Tue
Nov 27 2012 11:00am

One of the Best Books in the Series: Jim Butcher’s Cold Days

A review of Jim Butcher’s new Dresden Files book Cold Days.

Today is the release day for Cold Days, the fourteenth book in Jim Butcher’s bestselling Dresden Files series! Cold Days picks up right where the previous book, Ghost Story, left off, with Harry trying to pick up the pieces of his shattered life, and trying to figure out his role in the supernatural world of Chicago. And it’s one of the best books in the series.

Before speaking of Cold Days, it’s important to consider what’s happened to Harry previously. The events of Changes essentially destroyed most of Harry’s world before ultimately killing him. In Ghost Story he was largely cut off from his world, learning to get by as a ghost. When he is brought back at the end of that book, it’s as the Winter Knight, the mortal champion of the Unseelie Court of Faerie.

Harry begins Cold Days in rehabilitation, his body still recovering from its deathlike state. In addition to learning how to reuse his body, he must learn what it means to be the Winter Knight. He has a brief “coming out” party, set up by Mab, to prove himself, a trial that quickly turns dangerous. When he has proved himself, Mab gives him his first task: he must kill her daughter, Maeve, the Winter Lady.

Of course Maeve is an immortal. And Harry needs more information on whether killing Maeve is even something he can do, so he returns to Chicago to do some research. Which of course brings him back in touch with some familiar faces. Not all of whom are happy to see Harry. The Winter Knight is not exactly a position loved by all.

While dealing with that, Harry discovers a threat to Chicago that could destroy the whole city. One which is centered on the strange island of Demonreach. One which ties into the island’s origin. And of course there are the usual people—or sometimes creatures—out to kill Harry. Oh, and did I mention Outsiders?

Hell’s bells.

In many ways, though, this novel is about Harry reassembling his life and learning how to live, and survive, as the Winter Knight. And dealing with power and temptation. Regular readers of the series have seen Harry struggle with his dark side and the temptations that go with it. Now Harry has even more power but potentially even more of a dark side. Where does he end and the Winter Knight begin? That is the conflict at the heart of this novel and it’s just as gripping as the external conflicts that Harry faces.

Cold Days is one hell of a ride. In many ways it’s designed to get us excited about the series again, and I have to say that it worked for me. After the first twelve books, and then the transitional Ghost Story, it seems like Butcher is gearing up for the plunge toward the end. He’s clearly become a better writer over the years, too, deftly handling multiple plotlines in a confident, assured way. I used to be someone who was bored by his epic battle scenes in the ends of the books (I guess I’m more into the character moments), but the one in this book is solid. In fact, and I mean this in a very good way, I found the action toward the end cinematic. I could clearly see it taking shape in my mind and it would thrive on a screen (though it did just fine in my imagination).

Butcher has said that he plans on writing twenty books in the Dresden Files series, followed by a big apocalyptic trilogy. With only six books more to go in the regular series, it seems clear that things are gearing up to only get bigger and more dangerous. Cold Days is a really great first step on that journey. If you’ve been reading along this whole time, I heartily recommend this book. Though if you’re new to the series, I would start at the beginning (or at least at Book 3, Grave Peril). Cold Days is available right now.


Rajan Khanna is a writer, narrator and blogger and Dresden Files enthusiast. His reread of the Dresden files is currently posting weekly on Tor.com. His website is www.rajankhanna.com

14 comments
Skip Ives
1. Skip
It's really good. I already finished it and the book is in the top half of the series easily for me. No spoilers, but favorite comments were: "A Princess Bride reference from you?" and "Sith ... not that kind."

Quotes are approximate and not at all spoilery. The spoilery parts are very cool, but I'll refrain from comment for now.
Rajan Khanna
2. rajanyk
@1 - I really liked the Sith comment. I felt like the pop culture references in this one all worked.
Emmet O'Brien
3. EmmetAOBrien
Having only read the available-online sample chapters yet, as a sometime Irish speaker the Cat Sith stuff had me banging my head on my desk at "yet another American writer gets the pronunciation wrong"; it's Shee damn it.
TomT
4. TomT
What I found interesting is just how much is revealed about what is going on behind the scenes in this book. Yet for all those revelations so much remains secret and it simply sets up new secrets and mysteries to worry about.
Paul Howard
5. DrakBibliophile
Got the e-version and finished it. I'm looking forward to the next book.
Tracy Sweeney
6. AnnaDei
@3 In the audiobooks, it's always pronounced Shee, at least when James Marsters is the reader.
Chelsea Rash
7. Crashwriter
I agree with the review - Cold Days had some big action, but it did a much better job of balancing that with emotional payoffs. It's nice to see Dresden actually being a little introspective (a big change from earlier in the series, when he didn't even want to know what his soulgazed self looked like).
TomT
8. SunDriedRainbow
Agreed, the various "Sith" jokes kept jerking me out of the story. And I wasn't terribly thrilled with the way that particular character ended up.

But overall, yes, great book!
TomT
9. bungluna
I enjoyed the book very much but felt that the reaction of some of the characters to Harry coming back from the dead didn't quite ring true. And the more I know the more questions I have. Now I can't wait for the next one!
Steven Halter
10. stevenhalter
Finished this last night. I agree that it is another really good book in the series.
The storyline itself was excellent--good uses of tension, humor and character building. Harry has to learn to adapt to his new situation and that is a big part of the journey, but the book also brings some very interesting new information and changes for others as well as Harry.
TomT
11. J Town
Loved it. I do feel obliged to point out that, agree or disagree, Titania's little litmus test for Harry was an extremely contrived way to get Jim's opinion on a controversial topic out there and it jerked me right out of the book. But hey, Ayn Rand made a living out of doing that, so I guess I can give Jim a couple of those.
TomT
12. Garbonzo Bean
The re-enter his life book I've been wanting since "Changes". Great book with big action and the trademark Dresden Wise-assery. Did anyone else catch the Firefly reference? Loved it!
TomT
13. jaimilyn
"Congenital mental instability"

Caught that on my re-read and laughed myself silly.
TomT
14. MrDravenFrost
Audio books pronounce sidhe as "shee" mostly . cat sith is given that name as a clear phonetic intention . another character, the leannansidhe has enough silibles for non gaelgoiri to understand it . the word sidhe is used often so cat sidhe, phoneticly implies a breed . the individual Known asn cat sith is the Elder Malk and Lewis Carroll may owe him royalties , in canon anyway. Can't have all audio book listeners get confusion removed and lots of obligitory star wars jokes apply with cat "sith" . so . ye

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