cold days · dresden files · jim butcher · review · the dresden files

Review: Cold Days

Summary (from Amazon)


After being murdered by a mystery assailant, navigating his way through the realm between life and death, and being brought back to the mortal world, Harry realizes that maybe death wasn’t all that bad. Because he is no longer Harry Dresden, Chicago’s only professional wizard.

He is now Harry Dresden, Winter Knight to Mab, the Queen of Air and Darkness. After Harry had no choice but to swear his fealty, Mab wasn’t about to let something as petty as death steal away the prize she had sought for so long. And now, her word is his command, no matter what she wants him to do, no matter where she wants him to go, and no matter who she wants him to kill.

Guess which Mab wants first?

Of course, it won’t be an ordinary, everyday assassination. Mab wants her newest minion to pull off the impossible: kill an immortal. No problem there, right? And to make matters worse, there exists a growing threat to an unfathomable source of magic that could land Harry in the sort of trouble that will make death look like a holiday.

Beset by enemies new and old, Harry must gather his friends and allies, prevent the annihilation of countless innocents, and find a way out of his eternal subservience before his newfound powers claim the only thing he has left to call his own…His soul.

As you guys may or may not know, I am a freak for the Dresden Files. I’ve been on this train since my freshman year of high school. I love these books the passion of a thousand suns. (In fact, I may or may be so passionate about the Dresden Files that I may or may not run a Dresden Files fanblog somewhere deep in the wilds of the Internet.)

That said, the previous installment in this serious, Ghost Story, broke me. It was beautiful and tragic and it had an ending that left me flailing and praying to any god that would listen that Jim Butcher would finish the next book soon. When my copy of Cold Days came in, I practically cheered.

Cold Days had everything I hoped it would: intense action, dramatic reveals, increased stakes, and scenes between characters that gave me feeeeeeelings. Cold Days is a game-changer that makes the previous installments (at least, the ones leading up to Changes) look like relaxing weekends.

As you might have guessed, I am passionate about faeries and faerie lore, which is why I was particularly excited to realize that the plot of Cold Days would revolve largely around the Winter Court. I absolutely adore Mab. (Did I mention I’m also a big fan of snowscapes? Because I am. Goodness, I do love a good snowscape.) Any readers of this series who have enjoyed our previous encounters with the Queen of Air and Darkness will love Cold Days.

Speaking of supernatural heavy-hitters, the various legendary characters who make appearances in Cold Days left me grinning from ear to ear. I’m hoping to see more of them in future books!

Cold Days contains my favorite action sequence in the whole series. It may be my favorite action sequence of ANY series. Highlight this paragraph to see spoilers! [SPOILER: The scene with Harry and Karrin running from the Wild Hunt on a motorcycle is perhaps the single most imaginative chase scene I have ever encountered in urban fantasy. I want Cold Days to be made into a movie just for that scene. END SPOILER.]

A few things left me scratching my head, however. First: the pop culture references. One of my favorite things about Jim Butcher is that he lets his nerd flag fly. Many of his readers are nerds themselves, and he knows it. Not only that, but he slips references to all kinds of geekery into his Dresden Files novels.

Those nods to pop culture have never failed to make me smile–but they used to be more subtle, woven smoothly into the narrative. In Cold Days, the references were much less subtle and much more frequent. I found them somewhat jarring, to the point that a single reference could pull me out of my “reader” frame of mind.

The second problem I had while reading was the dialogue. Is it just me, or are Butcher’s characters dropping the F-bomb much more liberally than they used to? Don’t get me wrong–I have no problem with harsh language, and I love a well-placed, perfectly-timed F-bomb as much as the next person. But the thing about words is that, the more you use them, the less meaningful they become. If you drop the F-bomb exactly once in your novel, for example, it’s going to pack a punch. Even if you drop several, if they’re well-placed, they’ll have an effect on the readers.

It could be that I’m just not remembering the previous books very well, but I swear (pun wholly and unabashedly intended), Harry never used to cuss so much–at least not using the really heavy-hitting words.

The last issue I had with Cold Days is a big ‘ol spoiler, so highlight this paragraph at your own risk: [SPOILER: The whole “Nemesis” thing felt a little tacked-on. It didn’t seem cohesive with the rest of the series–sort of like Jim Butcher had this great idea for a new obstacle for Harry right before he started working on Cold Days. I’ll certainly roll with it and keep reading, but I think that the Outsiders were more than sufficient to carry the plot of this book, and felt more natural in the grand scheme of things. Of course, Butcher has never let me down before, so I suspect that, after another book, I’ll be fully on board with this new twist. END SPOILER.]

All told, Cold Days does not disappoint. True to form, Jim Butcher ups the ante with this installment, setting the stage for a story arc that will be, in a word, epic.

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