Dear Jim Butcher: we apologize for doubting you. Seriously.
You all may remember last year when we reviewed TURN COAT. In short, we were pissed. It just wasn’t that good. In fact it was one of the books we hated most last year. We had decided to swear off reading Butcher forever. Steve even sold his Dresden Files collection. It was a sad day. Luckily that anger faded, and we decided that we should read Butcher’s latest Dresden Files novel, CHANGES.
When we found out the title of this book, Nick said to Steve, “Changes? There damn well better be.” Really, the title was the epitome of what we wanted in the series. Progression from characters and story. To be honest, we were preparing to hate this newest novel. How could Butcher possible fix all the problems he had in TURN COAT. Could he reset the effects of the reset caused by the magic reset button from book eleven? Before you think about that too hard, we’ll just tell you simply:
CHANGES was awesome.
The plot revolves around Harry discovering (on line one of page one–how’s that for immediate conflict?) that he has a daughter, and that she has been abducted by the Red Court Vampires (while it creates cool conflict right off the bat, we couldn’t help but feel this 11th hour revelation was pretty hokey). They plan to sacrifice her. In a nutshell, this is Jim Butcher writing MAN ON FIRE. It is dark. It is violent. It is fantastic.
Now, when we say we wanted Butcher to change everything, we didn’t really mean everything. Butcher is one of the best at writing humor. His dialogue is known for being snappy, witty, and natural. His action is always described well. These things haven’t changed, and in some respects have improved. There is a moment in the middle of the book when Sanya, (a Knight of the Cross for those of you who didn’t remember) asks Harry if he “hit that,” and if it was “phat.” This was when Steve realized Butcher and Harry Dresden were back.
As far as plot progression and pacing, we don’t think it could have been done much better. From the first line, to the INSANE ending and last line on the last page, this book threatened to break pacing records. It just didn’t let up. Ever. There was two books work of awesomeness in this one 440 page novel.
Now, not everything was perfect. Thomas’ progression still bothers us. It still feels like he has regressed as a character, while at the same time making us feel at times that the events from TURN COAT didn’t matter so much. Murphy is also still in a state of stagnation–especially because we get a very real glimpse of her potential, which she summarily dismisses to return to the status quo. But everything else?
We are exposed to Harry Dresden doing things that we thought (and even he thought) he would never do. CHANGES deals very heavily with the theme, “What is going too far, when is it worth it/called for, and what are the consequences of it?” So far the morality tones in the Dresden Files have been fairly simply, relegated to the Council rules, Harry’s use of Soulfire or Hellfire, and other similar ideas, that just weren’t that deep. CHANGES…well…changes that.
CHANGES is one of the best Dresden Files novels. It is right up there with books 7-9. If you had been putting off reading the series, you really should start now. If you were waiting for confirmation that Butcher was back in form, after reading our review of his last book, now you have it.
We do, however, still have a gripe that he wants to write 11 or 12 more books in the series. At one a year…the end is a long time coming. The Dresden Files are Butcher’s bread and butter and we worry that he is using the series as a cash cow to fill his retirement fund. We could just be cynical though, and after reading CHANGES, we are OK with helping Butcher fill that bank account.
Recommended Age: 16 and up.
Language: It’s on par with the rest of the series.
Violence: A little more this time. We used a MAN ON FIRE reference for a reason.
Sex: On par with the rest of the series.
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