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Bookends: Chicago’s Resident Wizard Becomes a Real Cold Warrior after he Returns to Life June 4, 2013

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Bookends: Chicago’s Resident Wizard Becomes a Real Cold Warrior after he Returns to Life

Cold Days

By Dan Davidson

February 27, 2013

 

Cold Days: A Novel of the Dresden Files

By

Roc Hardcover

528 pages

$29.50

 

Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden has been through a lot of changes over the last 13 novels and one book of assorted short stories. While he originally set out to be Chicago’s only consulting wizard and hoped mainly to be helping people with problems that involved minor magical elements, as time wore on it became more and more obvious that there was gong to be more to his life than simply assisting the police in solving some of the stranger murders and robberies.

Indeed, at one point Harry found himself sharing a corner of his consciousness with a fallen angel, one who sought to turn him to the dark side of magic by tempting him with the power boosts he needed to solve some of the more serious problems that came his way.

He managed to survive that acquaintance with his soul intact, but there was always the issue of his fairy godmother (really), who had designs on his allegiance, and also Queen Mab (see Mercutio’s speech in Romeo and Juliet), the airy queen of Winter, who wanted to swear him in as her Winter Knight.

In the novel Changes Harry was finally forced to accept Mab’s offer. His back had been broken and he needed healing in order to be able to save the daughter he had only just discovered he had. With the healing came power. Magical power of the wrong sort corrupts as badly as any other kind. Harry had had to deal with the last Winter Knight and, fearing what sort of a monster he might become, he arranged for his own assassination once his task was complete – and also arranged to forget that he had done that.

Death did not quite take for Harry, and in the aptly name Ghost Story, he still manages to save the world from evil entities from another realm while being little more than an ectoplasmic apparition in this one. As the book ended it turned out that he was merely “near death”, perhaps a side effect of the infusion of the Winter Knight’s abilities. He woke to find himself be tended by Mab and some of her minions in a strange cave.

Cold Days is about Harry’s struggle to cope with the effects of his new magical status. The Winter Knight’s power tends to make one into a bully, and certainly ramps up testosterone effects right across the board. Harry’s not into demonstrations of machismo by nature, but finds himself having urges and reflex thoughts that are not welcome. Without the earlier experience with the Fallen, he might have had more trouble controlling himself.

He is given a number of conflicting tasks by Mab and some other entities, and finds himself having to take on yet another by way of his empathic connection to a mysterious island off the coast of Chicago. When he establishes contact with the Demonreach, the spirit of the island, it turns out that he is not just a Warden (warrior wizard) of the White Council, but also the Warden (jailer) of some powerful beings imprisoned beneath the island, Cthulhu-like creatures which may have inspired the writings of H.P. Lovecraft. Worse, someone or something is trying to free them. The Demonreach needs his help.

The Dresden Files often feature a ticking clock of some sort, a deadline by which harry has to accomplish some impossible thing or else horrors will result. There are several in this story. The books also rocket along at breakneck speed, usually taking place over the space of one to three days. Finally, Harry is nearly always a physical wreck at the end of each novel.

In this one he would certainly have been really dead several times over if not for the power boost attendant to his acceptance of the role of Winter Knight, and to the months long healing and training regimen Mab puts him through (basically, a daily attempt to kill him which he must overcome) in order to make him more combat ready. Harry’s always been ready for a scrap, but he has never been more ready than he is in this book. Good thing, since there are enemies almost literally popping out of the woodwork from the time he returns to Chicago from Mab’s kingdom of Arctis Tor, a specific part of the otherworld known as the Nevernever. In spite his new strength and abilities, he is seriously ground down by combined attacks by a variety of foes.

He is assisted by a number of members of his regular cast of friends and helpers. Some of them are badly injured in the fray and the life of one of them is irrevocably altered.

It will not give away much to say that nearly everything that’s happening in this book is the outcome of an internecine war within the Winter Court, that nothing is quite what it seems to be and such victories as there are, are tinged with sadness.

While the Dresden books are serious adventure novels, they retain a touch of their noir detective origins and a filled with lots of humour as well as lots of action. Butcher seems to manage to produce one a year, and I do look forward to them.

 

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