As I mentioned last week, this week’s blog is about “Turn Coat”, the 11th book in the “Dresden Files” series. To prepare myself and take a short break before the apparently crazy read I’m in for with the next book, “Changes”, next week will definitely be a non-Dresden update. Until then, let’s break down what this book has to offer.
Warden Morgan shows up at Harry’s apartment one day looking for sanctuary. He soon finds out that Morgan is a fugitive of the Council, having been accused of murdering one of the Senior Council’s members. But when Harry resolves to find the truth, he gets more than he bargained for when both the White Court and a powerful, shape-shifting skinwalker join the fray to hunt down Morgan. Even with the help of his closest allies, will Harry be able to solve the case and find the culprit, or will the Council ultimately fall into chaos?
I’ll just say it now: I’m biased against this book. Yes, against it. I never liked Morgan as a character from day 1, and even by the book’s end my mind hadn’t changed much about that. Considering how much of the book revolves around him, I found a good chunk of it kind of a slog to get through. That wasn’t helped by the slow-ish pacing, but I’ll get to that later. It’s not technically a bad book, but I can safely say at this point that it’s far from being among my favorites.
There are a few things I did like about the book. There’s more progression with both the mysterious island Harry recently visited as well as the developing Black Council plot. This all comes into play during the book’s third act, which is by far my favorite part. The third act in general has, in order: a big, climatic battle on the island which also showcases some of the Senior Council members’ abilities, a wizard trial where the killer is unmasked, and some important aftermath details that I’m sure will definitely come into play later. For a book that started slow and gradually picked up, this whole chunk of it was definitely the highlight. Also, while the book had various baddies pop up here and there, my favorite was definitely the skinwalker. He was both scary and threatening with how strong and cunning he was, and I’ve always loved the idea of an ability to change into anything. There are some good battle scenes with him, though I prefer the one on the island.
I also liked some of the character developments that took place. Thomas, for example, spends most of the book MIA but comes back by the end in a dramatic fashion. I’m sure the repercussions of his disappearance may have an effect on a future story or two. Jim Butcher also gets the werewolves, lead by Billy, involved again and finally starts making more use of them in battle scenarios (Billy in particular gets the most development here for standing up to Dresden). But the most important developments come from both Harry and Morgan, both separately and toward each other. They mutually gain a bit more respect and understanding of each other, and Harry also learns to be more strategic when creating a plan. And, despite my gripes with Morgan, this is the book where he has the most growth and likability than any other in the series. Even if by the end he didn’t feel completely redeemed to me, I still appreciate that his character finally got some much-needed depth.
Now we come to the negative stuff. I already mentioned how the book started slow for me, though this still could be partially due to my bias against Morgan. However, I just felt the beginning 10 or so chapters didn’t have a whole lot going on. I know it’s mainly a mystery and has to take time to build up, but even for that it felt a little sluggish. Molly as usual returns to assist Dresden, and while I found her character tolerable through most of the story, there was one scene near the third act that I couldn’t stand. I understood the reasoning for it and some of the things she mentions come into play later, but it felt like a step back for her character.
But my biggest gripe aside from the heavy involvement of Morgan was the relationship between Harry and Anastasia. I don’t know if Jim Butcher intended for us to get attached to them or not, but I felt like they needed at least one more book before the events that occur in this one. I did like the role she ultimately played in the plot, but throughout the book and by the end, I just didn’t feel invested in what happens with them. With Susan, even before she was turned into a vampire, she was established and given a couple books to endear her to us. Here, the idea of Anastasia being a love interest for Harry gets some nods in the previous book, but only really plays out in this one. I just feel like it was a waste of potential.
Overall, “Turn Coat” was full of ups and downs for me personally. The third act was definitely worth getting to, but because of the slow-ish pace and major involvement of Morgan, it’s not a book I would revisit any time soon. At the very least, this book sets up some interesting details that may play out in other stories. Just be warned that the good stuff doesn’t really kick in till late into it.