Harry Dresden, the only wizard listed in Chicago's phone book, has been put through the wringer by his creator Jim Butcher over the course of the last few novels in the incredibly popular urban fantasy series "The Dresden Files."
"Changes" wrapped up many ongoing subplots and plot threads left dangling from earlier books in the series. At the same time, Butcher made it clear that Harry's adventures would be written in a somewhat different style from that point forward. Many elements of Harry's world that fans had grown to love were changed permanently and the status quo was permanently altered for Harry and several of his supporting characters.
The biggest and most dramatic game changer in that novel was that Harry was apparently killed by an assassin's bullet right when some things seemed to be going right for him for a change at the end of the book.
Harry spent most of the following novel "Ghost Story" as a disembodied spirit trying to solve one last case before moving on to the afterlife. If it hadn't been for a cruel plot twist at the end of the story, some readers may have assumed that it would be the last one in the series to feature everyone's favorite wizard who moonlights as a private investigator.
At the end of "Ghost Story", Butcher revealed that Harry was only mostly dead. He discovered that he was still alive and still being forced to serve Mab, a psychotic queen of faerie he made a deal with in "Changes."
The latest novel "Cold Days" begins shortly after "Ghost Story" with Harry trying to save the world one more time while trying to figure out why Queen Mab wants him to kill her daughter. The book is more consistent with what Harry's adventures were like before "Changes", but it continues to push Harry in new directions.
Harry is constantly being forced to improvise while dealing with multiple supernatural threats because he doesn't have the arsenal of magical gadgets he relied on before "Ghost Story" or even the trusty .44 special revolver he occasionally used. Just like in the previous book, he is forced to use magic in new ways simply to stay alive long enough to save the day.
Butcher clearly enjoyed forcing himself out of his comfort zone a little and having fun playing with the rules he established for magic in Harry's universe. Harry has several new powers he gained as Mab's Winter Knight, but he doesn't really understand how they work or what their limits are. He tends to alternate between creative uses of things readers have seen him do before and trying new tricks that don't always work like he expected.
This is just one of many ways Butcher keeps things fun for his readers as Harry tries to save Chicago with a little assistance from some of his friends and family and several supernatural entities who are willing to help to varying degrees. Despite his new powers and position, Harry doesn't really know what he is doing. His attempts to figure out a clever solution anyway are nice throwbacks to the earliest novels in the series.
Long-time fans will love seeing how Harry's relationships with recurring characters such as his apprentice Molly Carpenter, his psychic vampire brother Thomas or former police lieutenant Karrin Murphy have changed since he "died" and interacted with them as a "ghost."
They may not be happy about everything that happens in the book, but the plot is so strong that they will probably have an easy time forgiving Butcher for a few plot twists that may have them yelling out loud at fictional characters.
"Cold Days" is an extremely satisfying story because it expands the scope of Harry's ongoing battle against the forces of evil in unexpected ways while still keeping Harry true to himself.
Harry may be preparing for Ragnarok and his new powers may be slowly corrupting him, but he is still the same lovable geek with a heart of gold who quotes Marvel comics and says sarcastic things to beings who could easily destroy him. His narration helps maintain the right balance of goofy humor and sincerity as his creator takes him on a roller coaster ride fans should love.
"The Dresden Files" fans in the Spokane area who haven't devoured this novel yet can find it at local retailers such as Auntie's Bookstore or online at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Amazon currently is selling the hardcover edition for only $15.90. Ebook editions are available for $14.99.