Review: Cold Days
The last few Dresden Files novels have been a bit hit-or-miss with me. That is a painful admission. For the longest time, Jim Butcher was one of my favorite authors, and the Dresden Files included some of my favorite novels. But then… yikes. To me, some of these last books have just not been good. CHANGES started to put things right again, and GHOST STORY had its moments. But then came COLD DAYS (Amazon)…
…and it was freaking amazing.
I know. I totally faked you out. Unless you looked at EBR’s Best of 2012 list and saw COLD DAYS on there, or whatever.
I say this in all seriousness; COLD DAYS is in my top three for the Dresden Files. It’s just awesome.
It starts with Harry recovering from the events of GHOST STORY (I know, no spoilers. I get angry emails for every tiny thing, even though YOU SHOULDN’T BE READING THIS REVIEW IF YOU HAVEN”T READ THE PRIOR BOOKS IN THE FREAKING SERIES! GAH!!!! Moving on…). Harry is the Winter Knight, and that means he is in a really bad position. But in typical Jim Butcher fashion, Dresden has no clue just how bad things are going to get.
I want you to think of the scope of some of the previous novels. DEATH MASKS. DEAD BEAT. PROVEN GUILTY. CHANGES. Now mash all that stuff into one book. Yeah. That’s how COLD DAYS reads. Every few chapters there is a huge revelation and game changer. I kind of wonder if Butcher had this planned all from the beginning, or if it just morphed into this. Either way, my New Orleans Saints hat is off to you, Jim. You crushed this one. Just… wow.
Harry has been gone for a while. Things in Chicago have changed. His friends have changed, and they’ve all had a rough go of it. I’m not going to lie, I teared up a few times at some of the reunions. The dialog, and even what ISN’T said are nearly perfect. And yet, who Harry doesn’t talk to stands out even more dramatically because of all of these powerful reunions. The emotional play here is a very delicate line to walk, and Butcher does it with style.
The trademark humor is here, but under it (and sometimes smothering it) is a sense of tension and unease. Not at Harry’s mission this time around–no, we know that Harry will succeed, because he always does–but at what has happened to our beloved wizard. As a reader, I constantly worried about Harry possibly going too far and hurting someone close to him. As a reviewer, I wanted Butcher to take that risk with his characters like he did with Molly’s father earlier in the series (And come on, Jim. Get him back in the game already!). Once I realized what was happening (at the same time as Dresden), I thought, “Nah, Butcher won’t actually do that… will he?”
Um. The ending is a serious WTF moment.
I’ve gushed, and I could keep doing it. I mean, the pure amount of awesomeness in this novel has made me regret selling my Dresden collection back in the TURN COAT days. Let me be clear, COLD DAYS isn’t perfect. Butcher has a habit of explaining the same things multiple times in the same novel. In detail. Over and over. In detail. Repetitively. In detail. A lot. See what I did there? Or do I need to repeat it? Also, there is one moment that feels like the author is blatantly preaching his personal views on a political(ish) subject. I don’t care if authors have certain beliefs. But if you are going to put them in your novel–even if I agree with those views–make it feel natural and in character. Not like the 4th Wall has been torn down by a nuke. Just… no.
COLD DAYS is pure awesomeness. Welcome back to form, Mr. Butcher.
Will everyone like this novel? Well, no. That’s not how this business works. But my personal faith in Butcher has been 100% restored. I’m dying to see where he takes the next bit of the series, because the entire game has changed. COLD DAYS isn’t just a good novel. It’s a terrific one. An amazing one.
Go fraking read it.
- Recommended Age: 16+
- Language: Lots, but not in a Military Fiction or Richard K Morgan kind of way
- Violence: Quite a bit this go-around
- Sex: No detailed scenes, but a lot of disturbing (in a messed up way) thoughts from Mister Dresden