Apr 7 2010 6:38pm

Changes, Book 12 of the Dresden Files, by Jim Butcher

It’s scary when the next volume in a beloved series is called Changes. I mean, pretty much every book in the Dresden Files could be called “Changes to Character Relationships and Long-Term Threatening Situations That You Didn’t Even Realize Were Happening Because I Successfully Distracted You With the Plot, Including One or Two Big Reveals and Some Neat Explosions.”

But that’s not what they’re called; they have snappy, two-word titles like Fool Moon and Dead Beat. This title stared at me as I contemplated my copy. Were these changes going to be bigger? Badder?

For the wary: This review contains no more specific spoilers than you would get reading the inside flap. I’m a total nut about not getting spoiled myself, so you can trust me. But Jim Butcher released the biggest spoiler of all on his Twitter stream, and it’s the first line of the book:

I answered the phone and Susan Rodriguez said, “They’ve taken our daughter.”

Bwuh. Quick reminder: Susan was a reporter who liked to bug Harry for details about his cases, until one day in Grave Peril—book three—she got too close to a scoop and was bitten by a Red Court vampire. She hasn’t made the full transition yet, and now fights her blood lust and kills vampires in South America; we last saw her in book five, Death Masks. And apparently at some point, she and Harry forgot rule number one of dating, at least as defined by my mother: “Don’t get pregnant!” (The “because vampires might kidnap your child” was implied.)

The Dresden ensemble cast is in full force in Changes: Murphy, Molly, Sanya, Mac, Bob, Ebenezar, Mouse, Lea, Mab, Toot-toot, Luccio, Thomas, and Gentleman Johnny Marcone all turn up. There are big relationship reveals, excellent explosions, and a doughnut that I suspect of being symbolic. But, taking into account that I would rather be reading the new Dresden Files book than doing pretty much anything else, Changes didn't pull me in as powerfully as I was expecting.

There were two main problems: one is that the emotional centers of the book were a woman I haven’t read about in five years and didn’t have strong feelings about even then, and a child I’ve never met. Obviously the kidnapping of children is wrong and I disapprove, but just imagine, say, Molly in danger—the stakes go up exponentially. In Turn Coat, we followed Harry on the emotional journey from thinking Morgan was a total prick to thinking he was a complicated and very human prick. I loved when Harry talked to Molly about what it means to be a wizard, because I’d seen Harry get to that place over the last few books, and I’d seen Molly trying to find her way in the magical world. In Changes, it’s obvious that Harry still cares a lot about Susan and he’s desperate to be there for his daughter, but I felt removed from the driving emotional force. Maybe Susan fans or people reading straight through the series would disagree, which raises an interesting question about who authors are really writing for: the audience as the books come out, or the potentially much larger audiences of the future?

But there’s also the problem of escalation. Apparently the Red Court are the baddest bad guys we’ve faced yet. But who would win, a vampire or a Denarian? A vampire or the Naagloshii? Could the Red King take on Queen Mab? Butcher is throwing more and more powerful obstacles in Harry’s way, and consequently Harry becomes more and more able to deal with them, until everyone is so powerful that the descriptions of their speed and strength just become a background hum. But power doesn’t have to mean force. Mab was one of my favorite threatening presences, because the tension was based on Harry owing her favors, not on the fact that she could pound him into pudding if she wanted to. I hope that the next book will take a cue from its title, Side Jobs, and resolve not by might, not by power, but by badass craftiness.

All of that said, Harry is still Harry, and there are some good twists and turns waiting for you. Take a look at the list of characters above and remember, Changes is funny, quick, and full of people you love, and the titular changes are the kind that leave me excited for what Butcher is going to do in the next book. But of course, I shouldn't mention those here... I’ll see you in the comments. The spoilery, spoilery, do-not-read-the-comments-if-you-haven’t-read-the-book-yet comments.

And to facilitate discussion, I’m giving away my review copy to the first person to comment specifically asking for it. A simple “ME BOOK PLZ” will do. Warning: dust jacket is slightly battered around the edges, and the book has been in a house with cats. Safe for those with peanut and seafood allergies. We do not ship to the Nevernever.

Megan Messinger is a production assistant at, and she still misses Michael Carpenter.

2. Astaryth
ME Book PLZ! Seriously, I think the Dresden Books number up there in my top 5 favorite author/series... usually in the top 3! And I would love to own this one before it comes out in paperback :)
3. Astaryth
Rats! I see that my having a problem with the Captcha caused me to lose out :( still, Enjoy the book Ursula, the whole Dresden series rocks and I'm sure this one will too!
Ursula L
4. Ursula
I haven't read *any* of the Dresden series, so I'm looking forward to this!

A question for Megan, or anyone else, is this the sort of series where you can start anywhere, or do I need to work my way from the beginning before reading this? I'm not a person who generally minds spoiler, so I'm not going to be put out if I read this first and then have spoiler when I go back earlier. My question is whether the story will make sense.
James Felling
5. Maltheos
You CAN jump in anywhere, but you will benefit greatly( many things that are neat but beneath notice when you read through without having seen the previous books are much cooler when you know a bit more about what is going on, and it definitely enriches the banter.....
John Skotnik
6. ShooneSprings
@4 Ursula -

I would not recommend reading haphazardly, but it wouldn't be the worse thing in the world. Jim Butcher does a great job of doing the occasional catch up.

Also, this is an absolutely excellent book that I just ended up running through. The ending is making me eagerly anticipate the next one (and I'm hoping for some resolution in the anthology due later this year).
7. CYarger

I just finished the book, and, after two weeks (since the last spoiler chapter to the books release) I managed to read through the second half of the current series (Yes I have a day job). My initial thoughts, seeing as I just put the book down, is that this book is one of the "you must hate it" kind of books. Because... It left you with a HUGE cliff hanger. I mean seriously! WTF man, I want to know what happens and I don't want to wait another year to find out. Obviously for the series to continue he cannot be dead but, really? Really!? I loved the book and the fast paced action, I loved meeting a new character one whose only been hinted at before now, two if you count the Red King himself. I loved the sacrifical characters and the fact that Harry really lost, or seemingly lost everything he's accrued over the last 11 books. I mean (the rest is SPOILER!(even more so..))

his car, his apartment, his cat, and the Duster. Man I was looking for one for myself to make the outfit complete on Halloween. Murphy losing her job, Losing Susan (eh, still not too tortured over that) Realizing he may (at some point in the future) have a thing with the Padawan. Then obviously at the end drinks and something else with Murphy.. (I must say I did kinda see something happening to stop that; just figured it'd be Mab instead) Lots of action in such a short book. The only real ties he has still to the land of Chicago is the island and his bonding to it. A batchelor, and a man alone with very little to tie him down. A perfect fit for Mab's Knight huh? Makes me wonder if the next book will be him doing Mab's dirty laundry a year from now or will we somehow jump a few years to find Molly grown up, Murphy a Knight in her own, and everything else Dresden's had lost to him. Starting from Zero with only a few contacts.. maybe some new ones from winter. BTW, best part was seeing that Toot-toot was with him the whole way, even choosing Winter instead of staying neutral. Go Toot!
john mullen
8. johntheirishmongol
I love the Dresden books, actually, Jim Butcher is one hell of a writer, since I have about a lot of money invested in both series. So if you want to save me some money I would definately be spending, I would definately appreciate it. So:

Me book plz!
Natalie Luhrs
9. eilatan
This entire comment is pretty much a spoiler, so read at your own risk.

I had problems with this book. Most all of the changes to Harry's life were fine. I was pretty meh about the kid thing and Harry's immediate OMG MUST SAVE HER thing struck me as kind of over the top--how was he to know that the kid was actually his? It seemed like such a knee-jerk reaction based on the say-so of someone he hadn't seen or thought about in a really long time.

I really would have preferred that the Red Court not be composed nearly entirely of brown people. And that Harry not wear conquistador armor while committing what amounted to genocide. And that the gods of said brown people not be uniformly portrayed as insane and bloodthirsty.
Kate Keith-Fitzgerald
10. ceitfianna
I had written a rather long comment here about Butcher's writing, but somehow it wasn't posted. I'm going to try and write out the gist of it. I've always been struck by how his main characters are constantly leveling up.

In terms of the main characters, I like it better with Tavi since the multiple points of view really helps to balance the power. Also I spent a vacation with two of the Dresden books and they didn't fair well on rereading so I gave up on them. Part of that might have been too that they reminded me too much of the World of Darkness games which I played a lot. I love Alera though and think he's one of the really major fantasy writers we have.
Brit Mandelo
11. BritMandelo
I think I bought the emotional intensity Harry immediately felt for his kid because of his background--it was less about the fact that he'd donated genetic material and more about finding a way to rewrite his own childhood torment so that his child didn't live it, too. At least, that was how I read it.

Also: the last page. What the hell. One more year until I find out about what that was!


Spent some time thinking about this. I came to a different conclusion. The conquistador armor didn't strike me as problematic because it was an intentional middle finger. It was supposed to be as offensive as humanly possible. Also, the Red Court aren't the real gods, but pretenders to the throne who shaped themselves on the outside--matching in color to the native peoples--in a way that would make them "fit in" so to speak. The Red Court do not have races. They are a race of their own that puts on a fleshmask to appear as they need to appear where they are at that time. At this time, they aren't in the USA or Europe or anywhere predominantly white, like all the other books. So they aren't predominantly white.

I find it hard to attach "bad brown people" sentiment to this book when the only active warrior of god is not white and in the past books the majority of the bad guys have also been white. If the book had taken place in, say, Seattle and all of the bad guys were for some reason dark-skinned, that would have been a obvious problem. I'm just not sure that I can apply it to a book with a setting in a different country, especially when it's juxtaposed with the rest of the series. It bothers me more to see a series where the whole cast, all the time, is always white. Sometimes the bad guys are going to be people of color. If it's exclusively and eternally evil people of color, there's a big problem, but if it's an even split for the bad guys throughout the books(or one skewed toward white antagonists), I'd say it's writing fairly about a world where people of any color can be bad or good, regardless of what they have on the outside.

12. Cyarger
Well, we have Ramirez and Rashid. Both men of color, Susan was described as Spanish dissent, all three of them of color and protagonists. Black Counsil we've only seen a few times and so far all have been white, But let's not forget 'Erl' if he's of Goblin dissent I cannot fathom him being white, more of a reddish tint like someone who has spent their life outdoors without a care for skin cancer.

Really I think Butcher does a good job of spreading around the color. Granted I don't think there's been an African... Wait, I forgot Sanya. Nevermind. And lets us not forget Shiro and Ancient Mi. Also Injun Joe.. Yeah, Good and Evil come in all shapes and sizes in these books. Butcher does a good job being an Equal Opporunity kind of guy.
13. AimeeK
Book pls! I've been reading Butcher's work for a while, and I'm a fan of both the Dresden Files series and the Codex Alera. It would be seriously cool to have a fancy review copy of the new volume!
Heidi Byrd
14. sweetlilflower
I agree with most of the comments...the book was AWESOME! The end sucked, not writing wise, but b/c I now want to hunt him down and demand he publish the next book tomorrow!

I didn't really think the outfits and colors were meant to be a slam. The Maya practiced ritual sacrifice and Butcher needed a civilization in Central/South America. Would you expect a different skin color to predominate in Mexico?

So, did anyone guess that Ebeneezer was really Harry's grandfather?
Jen Hill
15. greybon
Okay, so I just skipped most all those comments since I haven't read it yet. :P

I have to say I'm having a hard time getting all that interested in reading this one. Normally I have to have the book right away so I can devour it. Once I found out this was Susan centric though? Ehh...not so much. I can't stand her! Despise might be a better word for the feeling there. I was happy to see her go and even thought it was interesting that Harry named the undead T-Rex Sue in book 7. I somehow convinced myself that was a fitting nod to her being gone. But I'll admit I look for anything that solidifies her not coming back.

So, I will read this one eventually because it is Dresden. But I suspect I'll be glossing through and just enjoying Dresden for Dresden and ignoring Susan as much as I can. Or maybe I'll just read all the spoilers and call it a day... :P

Oh and Side Jobs is a short story anthology. It's a collection of all the stories that have been pubbed in other anthologies. Not sure if there will be anything new or not. Hope so though!
Daniel Goss
16. Beren
Maybe it was just me, but I didn't notice Susan being "there" that much. For most of the book it seemed like she was off-camera, and the parts where she was there didn't feel that . . . annoying? Definitely the better parts were without her. Oh, and the part towards the end where Harry is led to believe that she's trying to have him killed. I really wish that hadn't been a red herring. She served her purpose in the story, though, and it really felt like this was her entire reason for existing in the first place.
Phil Frederick
17. flosofl

Sue actually *is* the name of the T-Rex fossil in the Field Museum. That wasn't made up, just a weird coincidence.
Phil Frederick
18. flosofl
Weird, my comment was flagged as spam even though all it had was a link to the Field Museum (re: Sue the T-Rex). Weird. I guess the sensitivity is dialed *way* up on the comments sections to flag all links. No biggie if it means no spam, but makes linking to things a little awkward.

Anyhow, all I was saying is that "Sue" actually is the real-life name of the T-Rex fossil at the Field Museum.
19. Brian2
Agreed, the part about Susan and the daughter came across as a MacGuffin. While I've read all the books, the first ones were somewhat thin and forgettable, and it was a stretch to remember who Susan was in the first place. There have been a lot of Susan-sized events in these books (and a lot of larger events, too). The book needed Harry to go completely nonlinear over something, but didn't really motivate it, and that's a serious disconnect.

That's been a problem throughout the series. A lot of emotions are stipulated but not earned. The anger always seems real, though, even if it doesn't always match the ostensible source. And Harry's moral struggles do seem real, which is one of the attractions of the series.

I don't mean to come on too strong about this. When Butcher's really hitting things right, the Dresden books are irresistable, and you just put aside everything else and finish them. But I haven't felt that way about them for a while, for whatever reason, welcome as it is that he's starting to really change things.
20. J.B. Zimmerman

...I know, comments are spoiler fairgame, but can't help with the warning.

I read the book expecting something or things that really turned the series' progress into a new direction, given the single-word ominousness of the title, as others have mentioned. There was obviously a whole lot of stuff that happened, much of it involving what another poster has aptly called 'leveling up' - people and things gaining access to new powers, people and things; people learning things about themselves and their lives, big political events happening.

I think the thing that struck me as the biggest (indeed, almost the only real 'change') was Harry accepting the mantle of Winter Knight.

Everything else that happened was predictable on a straight line from his prior actions, behavior, and stated principles. The only thing he's never done, and has several times indicated that he'd prefer to die rather than do, is to submit his volition and choices (and, necessarily, his power with it) to the will of another.

And yet he did just that. This is something that we haven't seen, or been given a hint of, in the entirety of the series to date. We've been given numerous counterexamples, which if I'm not careful now seem to be tainted with 'protests too much!' ...but there it is.

So the trick I'm waiting to see Mr. Butcher pull off is a hard one. Given that the Harry Dresden we knew has been so fundamentally changed, and given the over-the-top amount of tie-cutting that has gone on in this book, what's the New Harry Dresden Story about?

It used to be about Harry fighting to preserve the status quo, even recognizing that he has to break bits of it to preserve the ones he cares about - but in the end, preserving his friends, preserving the system (White Council et al.), preserving mortal lives and lifestyles, and preserving his own life and lifestyle were at the end of the day what he did. More and more powerful forces kept attempting to bend or break those linchpins of his actions and life, and he kept 'leveling up' and performing triage to stick to his guns.


Now what?
21. herewiss13
I hope that the next book will take a cue from its title, Side Jobs, and resolve not by might, not by power, but by badass craftiness.

FYI: Side Jobs is actually a collection of all the Dresden short stories that Jim has written for various anthologies. A _very_ welcome addition to the series, but not a continuation of the main story-line.
Leigh Butler
23. leighdb
Well, for my money, all specifics aside, Changes just gave me about seven hours' worth of crazy, frothy, over the top, awesomely cheesetastic, giggle-filled fun.

Which is about all that I ever expect from a Dresden Files book, and I got it. Thus I declare myself thoroughly Pleased, and move on with my life.
Dave Rudden
24. diabolicalstreak
I completely agree with your comment about how you felt in the lead-up to reading the book. The title had me worried, for a number of reasons.

He really did a Deathly Hallows on it, ripping away a lot of the familiar settings and iconic props of the series. The Dresden Files simply HAS to change from here on in, and there is a sense of everything being scaled up in terms of conflict and the wider world.

To be honest, the changes came so thick and fast that they did start to lose their impact by the end. I also agree with the idea that there would have been more emotional investment had this not been a random waif. However, Harry's feeling the exact same as we are, as we see when the two finally meet.
Megan Messinger
25. thumbelinablues
CYarger @7 DO NOT WANT thing with Padawan. Harry-of-now thinks that would be wrong, and I don't really want to see a Harry who thinks that's okay. Too much change. This may be colored by how embarrassed I was for Molly; I don't think she was treated well by this book in general, part handy veil girl, part silly crush girl, part cannon fodder. And one of the things I usually love about the series is how well Butcher portrays all kinds of relationships as meaningful: brothers, friends, students, mentors.

Brit @11, Well said, and right on.

greybon @15 Right. Short stories. Now that you mention it, I knew that...

Brian2 @19, EXACTLY. I was thinking of them as MacGuffins without remembering there's a word for that.

J.B. @20 and diabolicalstreak @24, I also got a Harry Potter feeling from this book: first the office, then the car, the apartment, Susan, the duster // parents, Sirius, Dumbledore, Hogwarts. A friend of mine observed that Butcher seems to believe that the hero stands alone, which is odd to me, since he writes such a great ensemble cast. And the process of getting the hero to stand alone is rather tedious. I just hope the next several books aren't about losing Murphy, Mouse, Molly, Sanya, and the Powers That Be know who or what else, including the stripping away of Harry as we got to know and love him.

Also, the very end was a false cliffhanger; for heaven's sake, he's not going to die. The only question is who shot him and how's he going to get out of it, but my curiosity is intellectual rather than full of deathly worry, and that's not what cliffhangers are supposed to do!

Argh. I don't want to just complain about the book, which I did enjoy as I read it...but right now, I'm really afraid of the series not living up to how much I love it. I almost envy you, Leigh!
26. Bajab
For the ending to have been a real cliffhanger, it should have been Murphy getting shot.
27. Verushka
I have steadily been losing interest in Butcher's Dresden series for some time now and rely on reviews/spoilers before I even consider picking them up. I'm sorely disappointed at the inclusion of a child, something I tend to associate with last ditch attempts by writers (in any media) to generate interest in the characters again and who are unable to make their current worlds and characters work any more. It's a pity this series is declining so badly for me, for it's one not too long ago I devoured as soon as the new releases were out.

And, would Padawan = Molly? If so, that's somewhat disturbing. I've always considered her a child in the way she comes across in the novel.

For something sharp and witty as Dresden used to be, I tend to go for Simon R Green novels now. Dresden isn't must read for me any more.
28. Cyarger
On Dresden Leveling Up:

It's long been established that Harry's been one of the most power-full wizards out there. I seem to remember way back in one of the first few novels how Butcher's mentioned that fact. The thing Harry's always lacked has been his focus. He's an excellent wizard when it comes to taking his time to pull something off ie. Shield bracelets, kinetic rings, Mini Chicago, etc.

The clues have always been there about how the story plays out and how Harry 'Levels'.

Where does Harry Quote from more than anything else?

Star Wars.

Think of it as Star Wars: Anakin starts off as this boy with huge potential, He can do some pretty cool stuff but he's all luck and a whole lotta Force. Then he gets a mentor and gets training. He gets better but still gets beat up, losing a hand, his mother, ultimately a whole lot of body parts (and vital organs- ie lungs), and his wife and (believing) children. He makes some deals with evil in order to create, or restore what he wants (his wife reincarated). Obviously with that deal comes lots of power- Dark side of the Force. Then in the end he takes steps to re-right his path but by doing so gives up his life. Harry does much the same. In the beginning a whole lot of luck and power, then makes deals with his Godmother, and, now Mab. He loses his love in Susan (both Anakin and Harry believing they killed their wives), Both now have living children who they know nothing about.. etc, etc, etc. I think you get the jist.

Harry's "leveling up" has mostly been seen in his ability to focus during the heat of battle. And Soul Fire, and now the Mantle of Winter Knight (Which I'm still fuzzy about other than seemingly able to become an expert in cold magic, not become as tired as quickly, and possible regenerative ability when on Mab's good side). All of this can be attributed to his practice and what we don't see, training Molly, some Warden exercises, Luccio's lesson(s), etc. He's learning to use the force more quickly and efficiently.

When it comes to full on fights Harry was, in the beginning, always slinging out raw clumsy fire or force. Now I bet he just uses his abilities more wisely, and affectively. So he stays in fights longer, seems more powerful, and does more damage (especially when adding Soul Fire- which he did throughout this book. Liberally).

As for Harry going babytastic- Remember his reaction after believing Thomas about being his brother? He woke up that morning with the "This is gonna be one of those types of days" feeling. Harry's always been Jealous of Karrin with her Family and Michael with his, I think Jim wrote it right when, as soon as he found out, Harry made the decision to get her out. Not necessarily keep the girl, but to save her and keep her out there living. Living family is huge for Harry.
Heidi Byrd
29. sweetlilflower
So what do you think of Thor being in this book? Why would he want to provide protection to Marcone, in the form of Gard, and what specifically does he gain from aiding Harry?
30. Cyarger
I think Thor gains allies in the form of the Grey Council by aiding Harry. I also think that Butcher's introducing more long term Characters. After wiping out an entire race in this book, Harry/Jim has been left with a gaping hole of long term antagonists. I know there's still the Black Council and the Denarians, Mavra, and some of the white Court, but I think Jim likes a bit of variety in his books. Also Thor helps to expand Harry's Worldly progress. Seeing as how He's only been in the US and England before the release of Changes.

I feel Thor's in this book mostly because Harry will need a couple more allies in the long term. Currently Harry's list of long-term Allies are: has his Grandpa (which no I didn't suspect but thinking about it i should have), his (not all there at the moment)brother Thomas, Toot-Toot, Bob, Molly, Mouse (Not sure of his lifespan), Carlos Ramirez, Rashid/the Gatekeeper, Leanansidhe, Uriel, and possibly Demonreach. Eleven in total- tweleve if you count Thor. But of all of those only Ebenezar McCoy, Mouse, Thomas, and Ramirez can be counted on in a Frontal assaul fight.

Should Thor be added to this list, he could potentially become a huge asset to Harry; but we don't know his motivation. Maybe he's a lot like Marcone in the sense that he'd rather have Harry as a friend/associate/neutral than a full on enemy.
31. lordnaryb
@21 I believe I read that Side Jobs would also include a novella with Murphy's viewpoint 45 minutes after the end of Changes
32. ragnarok
Donar Vadderung, CEO of Monoc Securities, is not Thor, but Odin.
Heidi Byrd
33. sweetlilflower
Yeah, I realized I had written the wrong name but I never went back and edited my post, sorry :)
Chris Yarger
34. Cyarger
So now that Harry's dead does that eliminate the hold of the Winter Queen (and his Mantel of Knight)?

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