Cold Days by Jim Butcher – Review

Cold Days by Jim Butcher

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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.

Harry Dresden is back from the land of the dead, beholden to Mab, the Winter Queen, and her Winter Court as the new Winter Knight. For his first task, Harry is tasked to do the impossible, kill an immortal, and not just any immortal. What follows is a story about new beginnings, a reforging of Harry’s old life after the destruction he faced in Changes and the revelations in Ghost Story.

The book starts with Harry awakening from a coma-like state as he’s undergoing physical therapy in the Nevernever due to his recent resurrection from the previous book. What follows is seventy-seven days of assassination attempts from Mab and a birthday party with the most dangerous members of Winter. It is here that Harry is given his first task and sets the stage for Dresden’s reintroduction to a world he left behind.

Jim Butcher has said the Dresden Files is set to be twenty books long followed with an apocalyptic final trilogy and Cold Days is where secrets are revealed and the real enemy is glimpsed, if only fleetingly. Demonreach, Harry’s own personal island of magical energy, has secrets revealed that I for one am convinced will play a major role in the coming books. Suffice it to say it is both jaw-dropping and amazing in it’s scope and potential for future trouble.

Harry Dresden has always been known as powerful, even by wizard standards but in his new role as Winter Knight, even this is taken to the next level. With a piece of Winter held inside Harry is given enormous control over ice magic, even freezing a huge portion of Lake Michigan, and his speed and strength are amplified to near superhuman speeds. But in true Butcher fashion, the enemies are no pushovers and Dresden spends more of the book battered and beaten than otherwise.

This leads into my next point, Cold Days is a novel about transformation for Harry Dresden. One of the main themes of the novel is Harry questioning what exactly his taking of the mantle of the Winter Knight will do to him, if it will really change him into a monster as he believes. To quote Dresden himself:

“Fire isn’t always an element of destruction. Classical alchemical doctrine teaches that it also has dominion over another province: change. The fire of my tribulations had not simply been pain to be endured. It had been an agent of transformation. After all that I’d been through, I’d changed.”

Harry is forced into a constant battle within himself as his own feelings and motivations are at times overwritten by those of the basic instincts of the Winter Fae, and it can be an ugly thing indeed.

The ending to the book is perhaps one of the most shocking, and in a way, heartbreaking. It raises questions and has me more excited for the next book than ever before. The finale also has Harry gearing up for this new world-changing, apocalyptic threat, and he does so with a renewed vigor and determination indicative of his renewed life.

Jim Butcher remains a spectacular author and one of my favorites despite only having picked up his books a few months back. While his writing has always been impressive for it’s fast-paced action and gripping content, you can tell he’s grown even so. His writing has become more subtle and the layered emotions of his characters is something that is to be aspired to and broken down until it’s understood.

If you’ve read the previous books in the Dresden Files it’s really unlikely that you’ll miss out on the latest installment. But go in knowing you will be both impressed and blown away by the urban-fantasy’s latest hit.

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