I like to read for several reasons: to increase my vocabulary, to be entertained, to relate to someone, to learn something, to try to solve the crime, to be told an affecting story. I mostly read Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files novels because I relate to Harry (yes, weird, I know); there is always humor; there are often plot twists that keep me guessing; and every few books or so there are some moments of thought-provoking philosophy that really stay with me. As the series has gone on, I admit I am usually hoping for more of the latter with each book. Yet, as with any good old friend, I am never disappointed with our time together, even if we did not have any new revelations. Such was the case with this one.
Cold Days, the latest in the series, came out in November 2012. If you are unfamiliar with the series The Dresden Files are a series of Urban Fantasy thrillers. The protagonist is a wizard who lives and works in modern-day Chicago. Friends and foes include the standard retinue of vampires, werewolves, and faeries, but Butcher is a wonderful student of mythology digging up, rearranging, and creating, new creatures and beings to fit the plot and tenor of the tale. Butcher’s strengths are drawing his characters and worlds very well and very consistently; a great facility animating the machinations of the truly power-hungry; and a great imagination, appetite, and wit with action and violence.
The sad news about Cold Days is that there is not much new here. The risk of deepening our understanding of the same characters book after book -even if the cast is large- is a redundancy. This is a particular hazard of all novels of this sort because so much of the plot (and plotting) is about good versus evil. Some characters really have no depth because their power largely comes from their singlemindedness and there is just not much to tell there. This book. suffers from that problem.
However, the good news about Cold Days is that it featured one of my favorite characters, Demonreach, and provided some substantive new details about it. And I also really liked one of the journeys Harry took through the Nevernever. In those scenes and one of the themes of this ‘case,’ I saw a little bit of that philosophizing I like. To me Butcher was talking about how little we see of what gets done to keep us safe. He made it a little easier for me to get a tiny mental handhold on the consciousness that a war is going on, feeling and fearing the horror of it, and respecting its…if not its necessity, than its inevitability. To me he also seemed to be hinting at a darkness that has fallen on the U.S. since 9/11, and the recession. In spite of positive changes, it is clear that much is badly fractured between us as a citizenry, and for some this is a poison that leads to other tragedies.
Cold Days won’t make the top of my Dresden list, but just as with James Bond or Ethan Hunt, I will always show up to see what my favorite action hero (wizard is doing next)!
In case you care my Dresden Favorites are: Dead Beat, White Night, Proven Guilty, Blood Rites, Summer Knight, Small Favor