This is it, folks. The Dresden Files Reread has reached the current release, Cold Days, the fourteenth book in the series. In my review of the novel I called it one of the best of the series and a worthy addition to the ongoing story. Why? Well, click through and find out. Because of the amount that happens in this novel, the recap will be split into three parts. And contain lots and lots of spoilers.
As we saw at the end of Ghost Story, Harry awakens on Demonreach island, back in his body which has been kept alive by Mab and Demonreach. Mab ends by saying she’ll take him back to Faerie. Cold Days begins with Harry waking up in a bed having recovered enough to know who he is and what happened to him. Attending him is a beautiful young mortal woman named Sarissa. She verifies that he knows who he is and who she is, and is impressed when he is able to feed himself. Sarissa explains that she’s been sent to oversee his recovery.
Then Mab appears to check on Harry, happy to see that he’s conscious and responsive. She explains that he’s in Arctis Tor, in the quarters of the Winter Knight. She dismisses Sarissa (a changeling, Mab mentions) then moves over to Harry’s bed, and tries to smother him with a pillow. Harry is weak, and only just manages to shift Mab off of him so that he can breath again. Thus begins a new part of his physical therapy, where Mab tries to kill him a new way each day. As Harry says in the book, “Use your imagination. Mab sure as hell did.”
Over the course of 77 days, Harry gets stronger and healthier and fights off Mab’s attempts. When he manages to defend himself against Mab with a shotgun and a violent malk, Mab deems him ready. She has a tux ready and waiting for him in his quarters. She also returns to him his pentacle amulet, now with his mother’s pathfinding stone perfectly affixed to it. She also sends him a malk to aid him, to do as he asks. And not just any malk either, he’s Cat Sith, the progenitor of the malks. Cat Sith makes it apparent that while he will do things for Harry, like get him a Coke, he isn’t happy about it and will do what he can to sour things with the request (like bringing Harry a warm can).
Harry gets tuxed up and waits in a kind of waiting room where there are candies that he pointedly does not eat. It’s not wise to eat things in Faerie, remember. There’s also a copy of Grimm’s Fairy Tales, personally signed to Mab. Sarissa enters, equally dolled up, a knock-out. Harry mentions to her that the fairy tales probably helped keep the Fae more securely attached to the mortal world. Harry asks Sarissa about herself. Though she’s been helping him with his rehabilitation, he doesn’t know anything about her. Why she’s in Arctis Tor, for example. He guesses Mab has something on her. He also mentions that he’s not Lloyd Slate, the previous Winter Knight. Sarissa’s reply is chilling (no pun intended): “Neither was he. Not at first.” Sarissa is cynical and wary, saying she’s lived a third of her life in Arctis Tor. Harry admires her courage and grace, but figures that Mab put her there as a temptation for him. Sarissa tells him there are two rules for the upcoming gathering—don’t spill blood without Mab’s permission, and don’t talk to Mab. Harry refers to it as his first day in the prison yard.
The gathering proves to be a birthday party for Harry. A surprise birthday party. Unbeknownst to him, it’s almost Halloween. The ice cavern is made out to look like his old apartment, if all of his furniture were large and made of ice. After a birthday tune, Maeve stops by to pay her respects. She plays the temptation card as well, and Harry is tempted, but he knows what a psychopath Maeve is, and he remembers what she did for Billy and Georgia’s wedding (Side Jobs, “Something Borrowed”). Harry also realizes this is a play, to manipulate him into attacking, and he’s not amused.
At the gathering, Harry meets up with Eldest Gruff (last seen in Small Favor), the Erlking (last seen in Changes) and a man named Kringle who it’s clear is the original version of Santa Claus. Only he hunts with the Erlking. Harry is distracted from the conversation by the sight of a Sidhe gentleman with a red baseball cap pulling Sarissa, painfully, onto the dance floor. We know how Harry gets with damsels in distress. He goes after her which gets her dance partner angry since Harry hasn’t claimed her and since she’s just a mortal that he can do what he likes with. Harry figures out that the Sidhe is a redcap. No, The Redcap, the redcap insists. And he has friends, a rawhead, a huge creature assembled from cattle parts and a furred ogre/yeti creature.
Then Mab appears, and it’s clear that Harry is on his own. It’s also clear that this is yet another ploy by Maeve to fuck with Harry. Harry decides to use the Faeries’ weaknesses against them. He suggests upping the stakes. If Maeve’s side wins, she gets Harry. If Harry wins, Sarissa goes free. And rather than spill blood, he throws his tie down and it’s a race for the tie. With no magic.
Harry’s new power has made him fast and he grabs the tie only a second after the Redcap. They then begin a fight/dance, each one holding one end of the accessory. The Redcap dislocates Harry’s shoulder, but then Harry smashes the Redcap’s knee and steals its hat. They continue to fight and Harry catches sight of Sarissa, in the grip of the yeti/ogre, getting her hands on one of her hair chopsticks. She breaks one, revealing iron in the middle and slashes at the yeti. It hits her and breaks her lip, and a drop of blood falls on the ground, sending everyone quiet. Mab’s rule has been broken and she’s less than pleased, asking Harry to deal with it. He knocks the yeti down with magical force, freezes it with his Winter Knight mojo, then follows that up with another blast of magical force shattering the frozen creature into tiny bits. Harry then addresses those assembled saying that if he sees them abusing mortals, the same will happen to them. Subzero tolerance, in his words. When a Sidhe steps forward to ask a question, Harry does the double tap again as a lesson.
Mab is pleased with Harry, but not with Maeve. She orders her to leave. Then Mab dances with Harry, telling him to improve since Sarissa won’t always be there to help him. She also tells Harry what she wants him to do—kill Maeve.
Harry leaves the party with Sarissa before things get…sordid. Harry is beginning to feel urges, but he’s not giving in to them. He invites Sarissa into his room just to talk since they don’t know much about each other. They play a question game and Sarissa asks Harry about the people he’s killed. It brings up Lloyd Slate and Susan. Sarissa explains that she’s with Mab because she has a form of congenital dementia which affected her older sister and Mab can help with it. Sarissa’s deal is that as long as she’s herself and sane, she works for Mab three months out of every year. She’s been helping Mab to better understand humanity by going to movies, concerts, shopping, etc.
When Sarissa leaves, Harry returns to Mab’s request. He tells Cat Sith he needs to go to Chicago and the malk opens a Way through the Nevernever in Harry’s closet. Mab had it made for Harry and Cat Sith mentions that it’s the only way in or out of all of Faerie until dawn. Harry crosses over into Chicago and Cat Sith gives him a car as well, a post-WWII Caddy with a flame job. Driving it are Toot-toot and other members of the Za Lord’s Guard. Toot tells Harry that Lea kept the pizza coming in Harry’s absence.
Harry breaks in to Butters’ apartment to get Bob. Bob talks to Harry, essentially stalling him until Harry is attacked by a big furry creature. A wolf, which eventually changes into Andi, the werewolf. She’s understandably shocked to see Harry alive. Harry is overcome with violent impulses, wanting to attack Andi. He grabs for the skull and Andi pulls a gun on him. Andi knows about Bob because she lives with Butters now. She forces Harry to explain. Harry needs Bob. If he takes Bob, then Butters and her are victims and not accomplices, and not at risk for helping him. She lets Harry take Bob and asks if she can tell Butters. Harry says yes, but not anyone else yet.
Harry tells Bob what Mab asked him to do. Bob tells Harry that it would be impossible to kill Maeve. She’s immortal. She would come back from anything he could do to her. But Bob apparently knows something he doesn’t want to tell Harry. He knows how to kill an immortal. Bob expects he’s survived for so long by keeping it to himself. Tell Harry and he makes himself a target. Harry kicks out the Little Folk and tells Bob that Mab was probably expecting Harry to go to Bob so that it’s okay for him to tell. Bob agrees to tell Harry if Harry makes Bob a backup vessel.
Bob tells Harry that immortals can be killed on Halloween night. Everyone and everything standing in this world on Halloween is mortal. Halloween is also the only time that their immortality can be changed, where they can add new power or steal it from others. And most of the immortals that are awake are in the mortal world on Halloween night. It gives Harry a deadline of just over 24 hours. So Harry knows how to do it, but not why it needs doing. And Bob tells him that killing Maeve will just create a new Winter Lady when the mantle is passed on.
Bob also tells him that the mantle of the Winter Lady will change whoever inherits it (pay attention to this). In the same way that the Winter Knight’s mantle can change him. Bob theorizes that Harry is Mab’s missile—she points it at Maeve and waits for the boom. Bob then gives Harry shit for not contacting his friends and for keeping to himself. Then something falls on the ground in front of the car and a bomb goes off.
Harry gets out of the car and moves, but gets nailed, literally, by a nail gun. He is attacked by evil Little Folk who are then intercepted by Harry’s Za Guard. They skirmish for a while and Harry uses an arctic blast of wind to send some of them off course. Then Toot takes on the leader of the evil Fae, Captain Hook, but is unable to defeat him. In the end, only the appearance of a number of cats sends the little Fae packing. Only they aren’t real cats. They’re illusions, cast by Harry’s once-apprentice, Molly Carpenter.
Harry asks Molly to drive, even though the Caddy is stuck. But Harry uses his special Winter Knight strength and gets the car out. They drive. Harry points out that he had given Bob standing orders to be mute any time Molly was around. He seems to have feared their joined talents. Molly explains that she’s veiling the car which shows that her power has grown even more. Molly looks better than she did in Ghost Story. Much better. She takes Harry back to her place, in a fancy, secure apartment building. Which she bought from Swartalves. With Honor.
Harry helps fix up Toot-toot, then Molly helps patch up Harry. She explains that she knew Harry was alive, courtesy of Lea. She asks about what Harry’s up to and, amazingly, he tells her the truth. Minus the bit about Halloween. Wow. Growth. Harry. I guess the last book really did change him.
Harry takes the opportunity to apologize for Chichen Itza. Molly agrees that they both made bad choices there, but that it’s in the past. Molly mentions that she has clothes and a room for Harry if he needs it. Then she tells Harry that she’s been visiting Demonreach and that there’s energy building up there. She says she thinks it will explode in the next few days and take most of the Midwest with it.
Harry goes to change and the guest room is decked out like his old apartment. He grabs some clothes and chats some more with Molly. Harry mentions that the fact that Molly hasn’t had trouble with the White Council means that people, specifically Ebenezar and Ramirez, are pointedly not looking for her. Then, based on the energy build-up at the island, Harry decides to check it out immediately (seemingly yet another new thing—usually Harry deals with things later).
Harry and Molly head to the Water Beetle, thinking to take it to Demonreach, only Thomas is on board. And as far as he knows, Harry is dead. Molly confirms it really is Harry and then Thomas rips into Harry for not contacting him. Harry explains that he sold out, that he was ashamed, but Thomas is having none of it. He knows what it’s like to have a dark side, to have to try to resist it all the time. Harry should have recognized that and Thomas could have told him that they’d get through it together. Thomas’s rage burns out though and ends in a tight hug.
On the way to Demonreach, Thomas asks Harry if he has seen Maggie (he hasn’t) and asks if he learned nothing from his “little adventure in the lake.” He’s also talking about Murphy, urging Harry to tell both of them that he loves them. He also tells Harry that Justine’s compromise, seen at the end of Ghost Story, seems to be working for him. He feels balanced.
As they reach the island, Harry asks how Thomas knew to be on the boat and he says that Molly called him, only she didn’t. Harry mentions that he and Thomas built a dock on the island before he got shot. Harry steps onto the island and his connection with the island gives him back total awareness. He realizes there’s no one else on the island, but Molly figures that Demonreach doesn’t want anyone but Harry there. Molly and Thomas are stuck on the dock.
Something is going on, Harry realizes. Many of the animals have left the island, leaving behind only those who can’t. Harry heads to the top of the island and the cottage there where a fire is already burning for Harry. Harry removes Bob and asks him to take a look around (keeping his knowledge confidential if he goes back to someone else). Bob has difficulty with just the top layer of spells in the cottage. Bob doesn’t even know what the symbols are. And Bob knows everything.
Bob seems to think that there are hundreds of layers on each stone. And the magic predates wizardry as they know it. Demonreach appears and speaks. He tells Harry his help is needed below. And to bring the Skull. Demonreach also refers to Harry as Warden, which is interesting, because he hasn’t worn the grey cloak in a while.
They go down a fair way, over eleven hundred feet straight down, below the bottom of the lake. Demonreach tells Harry that Merlin created the place. The Merlin, the person not the office. Demonreach shows Harry the kind of security code needed to pass beyond and they visit the chamber where Mab and Demonreach brought him back from death. Then Demonreach shows him a place where there are six, count them, six naagloshii, stored in crystal prisons. Demonreach calls these “the least.” There are plenty more creatures, worse than the naagloshii. “Nightmares. Dark Gods. Nameless Things. Immortals.” The island is a prison. And the significance of Demonreach calling Harry “warden” is now made clear.
Harry realizes that this is a lot of trouble he’s inheriting, and how the White Council will probably not be happy about it. Then he feels one of his massive headaches coming on until Demonreach growls and the headache disappears. Demonreach explains in not so many words that it’s the parasite causing it, the one mentioned at the end of Ghost Story. Apparently Demonreach can’t talk about it, the price of having it save Harry’s life. It will be dangerous to Harry in time, burst forth from his skull. And Molly can help get it out apparently.
Harry puts that on the backburner, though, to deal with the prison problem. Demonreach can’t explain to Harry, so Harry has him use Bob as a translator. It takes Bob a little while to get it, then he plays a movie for Harry. It seems that Merlin built the prison, but not just in three dimensions. In four. He built it in five different times at the same time. Bob also explains that the danger is that someone figure out how to unravel Merlin’s spells. Which will trigger a failsafe which will kill the prisoners, which will release a shitload of energy. It’s set to go off the next day, but Bob explains that the attack is coming from the future. The rock will hit on November 1, but Harry has to stop someone from throwing it in the first place. In addition to dealing with the parasite in his head. And killing Maeve or dealing with Mab. In the next 24 hours.
It’s dawn as they leave the island, meaning the Ways to Faerie are opened again. As the Water Beetle returns to Chicago, Redcap and his buddies start chasing them on jetskis. And armed with guns. Harry has Molly whip up some illusory mist then has Thomas slow down. It brings the faerie thugs in closer so that they can take them out, Molly and Harry using hexes to play havoc with the jetskis. As they head back to dock, Harry asks Thomas to help him save the world and Thomas says yes.
Only how will they do it? And will Harry kill Maeve as commanded? Check back in next week for Part 2.
Rajan Khanna is a writer, blogger, and narrator who is bound to find the wait for the next Dresden book to be agonizing. In the meantime, he will likely concoct grand scenarios to explain some of the ongoing plot threads. His website is www.rajankhanna.com and he tweets @rajanyk.