Friday, December 7, 2012

Cold Days by Jim Butcher

Cold Days by Jim Butcher is the 14th book in the Dresden Files. By book 14 of anything you'd think a concept would start to become stale. I'm not saying there hasn't been the occasional dip in quality in the Dresden Files (a number of fans weren't keen on Ghost Story, which preceded Cold Days, although I still liked it), but overall it has maintained a freshness that isn't there in other long running urban fantasy series *cough* Anita Blake *cough*.

In Ghost Story, Harry was, as the title indicates, a ghost. This brought with it a host of problems and gave the reader a more passive Harry than they were used to, and I think that caused complications for some.

Of course the main character being dead wasn't going to fly for long, so Butcher had to make Harry corporeal somehow.  He did this by means of something that occurred a few books back and had a great deal of bearing on the events in Cold Days. Harry moves in all sorts of circles: law enforcement, organised crimes, vampire courts, werewolf packs, wizard councils and the courts of faery. His godmother is the Leanan Sidhe. Some time ago the Queen of Winter Mab claimed Harry as her Winter Knight after he killed the incumbent.

It is Mab that has him nursed back to health and activates him as the Winter Knight.  Harry has a number of issues with being the Winter Knight. One is that the previous Winter Knight was a raving psychotic and Harry has been lead to believe it goes with the title. Then there's what Mab asks him to do; kill Maeve, her daughter, the Winter Lady.

Harry tries to go back to his normal life in Chicago and think a way around everything. He connects with his friend Waldo Butters, and Waldo's girlfriend the werewolf Andi, half brother the vampire Thomas, his former apprentice Molly Carpenter and his massive Chinese Foo dog Mouse.

Complicating things is a disturbance on Harry's island in the harbour. The magical energy it contains could explode and it would take most of Chicago with it.

Harry has to deal with all this and examine the nature of his relationship with Karrin Murphy and his daughter Maggie. Both of these issues will play large parts in further books and I do hope at least one of them is resolved in a happy fashion, because Harry does at least deserve that.

Cold Days is, for an urban fantasy book, pretty long at over 500 pages in hardcover. Despite that it doesn't really flag at any point. I appreciated the more in depth look at faery and I loved Butcher's idea of Santa Claus. The pop culture references flow as usual and they're always appreciated, however I felt that the banter was forced at one point between Molly and Thomas.

The mystery surrounding Harry's favourite bartender Mac is intriguing and will hopefully be explored in future books. A highlight for me was the love/hate relationship between Harry's faery commander Toot Toot and the stern female faery warrior Lacuna.

I'm thoroughly satisfied with Cold Days and eager to see what else Butcher can do with Harry.

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