue more than once (or twice, or thrice).

It’s all quite thrilling and absorbing. Jim Butcher does many things well, and he truly excels at writing action sequences. The extended airship battles are breathtaking, with booming cannons and swooping maneuvers, and a brave captain who never waivers in the face of enemy attack. (Okay, maybe I have just a teensy crush on Grimm at this point, but can you blame me?)

As always, Butcher knows just how to mix tense drama and high danger with sparkling, witty dialogue. The scenes narrated by Rowl are, of course, my favorites, but you don’t have to turn many pages in a Butcher book to find some clever wordplay or smart-ass retorts to lighten the mood.

Gwen sighed, and fetched another pair of mugs for the etherealist.

“Lovely,” Ferus said, and gulped some more. “Perceptions of etheric energy change from mind to mind, just as you and Sir Benedict demonstrate with your weapons crystals. And if one changes one’s mind, that also changes the nature of those perceptions. This will allow me to perceive those energies in ways in which I would not normally be able to do so.”

“You’re getting drunk,” Gwen said slowly, “so that you can experience etheric energy differently?”

Ferus held up his mug and said solemnly, “Think of it as goggles for one’s mind, instead of one’s eyes.”

The Aeronaut’s Windlass is a BIG book, over 600 pages. That would be huge, in and of itself, but considering this is just the first in a series, reading it feels like a pretty major undertaking. If I didn’t already know and love Jim Butcher’s books, I might be scared off, I suppose. There’s obviously much more yet to come in this series. While the book’s conclusion wraps up the first wave of battle, it’s clear that the war is just getting underway, and there are major questions left unanswered.

I struggled a bit at the beginning to understand the structure of the Spires and some of the fundamentals of the world of this book, but the action and the characters drew me in immediately, and it didn’t really take all that long for the more obscure elements to start to make sense and feel natural. By about the midpoint, I really hated to put the book down. And now that I’ve finished, I can say with certainty that I’m all in. I can’t wait for more of this excellent series, and just wish I could move straight on to the next book, instead of having to wait the year or two it’ll probably take for #2 to be released.

You really can’t go wrong with a Jim Butcher series. Fans will absolutely want to dive into the world of The Cinder Spires, and I think The Aeronaut’s Windlass is a great introduction for people who haven’t read his books too. (Although, if you haven’t read any Butcher, I’d urge you to run right out and find a copy of Storm Front, the first Dresden book).

So there you have it — a lengthy review which all boils down to: I loved this book. Go read it.

I’ll let Rowl have the final word, because he deserves it:

Each creature had something it excelled at, he supposed. Humans could manage knots easily, and cats could do everything else.

_________________________________________

The details:

Title: The Aeronaut’s Windlass (The Cinder Spires, #1)
Author: Jim Butcher
Publisher: Roc
Publication date: September 29, 2015
Length: 630 pages
Genre: Fantasy/steampunk
Source: Purchased

Thursday Quotables: The Aeronaut’s Windlass

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Welcome back to Thursday Quotables! This weekly feature is the place to highlight a great quote, line, or passage discovered during your reading each week.  Whether it’s something funny, startling, gut-wrenching, or just really beautifully written, Thursday Quotables is where my favorite lines of the week will be, and you’re invited to join in!

NEW! Thursday Quotables is now using a Linky tool! Be sure to add your link if you have a Thursday Quotables post to share.

Aeronauts Windlass

The Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim Butcher
(published 2015)

The Aeronaut’s Windlass is the first book in a new series by Jim Butcher, and I’m loving it so far! It’s a huge book (600+ pages), and I’m only about 2/3 of the way through it at this point — but I’m hooked already. Steampunk, airships, power dynamics, air battles, creepy crawly icky things, and clans of cats who have utter disdain for most of the people around them… yes, please!

There are heaps of battles and intrigues, and danger galore, but also some quite funny moments to lighten the mood:

“Poison?” Grimm asked.

Ferus waggles his hand back and forth. “Yes. No, actually, not even remotely, but for purposes of this conversation, yes.”

Grimm frowned. “Ah. Um. Am I in any danger?”

“You’re dead as a stone, man!”

“I am?”

“Yes. No, actually, not even remotely, but for purposes of this conversation, yes.”

And a nice little line that made me think of my favorite Gail Carriger books:

Grimm did not, as a rule, believe in extravagance. That said, he did own a rather finely made teapot.

What lines made you laugh, cry, or gasp this week? Do tell!

If you’d like to participate in Thursday Quotables, it’s really simple:

  • Write a Thursday Quotables post on your blog. Try to pick something from whatever you’re reading now. And please be sure to include a link back to Bookshelf Fantasies in your post (http://www.bookshelffantasies.com), if you’d be so kind!
  • Click on the linky button (look for the cute froggie face) below to add your link.
  • After you link up, I’d love it if you’d leave a comment about my quote for this week.
  • Be sure to visit other linked blogs to view their Thursday Quotables, and have fun!

Wishing & Waiting on Wednesday: The Aeronaut’s Windlass

There’s nothing like a Wednesday for thinking about the books we want to read! My Wishing & Waiting on Wednesday post is linking up with two fabulous book memes, Wishlist Wednesday (hosted by Pen to Paper) and Waiting on Wednesday (hosted by Breaking the Spine).

This week’s pick:

 

Aeronauts Windlass

 The Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim Butcher
Book #1, The Cinder Spires
(to be released September 29, 2015 )

Since time immemorial, the Spires have sheltered humanity, towering for miles over the mist-shrouded surface of the world. Within their halls, aristocratic houses have ruled for generations, developing scientific marvels, fostering trade alliances, and building fleets of airships to keep the peace.

Captain Grimm commands the merchant ship, Predator. Fiercely loyal to Spire Albion, he has taken their side in the cold war with Spire Aurora, disrupting the enemy’s shipping lines by attacking their cargo vessels. But when the Predator is severely damaged in combat, leaving captain and crew grounded, Grimm is offered a proposition from the Spirearch of Albion—to join a team of agents on a vital mission in exchange for fully restoring Predator to its fighting glory.

And even as Grimm undertakes this dangerous task, he will learn that the conflict between the Spires is merely a premonition of things to come. Humanity’s ancient enemy, silent for more than ten thousand years, has begun to stir once more. And death will follow in its wake

Jim Butcher has been on my mind lately, as I’ve been feeling grumpy about the long wait for a new Dresden Files book — and just in the nick of time, here comes the 1st book in a new series! OK, granted, the synopsis seems complicated, but I have complete faith in Jim Butcher’s ability to create a brand new world and make it amazing!

What are you wishing for this Wednesday?

Looking for some bookish fun on Thursdays? Come join me for my regular weekly feature, Thursday Quotables. You can find out more here — come play!

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Do you host a book blog meme? Do you participate in a meme that you really, really love? I’m building a Book Blog Meme Directory, and need your help! If you know of a great meme to include — or if you host one yourself — please drop me a note on my Contact page and I’ll be sure to add your info!

Book Review: Skin Game

Book Review: Skin Game by Jim Butcher

Skin Game (The Dresden Files, #15)

Harry Dresden is back!

Chicago’s only professional wizard (or at least, the only one listed in the yellow pages) returns in the 15th installment of Jim Butcher’s fast-paced urban fantasy series, the Dresden Files.

Synopsis (Goodreads):

Harry Dresden, Chicago’s only professional wizard, is about to have a very bad day….

Because as Winter Knight to the Queen of Air and Darkness, Harry never knows what the scheming Mab might want him to do. Usually, it’s something awful.

He doesn’t know the half of it….

Mab has just traded Harry’s skills to pay off one of her debts. And now he must help a group of supernatural villains—led by one of Harry’s most dreaded and despised enemies, Nicodemus Archleone—to break into the highest-security vault in town so that they can then access the highest-security vault in the Nevernever.

It’s a smash-and-grab job to recover the literal Holy Grail from the vaults of the greatest treasure hoard in the supernatural world—which belongs to the one and only Hades, Lord of the freaking Underworld and generally unpleasant character. Worse, Dresden suspects that there is another game afoot that no one is talking about. And he’s dead certain that Nicodemus has no intention of allowing any of his crew to survive the experience. Especially Harry.

Dresden’s always been tricky, but he’s going to have to up his backstabbing game to survive this mess—assuming his own allies don’t end up killing him before his enemies get the chance….

Clearly, at book 15, this is not a good entry point for Dresden newbies. Sure, you might be able to figure out what’s going on — but I doubt it. By this point in the series, the relationships are complex, there’s a lot of backstory, and the mythology and world-building are so intricate, with so many interwoven storylines and a huge cast of characters, that there’s not much that would make a whole lot of sense coming in cold.

For Dresden fans, however, Skin Game is a delight. Picking up soon after the jaw-dropping events in Cold Days, Skin Game sees Harry thrust right back into action, thrown into a seemingly no-win situation in which he’s forced to help an archenemy carry out a crazy dangerous plan with potentially devastating consequences. Still, Harry has no viable way to refuse, and thus embarks on a whirlwind three-day escapade alongside a team of colleagues who mostly can’t be trusted. Harry’s life is at stake every moment, his friends and loved one are all at risk, he gets broken and bruised — a lot — and above all, Harry has to figure out how to make his way through without endangering everything he holds dear and without turning into what he most fears.

Why do I love Harry Dresden? He’s smart, he’s brave, he’s a total wiseass, and he’s just really, really funny. Jim Butcher’s writing crackles with energy and humor, even in the midst of bloody action sequences. Harry may get hurt, but he’s never completely down for the count. And even in the midst of grave peril, he manages to get off some of the best one-liners and pop-culture references in fiction today.

My only complaint about Skin Game: No Thomas, and not enough Molly*. Other than that, we’re treated to a compelling plot, exciting action, forward motion in Harry’s ongoing personal drama, and an adventure story that’s simply impossible to stop reading.

Plus, we get to meet a Greek god, so there’s that.

All in all, Skin Game is a very successful addition to the Dresden body of work. Ongoing readers of the series have to read this one, period.

Some series stick around way past the point where there’s anything fresh or interesting to say. Not Dresden. I hope Jim Butcher plans to continue writing about Harry for years to come. If he does, I promise, I’ll be there to read the books. All the books. Forever.

And a final word:

Parkour!!**

_________________________________________

The details:

Title: Skin Game
Author: Jim Butcher
Publisher: Roc
Publication date: May 27, 2014
Length: 454 pages
Genre: Urban fantasy
Source: Library

* Oh, wait. One more complaint: We have to wait another year for book #16.

**with special credit and a big smile to my Goodreads friend Emily for reminding me of one of my favorite repeated utterances in Skin Game.

 

 

Thursday Quotables: Skin Game

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Welcome back to Thursday Quotables! This weekly feature is the place to highlight a great quote, line, or passage discovered during your reading each week.  Whether it’s something funny, startling, gut-wrenching, or just really beautifully written, Thursday Quotables is where my favorite lines of the week will be, and you’re invited to join in!

Skin Game (The Dresden Files, #15)

Skin Game by Jim Butcher
(published May 27, 2014)

We got out of Karrin’s little SUV and headed toward the creepy old slaughterhouse full of dangerous beings. Which … pretty much tells you what kind of day I was having, right there.

Par for the course, if you’re a certain Chicago wizard.

Because Nicodemus is a murderous murdering murder.

He sure knows how to pick his enemies!

But they were doughnuts of darkness. Evil, damned doughnuts, tainted by the spawn of darkness…

… which could obviously be redeemed only by passing through the fiery, cleansing inferno of a wizardly digestive tract.

Harry Dresden is back! Man, have I missed his smart-ass comments about all things supernatural, deadly, or just plain weird.

What lines made you laugh, cry, or gasp this week? Do tell!

If you’d like to participate in Thursday Quotables, it’s really simple:

  • Write a Thursday Quotables post on your blog. Try to pick something from whatever you’re reading now. And please be sure to include a link back to Bookshelf Fantasies in your post (http://www.bookshelffantasies.com), if you’d be so kind!
  • Leave your link in the comments — or, if you have a quote to share but not a blog post, you can leave your quote in the comments too!
  • Visit other linked blogs to view their Thursday Quotables, and have fun!

Wishing & Waiting on Wednesday

There’s nothing like a Wednesday for thinking about the books we want to read! My Wishing & Waiting on Wednesday post is linking up with two fabulous book memes, Wishlist Wednesday (hosted by Pen to Paper) and Waiting on Wednesday (hosted by Breaking the Spine).

For my first wishlist post of 2014, I’ve picked the upcoming new installment in a favorite series:

Skin Game (The Dresden Files, #15)

Skin Game by Jim Butcher
(to be released May 27, 2014)

Synopsis via Goodreads:

Harry Dresden, Chicago’s only professional wizard, is about to have a very bad day….

Because as Winter Knight to the Queen of Air and Darkness, Harry never knows what the scheming Mab might want him to do. Usually, it’s something awful.

He doesn’t know the half of it….

Mab has just traded Harry’s skills to pay off one of her debts. And now he must help a group of supernatural villains—led by one of Harry’s most dreaded and despised enemies, Nicodemus Archleone—to break into the highest-security vault in town so that they can then access the highest-security vault in the Nevernever.

It’s a smash-and-grab job to recover the literal Holy Grail from the vaults of the greatest treasure hoard in the supernatural world—which belongs to the one and only Hades, Lord of the freaking Underworld and generally unpleasant character. Worse, Dresden suspects that there is another game afoot that no one is talking about. And he’s dead certain that Nicodemus has no intention of allowing any of his crew to survive the experience. Especially Harry.

Dresden’s always been tricky, but he’s going to have to up his backstabbing game to survive this mess—assuming his own allies don’t end up killing him before his enemies get the chance….

I was so excited to see that the next Dresden Files book has a cover and a release date! At 15 books and counting, this series hasn’t lost a bit of steam. The last book, Cold Days, had a major game-changing cliffhanger of an ending. I can’t wait to see what happens next!

What are you wishing for this Wednesday?

Looking for some bookish fun on Thursdays and Fridays? Come join me for my regular weekly features, Thursday Quotables and Flashback Friday! You can find out more here — come share the book love!

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Do you host a book blog meme? Do you participate in a meme that you really, really love? I’m building a Book Blog Meme Directory, and need your help! If you know of a great meme to include — or if you host one yourself — please drop me a note on my Contact page and I’ll be sure to add your info!

Flashback Friday: Furies of Calderon

Flashback Friday is my own little weekly tradition, in which I pick a book from my reading past to highlight — and you’re invited to join in!

Here are the Flashback Friday book selection guidelines:

  1. Has to be something you’ve read yourself
  2. Has to still be available, preferably still in print
  3. Must have been originally published 5 or more years ago

Other than that, the sky’s the limit! Join me, please, and let us all know: what are the books you’ve read that you always rave about? What books from your past do you wish EVERYONE would read? Pick something from five years ago, or go all the way back to the Canterbury Tales if you want. It’s Flashback Friday time!

My pick for this week’s Flashback Friday:

Furies of Calderon (Codex Alera, #1)

Furies of Calderon
(Codex Alera, book 1)

by Jim Butcher
(published 2004)

Synopsis (Goodreads):

In the realm of Alera, where people bond with the furies — elementals of earth, air, fire, water and metal, fifteen-year-old Tavi struggles with his lack of furycrafting. But when his homeland erupts in chaos — when rebels war with loyalists and furies clash with furies — Tavi’s simple courage will turn the tides of war.

From Publishers Weekly:

At the start of Butcher’s absorbing fantasy, the first in a new series, the barbarians are at the gates of the land of Alera, which has a distinct flavor of the Roman Empire (its ruler is named Quintus Sextus and its soldiers are organized in legions). Fortunately, Alera has magical defenses, involving the furies or elementals of water, earth, air, fire and metal, that protect against foes both internal and external. Amara, a young female spy, and her companion, Odiana, go into some of the land’s remoter territories to discover if military commander Atticus Quentin is a traitor—another classic trope from ancient Rome. She encounters a troubled young man, Tavi, who has hitherto been concerned mostly with the vividly depicted predatory “herdbanes” that threaten his sheep as well as with his adolescent sexual urges (handled tastefully). Thinking that Amara is an escaping slave, Tavi decides to help her and is immediately sucked in over his head into a morass of intrigues, military, magical and otherwise. Butcher (Storm Front, etc.) does a thorough job of world building, to say nothing of developing his action scenes with an abundance of convincing detail.

Want to understand the vibe of The Codex Alera series? Think Dresden Files thrown into a blender with Game of Thrones. Kind of.

Jim Butcher, known for the ongoing (and totally awesome) Dresden Files series, here creates a fantasy world full of magical powers, human and non-human races, and heavy doses of military adventures and escapades. His characters come with family legacies, inherited struggles and feuds, and secrets galore. There’s a ton of scheming, ruthless manipulation and political maneuvering, and scenes of magical occurrences that practically beg to be filmed and loaded with CGI.

Tavi is a terrific main character, immensely likeable, funny and brave, with the smart-ass attitude we’ve come to expect from Butcher’s heroes. The supporting characters are strong and well-defined, and the action never flags. Plus — romance! Secret identities! Evil forces! Potential destruction of the world!

I love that I was able to read the entire series (six books) straight through, so I could really live in the world of Alera for a sustained reading experience and get to feel that I truly knew the characters, understood the stakes, and was invested in the outcomes.

By the way, Codex Alera has an amazing (and very funny) origin story, which Jim Butcher explains in this clip from 2008’s Comic-con:

Happy Friday, and enjoy your flashbacks!

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Do you host a book blog meme? Do you participate in a meme that you really, really love? I’m building a Book Blog Meme Directory, and need your help! If you know of a great meme to include — or if you host one yourself — please drop me a note on my Contact page and I’ll be sure to add your info!

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.