What if I told you Changes was only the beginning?
The majority of this series has been slowly building, increasingly exciting individual adventures that hinted at something bigger going on behind the scenes. With each installment, the bigger picture comes more and more into focus. Changes brought us a climax to the story we knew about; Cold Days is our door into the true epic that has been getting set up under our noses for the first 12 books.
There is not much I can say about the content of this novel without spoilers, except to say that from start to finish it’s nearly non-stop action and reveals. Things are very different for Harry and friends by the end, and I can see how this is leading up to the apocalyptic trilogy that Butcher claims will be coming after approximately 6 more books.
Now, to be honest, all this action left a little something to be desired for the first part of the book. I mean, we basically jump right into battle after battle, and it’s one of the first times I’ve wondered how much Butcher thought he could throw at Harry before the suspension of disbelief started to crack. The second he’s out of one mess, he’s into another seemingly unrelated one. Could all these different things be happening all at once, coincidentally, the moment Harry gets back to the real world? All I will say is that after finishing the book, I no longer have those complaints.
So what did I love most? Well the climax, of course, but not just because it was exciting and surprising, but because it, and this whole book really, show how much Butcher has been planning and how much of a master at setting up pieces of a long-term mystery he is. Knowing that his first book was written without the intent of turning it into an epic (not to mention the gold standard of the Urban Fantasy genre), it’s awesome to see how well he’s fit events even from that first book into the greater story. Never let it be said that there isn’t a crapload of skill involved in writing a good adventure series.
My final thought to anyone who has not yet started reading Cold Days: if you haven’t read Changes recently, give it a re-read before diving in. There were enough references to characters and events from that book that I often wished I hadn’t read it last two years ago. And as you read it, rest assured that it only gets better from there!
Rating: 5 out of 5
Well, at least it broke my stereotype that all urban fantasy written by women would be better labeled as paranormal romance. There was no romance to speak of here, which is good, but there was also way too much talk and way too little of interest going on to be an engaging story. Werewolf pack politics don’t interest me, and when the book finally got going near the end, it was a very quick rendition of a mediocre mystery novel, muddled up with way too many newly-introduced characters that were hard to keep track of.
Mercedes doesn’t interest me much, though by the end of the book it’s at least good to hear that shapeshifting into a coyote isn’t the extent of her abilities; I didn’t see how a book series could be based on such a character.
Rating: 2.5 out of 5
Finally, I’ve found a fun and gritty urban fantasy series that populates the same space as The Dresden Files: snarky, gritty, and action-packed. Urban Fantasy for men. I have read a few other authors who attempt this, but so far there aren’t many who pull it off.
The main character Stark/Sandman Slim is not terribly likable; he’s a selfish prick with little respect for human life, but he’s just barely good enough, and his opponents are so much worse, that by comparison he is enough of a hero to root for.
I also like that the mythology of this story is centered around the Jewish/Christian religious history with just enough ideas twisted around to make it unique. As a Christian myself, it’s a bit more irreverent than I would like, but I can clearly see the line between fictitious worldbuilding and mockery of God. Besides, in this world, God is quite fallible, so it’s not too hard to separate fantasy from theology.
I don’t like this as much as The Dresden Files, mainly because I don’t like Stark as much as Harry Dresden, but compared to Storm Front, the first book of that series, I’d say they’re equally enjoyable stories. I might not run out and buy book 2 immediately, but I’ll definitely give it a read when I’m in the mood.
Rating: 4 out of 5
I don’t understand all the love this book is getting. I was excited to potentially find another series that could even come close to The Dresden Files, but this doesn’t seem to be it. I spent most of the time just wishing it would be over so I could move on to something better. There’s nothing especially bad about the book, just that there’s nothing good worth mentioning. The characters, the plot, the magic, it’s all just… there. The only reason I finished it is because it takes a LOT to get me to quit a book in the middle, and Midnight Riot is not nearly so memorably bad as that. Not memorably anything.
Rating: 2 out of 5
As I may have mentioned before, Brandon Sanderson is my favorite Fantasy author (and there is really no author of any genre I like more, just a few I like equally). So although I am never much interested in reading Young Adult fiction, it’s no surprise that I’m willing to try some out when Sanderson writes it.
Alcatraz Smedry has just turned 13 and found out that he comes from a long line of Oculators (people who can use magical lenses to produce all sorts of effects) with odd Talents (his is breaking things). The world as we know it is really controlled by Librarians who want to keep us in the dark about all the advancements that have been happening on the continents we’re not supposed to know about. The Librarians have stolen Alcatraz’s birthright and a cast of characters have just shown up to rescue him and help retrieve it.
This is a fun, quirky adventure story with a whole lot of teenage attitude. Sanderson’s penchant for creating unique magical systems and surprise endings is fully in tact.
There is unfortunately a lot of snarky commentary in every chapter by Alcatraz the narrator. I think it’s supposed to be funny, and perhaps it is at times, but it heavily breaks up the flow of the story at the beginning of every chapter (except one, which he very quickly points out a page later), which got old very quickly.
Since I don’t read YA novels as a rule, I don’t know how well this book compares to others in its genre. I’m certainly not its target audience. But despite my complaints, the resolution of the story was good enough that I would consider picking up the next in the four book series.
Rating: 2.5 out of 5
Reviews of books this far into a series are largely pointless; either you are hooked on The Dresden Files and will read this one, or you’re not and have no use for a review of book 13 in a series. But I won’t let that stop me from writing my thoughts.
After the dark storm that was Changes, Jim Butcher seems to have had a lot of fun making up all kinds of crazy new things in Ghost Story. I can’t really say much more than that without giving things away, but being a ghost certainly affords Harry Dresden a whole lot of opportunities to experience the world(s) in many different ways. Thanks to Butcher’s imagination, it also gives us a chance to learn a lot about this alternate reality he’s created, as well as dive deeper into Harry’s back story a bit.
All of The Dresden Files books are somewhere between very good and awesome; this one is very good. It’s not one of my favorites, but it did have an incredibly interesting climax and certainly leaves you wanting more.
Rating: 4 out of 5
A sweet collection of short stories that begin before Storm Front and end after Changes. Most of these are just fun additions to the storyline, but Backup, The Warrior, and Aftermath serve to give us a better understanding of key characters and events that Dresden could not be aware of.
I give the book 4 stars because there’s more fluff than meat for the price of a hardcover book, but anyone who’s made it through the 12 Dresden books so far won’t want to miss what’s here.
Rating: 4 out of 5
I think most people who read this book will do so because they’re fans of Jim Butcher, and know that the author of The Dresden Files could write Spider-Man with half his quick-witted snark tied behind his back.
I wasn’t sure if it would be an exciting book though. I’m not a fan of Black Cat or Rhino, and have never heard of the Ancients (it’s been a while since I collected comics), but the story turned out to be an exciting novel Butcher should be proud of, even if it did start out a bit slowly. Most interesting is Butcher’s ability to bring a lot of character development to the story, especially with Rhino.
Great literature it’s not, but it’s well done, and any fan of either Butcher or Spidey will enjoy reading a story from his point of view.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Bravo, Mr. Butcher. The Dresden series has been a thrill ride of all kinds so far, but the aptly-titled Changes is a high point in a fantastic series. It’s here that we finally get a glimpse of just how well planned the story arc has been from the beginning, as pieces of mysteries from all parts of the series begin to come together. Many questions are answered, major resolutions are brought forth, and yet there is still so much that remains to be seen.
The best thing about this book, in my opinion, is that it proves that Butcher is in this thing for the long haul, and has undoubtedly got a fantastic vision for the rest of the series. If he can pull off an astounding novel like this one, he’s sure to deliver a satisfying conclusion (even if it is still 10 years away).
Too many authors start strong with their best ideas and slowly fade into their own shadow. Butcher, on the other hand, has future-proofed his career with this series. It started out good, quickly became great, and has become enthralling. Any fan of fantasy or mystery owes it to themselves to devour this series.
Rating: 5 out of 5
Opinions about this first novel of the Dresden Files vary widely. People either hate it, or think it’s pretty good (I don’t know anyone that loves it). This book is one part hard-boiled detective novel, one part fantasy, mixed together to present a lukewarm product that is not necessarily greater than the sum of its parts, but still an entertaining read as long as you don’t take it too seriously.
That being said, the Dresden Files series as a whole is incredibly enthralling; it gets consistently better with nearly every novel. I read all twelve of the currently available books straight in a row with no breaks, and haven’t enjoyed a series like that since the Ender’s Game series. The character development in all of the major characters, heroes and villains alike, is something I have rarely seen before.
And while each novel has a standalone story, there is a story arc that spans the entire series, and each smaller adventure ties directly into the progression of that greater plot as a whole. The key to this is that Butcher has already plotted out the entire series and plans to finish it in no less than 20 novels. That’s ambitious, but it pays off, as minor details and forgotten subplots pop back up with massive importance as you make your way through the series. It’s incredibly satisfying when these various storylines progress and resolve.
My only complaint about the whole series thus far is that you can’t really skip the first two inferior novels to get to the meat of the story without missing out on some details that will make the later novels more enjoyable. You’ll want to see the beginnings of some of these relationships in order to appreciate their development, and those complaining of Harry’s misogynistic nature may find that he isn’t quite as one-dimensional as he seems at first - far from it.
Storm Front is a decent novel, Fool Moon is about the same, but any fan of fantasy or mystery owes it to themselves to get through at least the first four Dresden novels before making a judgment call on the series as a whole. I’m confident that if you get that far, you won’t want to stop.
Rating: 4 out of 5