“Cold Days” Review

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Well, I’m now two weeks into my trip and have finally finished the second last Dresden book in the series thus far. I’m hoping to start the final book at some point this week or next and may blog next week about this weekend’s Wizard World Comic Con in Fort Lauderdale that I’m going to. I get to meet and have a photo op with James Marsters aka my FAVE person on “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” so you’ll no doubt be hearing all about that and more. Until then, let’s get into the plot of “Cold Days.”

Continuing off of the events from both “Changes” and “Ghost Story,” Harry finds himself quickly caught up in another diabolical plot involving the faeries from both the Summer and Winter Courts. As he meets back up with his friends, Harry uncovers more secrets about “his” island, Demonreach, that could spell doom for not only Chicago but the rest of the world. Will Harry and co. be able to prevent incoming disaster, or will it be too much for even them to handle?

Like the last two books, this one is ripe with spoilers thanks to the aftermath/consequences of them. One major consequence is set up in “Changes” and plays a big part here, not only to tie Harry to the faerie plot but also to further his character development and interactions with others. I thought it was well done and no doubt sets up an interesting angle for Harry to cope with in upcoming books. The plot itself comes together pretty nicely, though I felt it was a bit slow to kick off partially thanks to Harry meeting up with old friends and such early on. I’ve made it clear in the past that while I like elements of the faerie-verse in the series, they’re not my favorites in terms of baddies or threats. That said, this was one of the most interesting stories I’ve read involving them and I felt more invested overall.

As with most Dresden stories, several reoccurring characters get more development as well. Even though I’m still not overly fond of her, I both like and dislike the direction Molly’s being taken in, mainly thanks to a major twist near the end of the book. Also, it STILL drives me nuts that the dangling thread of her crush on Harry is still a thing because I just find it incredibly icky. Thankfully, I got more long overdue relationship development (if you can call it that) between Harry and Karrin. While I don’t feel like they’ll be going off into the sunset together (I swear, Jim Butcher reminds me of Joss Whedon sometimes), I did like that they continue to address how topsy-turvy their friendship is. There was even further development, or at least mystery, with Mac. He was always a character who we didn’t know much about to begin with, but I have to wonder if we’ll ever find out more about him or if it’ll be left up in the air, as this book seems to suggest the latter. It’s interesting to think about, but also drives me nuts at the same time.

One thing I’ve mentioned feeling extremely grateful about doing was reading “Side Jobs” after “Changes” as sort of filler/character pieces. I can safely say I’m even more glad for reading it before this book, because it’s referenced here in spades. Granted, you don’t HAVE to read it before this, but it was nice to go “Ah ha!” whenever those stories were mentioned. Otherwise, they come off as cute incidents from Harry’s past (at least until you read “Side Jobs” after the fact). And since I mentioned that big twist at the end of the book, I will say that I didn’t see it coming until the book prompted me to catch on. I thought it was really well done following the heels of yet another island battle, and one of the big points made in the book hearkens back to as far as the very beginning with “Storm Front.” I feel as though we haven’t seen the last of that particular point since it has major implications for the Dresden-verse.

Overall, “Cold Days” was a good book. While I’m a little biased against it as I prefer other creatures/baddies in this series over faeries, I liked that the majority of that world was represented here in a pretty coherent, tonally serious story. The character interactions continue to entertain me and I’m curious to see what’s in store for Harry next. The series has been shifting to increasingly darker stuff and I for one can’t wait for more. As I said above, stay tuned for a possible convention blog, and after that should be my final (for now) Dresden blog for “Skin Game.”

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“Ghost Story” Review (Some Spoilers!)

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Well, here we are once more before I travel to Miami on Wednesday. I might not have finished reading every Dresden book, but I’m going to make sure the last two get read and blogged about at some point during my trip. I’ll also most likely have a blog about checking out Wizard World Comic Con in Fort Lauderdale as well. In the meantime, as mentioned above, today’s blog is (against every fiber of my being) going to have a spoiler or two. “Ghost Story” is just chalk full of stuff going on that I wanted to at least attempt to talk about it, unlike what I did with “Changes.” Fair warning, ’cause spoilers start from here on.

After the major cliffhanger in “Changes,” Harry finds himself in a limbo of sorts as a ghost. Given the option to return to Chicago in the hopes of helping his friends and tracking down his killer, he jumps at the chance and starts to learn how to function as a ghost. But when Morty, the spirit medium, is captured by evil forces, Harry must gather up his ragtag friends to save him. Will Harry be able to help everyone and get his just rewards, or will the vengeful spirits of Chicago destroy him once and for all?

As you can tell, this book centers around Harry living life as a ghost and the upsides and downsides of it. Plot-wise, I thought this one was pretty solid. It didn’t feel like it meandered too much away from the main story and, despite my own slow pace at reading it, it didn’t feel like a drag. I enjoyed lots of aspects about Harry adjusting to his ghost “life” He gets help from numerous people/spirits to become just as good of a ghost as he was a living wizard. I liked how he also took more time to reflect on his mistakes and tried to plan his battles more wisely. There are even parts that show glimpses of Harry’s past that I appreciated, if only because it put me further into his mindset. I feel like, even after getting to “know” Harry throughout this series, this book showed he still has a few surprises in him.

Another thing I liked was the progression, for better or worse, of his friends as they’ve moved on without him. The book tries to cover major ones such as Murphy, Molly and Thomas, and it made me all the more happy I read “Side Jobs” first as a lead-in to their changed mindsets (specifically Murphy’s). It was a good if heartbreaking change of pace for these characters, and I’ll admit that while I didn’t feel overly bad for Molly’s plight, I did like her a bit more here for her much more raw attitude. We also learn a little bit more about her brother, Daniel, and even see Butters stepping into more of an action role. Given that there’s a time displacement between Harry’s death and the present, it was nice to see Butcher didn’t cop out on giving the characters some development and changed attitudes.

Speaking of characters, there was one new character I really liked despite his small-ish role in the book: Sir Stuart. He’s a long-dead soldier who convenes with Morty and protects him from danger. I just really liked the guy’s personality and his attitude toward fighting evil, as well as him taking up a bit of a mentor role to Harry during his initial time as a ghost. While something drastic happens to him later that kinda diminishes his persona a bit, I found him to be the most interesting of the new characters shown here (although Fitz the gang member was fine too).

Once again, though, I have minor nitpicks. To be specific, I have ONE nitpick, and it has to do with a major twist involving Harry’s killer that I refuse to give away. I’ll just say this: While I appreciated how it tied back into “Changes”, I also felt a little let down by it. Now, I wasn’t expecting anything complicated, but I felt it was a bit of a disservice to Harry after everything we’d been through with him. It’s not a horrible twist, but the choice to make it what it was just left me feeling lukewarm.

Overall, “Ghost Story” was a great book. I might have had issues with “Changes,” but this book followed through on what that book accomplished in an engaging way. The character and story development here were well done, and the callbacks to other stories and past events in Harry’s life were a nice touch. As usual, if you haven’t read the series up to this point, you really should to get the full experience and allow yourself to appreciate what both “Changes” and “Ghost Story” have set in motion. I’m just excited to move on to “Cold Days” and “Skin Game” to see just where Butcher takes this story next (and be caught up, of course). I can’t promise when I’ll blog next, but I WILL be concluding this series within the next two months. Stay tuned!

“Side Jobs” Review

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Once again, I apologize for being late on this one. I had hoped to have most if not all of the Dresden series read before I go on my trip by the 16th, but that just hasn’t happened. I will be reading “Ghost Story” and hopefully blogging about it before I leave, however. With that aside, let’s talk about the anthology book, “Side Jobs.”

Now, given that this is a collection of short stories set throughout the series, I don’t want to run down each and every little one or this blog would be majorly long. Instead, I’d like to talk about some of my favorites and least favorites presented here. There are a total of 11 stories of varied length and, for me at least, most of them are good. Whether they’re filling a gap between stories or acting as further character development, all of them have something to offer. However, the first two stories, “Restoration of Faith” and “Vignette”, were easily the weakest to me. The former was one of Butcher’s earliest (as in teenage years) writings and it shows. I did like a few details in it (like what Harry was doing long before becoming the wizard we see in “Storm Front” and him meeting Murphy), but overall it was clearly the weakest story of the bunch. “Vignette” was a bit stronger, being a story about Harry and Bob trying to settle on an advertisement for Harry’s detective agency, but it was meant to be a pamphlet-sized short story and it definitely is. It was basically fluff, albeit decently written fluff.

As for some of the stories I liked, I’m going to change things up and make a small list. That list changed as I read through each story, and while I did enjoy the werewolf-centric “Something Borrowed” (more Billy and Georgia AND Buffy references? Yes, please!) and the reappearance of some nasty Black Court vampires in “It’s My Birthday, Too”, these next three are my top faves:

3) “The Warrior” – This story takes place after the events of “Small Favor” and brings Michael and his family into center-stage when pictures of them are sent to Harry. Michael is eventually forced into action when his daughter is kidnapped and teams up with Harry to find out why. After all that happens in “Small Favor,” it was nice to see Michael again and enjoy his interactions with Harry. When he meets the kidnapper near the end, the moments following it were very well-written and poignant to his character. The story itself overall was pretty strong and there’s a nice message at the end to drive the whole thing home.

2) “Love Hurts” – Prepare for bias! This story takes place before “Changes” and features Harry and Murphy teaming up to stop someone who’s been forcing people to fall in love. I love this story for two main reasons: A) It takes place at a carnival, which is always a fun setting to picture, and B) Murphy and Harry get a little taste of the love spell and get to indulge in their feelings. I’ve loved the prospect of these two getting together (even if it never actually happens), and this was the closest I got so far of that being possible. The story itself was good overall and I just loved how much it highlighted what a good police team Harry and Murphy make.

And finally, 1) “Aftermath” – This story takes place in the aftermath of the cliffhanger from “Changes” and is written in Murphy’s point of view. New factions of baddies are trying to muscle in on the Red Court’s territory, and Murphy, along with Billy, ends up investigating a series of disappearances that could be related to said baddies. Of course, I love it for Murphy’s perspective alone, but it’s also a pretty fleshed-out story to boot. It gives a bit more insight into Billy’s life than even “Something Borrowed” did and also gives us an idea of how Murphy would handle situations mostly on her own that normally Harry would be involved in. I’m glad I read this first before going into “Ghost Story,” if only because it made for a great filler piece between that and “Changes.”

Overall, “Side Jobs” is definitely a book fans will appreciate. While not all of the stories were my cup of tea, the majority of them were well-written and had interesting scenarios. I’m glad I read it, though I’m looking forward to jumping right back into the series next week.