The twelfth book in The Dresden Files, Changes, is full of, well, changes. Major, massive, sweeping changes. Butcher makes some bold decisions in this book, leading Harry to a significant decision that will hereafter affect his life. This post will examine what leads Harry to that choice, while the next will cover the remaining part of the book.
Changes begins with Susan Rodriguez, Harry’s old flame, calling him to tell him that their daughter has been kidnapped.
That’s basically Harry’s reaction as he’s stunned into a kind of mental fugue state. Susan says that she’s heading into Chicago that evening to see him and that she’ll explain everything then. Harry, numbed, grabs Mouse and goes to Mac’s for a drink.
Harry unloads on Mac, mentioning the daughter, and including the possibility that it could be a lie, that it could be meant to manipulate him. Mac tells him that this is going to test him more than anything has before and that Harry will learn what the so-called boundaries in his life really mean, and which he will break.
Susan shows up that night with Martin, her companion and fellow member of the Fellowship of St. Giles. Harry leaves Martin outside as he talks with Susan. Susan says that it’s definitely their baby (Major Change #1). She hasn’t been with anyone since Harry. And she had to give the baby up because she was so often on the run from the Red Court. It wasn’t the place for a child. She didn’t tell Harry because of Harry’s dangerous life and the way that she could be used against them. She also tells Harry that their daughter’s name is Maggie, named after Harry’s mother. She shows Harry a picture. Harry is understandably angry. Furious, even, but he agrees to put that all aside to focus on saving Maggie. Afterward, though, he says, there will be a reckoning. Harry also tells her that they’re done, as a couple .
Susan also tells Harry that there’s a Red Court outpost in Chicago, and it just so happens to the be in the same building as Harry’s office. The Reds bought it almost eight years ago, around the time the war was begun. Susan and Martin warn Harry not to come in. They’re going to get data from the Reds’ computers and wizards and technology don’t mix. So Harry waits by the car and veils himself. He sees a group of Red Court vampires head into the building and, still furious, he follows them.
Harry cuts loose, killing vampires with fire mixed with soulfire. He takes several of them down, but also sets off the fire alarms and the sprinklers. He runs into Martin and Susan, but one of the vampires escapes. Martin warns Harry that his office is wired with explosives. Once the vamp is free they’ll set them off. Harry, Martin and Susan escape just before the whole building blows up (Major Change #2).
Harry heads back to his place while Susan and Martin head off to read the disk they grabbed. Soon after, Murphy shows up, having heard of the building’s explosion and fearing that Harry was there. Harry fills her in on what’s been happening and asks for Murphy’s help. Karrin is in to help Harry get his daughter back.
Harry crashes and wakes up still exhausted from his use of soulfire. Molly is there with breakfast and Harry fills her in on the details, too. She travels with Harry to Edinburgh using the Ways through the Nevernever. Edinburgh is looking a bit quiet and Harry soon finds out that it’s because the Duchess Ariana Ortega of the Red Court is currently there to discuss terms for peace.
Harry is about to storm in and throw magic around but Molly talks him down. Instead he bursts into the room and challenges Ariana, telling her to return the girl she took. Cristos, the newest member of the Senior Council, who is trying to broker the peace deal, is scandalized. Harry offers to cease all hostilities if they give back Maggie, but before the matter comes to a head, Anastasia Luccio shows up and escorts Harry back to a kind of Warden bar, the Worry Room. They talk a bit about the Wardens and their duties. Harry even mentions that he’s suggested using the Paranet to identify those with magical gifts to prevent warlocks.
Ana questions him about his actions and twigs to the fact that the girl is Harry’s kid. She warns him not to let anyone know. Harry asks for her help, then when she refuses to go with him, he calls her a coward before realizing that she isn’t. She claims to be able to do more for Harry from Edinburgh.
They are interrupted by the entry of the Merlin, Arthur Langtry. He indicates that the White Council isn’t buying the Red Court’s peace offering. They have indication that the vamps are mobilizing for something big and the White Council is preparing a counteroffensive, while appearing to be going along nicely. Of course as part of this, the Merlin orders Harry to not try to rescue Maggie. He even threatens Molly in the process. Of course we don’t expect Harry to follow along, do we? And it seems that Luccio has his back.
Harry and Molly head back to Chicago and meet up with Susan and Martin. After a little jealous prickling by Susan, they share that all they were able to pull off the disk was some information about some ritual gear. Harry sends off Molly to talk to Father Forthill, then runs the gear by Bob. He can’t tell much except that it’s for dark magic and would require human sacrifice. The slaughter of an innocent. I wonder who that could be?
As Harry’s considering this, Murphy shows up and warns Harry that the cops and FBI are investigating him as a possible suspect in the building explosion. Murphy also helps Harry figure out that Duchess Ariana has some other kind of game going on otherwise she would have just blown him up in his office. Harry starts cleaning up anything suspicious in his apartment when the FBI shows up threatening to break down his door.
Of course Harry has wards up around his apartment that would toast any agents coming in, so he runs for his laboratory and gets Bob to take down the wards. Then he packs up all his incriminating stuff, grabs the two holy swords that he’s babysitting, grabs Bob and decides to make off into the Nevernever. The problem is, Harry has never checked to see what was on the other side of his apartment. He crosses over blind, aware that he could end up anywhere.
Where he does end up is a flower garden, which seems harmless enough, but when is anything ever that easy? Soon a giant centipede bursts up from the ground and attacks Harry. Harry slices it in half, but then the one centipede becomes two. Harry holds them off with some soulfire and then uses the breathing room to toss the bag with Bob and the swords into the ground. Then he returns back to his lab, exhausted by the use of soulfire, and the cops and FBI arrest him.
There’s a lot of press at the police station because the building explosion is a big deal. Harry is examined and judged to be exhausted (no surprise). The soulfire burns up Harry’s energy, his lifeforce. Rudolph, the former SI douchebag cop plays bad cop, but Tilly, the fed, sends him out. He asks Harry if he did it and Harry says no. Tilly believes him. Tilly presses Harry for information and Harry puts Tilly on to the business ventures of the Red Court. Tilly releases Harry, but warns him that he’s the popular suspect for the building explosion and that law enforcement is going to keep looking into him.
Harry leaves into a crowd of waiting paparazzi and someone does a drive-by on him, shooting him in such a way that no one else notices and only his duster protects him. Molly picks up Harry (with Mouse along for the ride) and she takes him to pick up food before taking him home. When he walks in, he finds the Leanansidhe waiting for him, with Susan and Martin in cocoons.
Harry asks her nicely to release Susan and Martin (whom she took as intruders) and then has a chat with her. Now that Lea has sold off Harry’s debt to Mab, she is getting back to looking out for him. Harry asks about what was going on the last time Harry saw her—imprisoned in ice in Arctis Tor in Proven Guilty—and she explains that Mab was curing her of a madness that she can’t apparently talk about. She also reveals that the garden in the Nevernever outside Harry’s apartment is hers, a way to protect Harry’s place from intruders from the spirit world. She has the swords and Bob and offers to keep them or pass them on to someone should Harry die.
This leads Harry to ask if Lea has anything of his from his mother. She does, a ruby that is the store of her knowledge about the Ways through the Nevernever. Apparently she knew them like no one else. But Lea warns that this knowledge could be his downfall. Harry is aware that this could be too much power for him, but he also knows that it can help him save Maggie. He takes it.
Susan and Martin wake up and make plans to move on the warehouse in Nevada where the items are being stored. They’re planning to fly there, but Harry has already been there to scout out the place using his newfound Ruby of Pathfinding. The way leads through a dark tunnel of methane and carbon monoxide, though. They make it through and out into Nevada.
With a flying potion they drop down to the ground and Harry veils them to get them close to the warehouse. With a wizard and two half-vamp ninjas they make short work of busting into the facility and though they come up short on actual records, they do find some Mayan ceremonial costumes set to ship out to Mexico. Destroying the costumes (which Harry does) won’t stop the ritual, but they now know where the other gear was shipped.
Harry returns home and has a chat with his landlady about fixing his broken down door. Then she hands him an envelope with a note from Luccio saying that she’s been taken out of the game and another from Steed, another Warden, saying that several of the Wardens in Edinburgh had been thinking about taking on the Duchess when they were arrested by Cristos. He is warned away from Edinburgh. Harry realizes that the White Court is now splintered and won’t be of any use to him. He has to turn to other options.
Harry heads to his lab and uses the magical equivalent of long-distance calling to talk to Ebenezar. Ebenezar tells him that all hell is breaking loose and that this could mean the end of the White Council and the Laws of Magic. Harry asks for his help, but Ebenezar tells him that sacrifices are sometimes necessary. Harry never gets a chance to tell Ebenezar that Maggie is his daughter, but Ebenezar tells Harry to meet him at the Toronto safehouse 12 hours later.
Harry considers making a deal with an entity, even accepting Mab’s offer of being the Winter Knight, but instead he spends the rest of his time summoning up spirits and ghosts to try to get information. All he gets is a quick glimpse of Maggie, still alive but scared. Finally Harry contacts Ivy, the Archive. Kincaid calls Harry but tells him that Ivy can’t give him the information that he needs. Harry threatens to go to the contacts in his green notebook and Ivy gives him someone who can help. The last man Harry wants to see. He gets the message. Johnny Marcone.
Harry meets with Marcone at a Burger King and Marcone is accompanied by his usual bodyguards, Hendricks and Gard. Harry asks Marcone to help him locate Maggie, lying that she’s the daughter of a client. Marcone mentions that the Red Court has been trying to horn in on his turf. Harry offers to take them out if Marcone helps him with Maggie’s location. Marcone agrees.
Gard takes Harry to Oslo to meet with her boss, the head of Monoc Securities, Donar Vadderung. It’s pretty clear from Vadderung’s description (eye-patch), his companions, and Gard being a Valkyrie that he’s the god Odin. Vadderung tells Harry that Maggie is in Chichen Itza and that the Red Court is going to use her and the location to work a curse that will affect anyone in her bloodline, which would encompass Susan, Harry and Thomas. It will use the same spell that Victor Sells, from Storm Front, used and burst their hearts from their chests. Vadderung also warns Harry that he will be facing gods, old gods, the Lords of Outer Night, and gives Harry a taste of what that power might be like. He also says that he can’t help any more than he has.
Harry returns home where Martin and Susan fill him in on who’s been following them: the Eebs—Esteban and Esmerelda Batiste, a married Red Court couple. Harry mentions that he knows where Maggie will be and Susan jumps on him and kisses him which almost makes her give in to the hunger. Martin has to talk her down and get her outside, then Molly gives Harry grief for letting it happen. Then Harry goes and takes a long cold shower and thinks about what Vadderung told him. He knows he can’t go up against godlike power directly. He has three options. One is to bring in all of his friends, but that would lead to his friends dying. The second is to avoid a confrontation—sneak in, grab Maggie, sneak out. Of course the Red Court vamps are masters of deceit and subterfuge and Harry would be outclassed that way. It only leaves one option in his mind—to take the power that had been offered him so many times before. In the end he knows he would be lost, but Maggie, and his friends and family, would live.
Harry calls Murphy and has her meet him at McAnally’s. He fills her in and then questions Rudolph the cop’s attitude. He seemed awfully nervous for someone who should feel smug and justified. Harry suspects someone pushed him at Harry. And that the assassin was a contingency plan from the same folks. Possibly the assassins were there to take out Rudolph but switched targets after Harry walked free. Murphy agrees to help Harry take a look at Rudolph. In the meantime Susan and Father Forthill are trying to track down info on Chichen Itza.
Harry shows up to stake out Rudolph’s place with Molly and Mouse. Thomas shows up, called by Harry, and Harry fills him in and asks for Thomas’s help. Thomas agrees to see what he can find out, and will go to Lara only if absolutely necessary. Then Thomas hears breaking glass in Rudolph’s house. Harry rushes in to find some kind of dark supernatural creature taking down both Thomas and Mouse. It takes Harry down, too, and it takes Molly to disorient the creature and distract it with her illusions. Thomas and Mouse go after it, which leaves Harry all alone. Which is when he’s attacked.
His attackers turn out to be the Eebs. They are Red Court vamps, but not in Arianna’s corner. They offer Harry a bunch of alternatives that would undermine the Duchess. But most of them are heinous. Harry refuses them all. They try to kill him, but Harry uses his pentacle, the symbol of his faith, and it slams back the female Eeb. Then Mouse arrives and both of them disappear. When they get back to the cars, the Blue Beetle is destroyed along with Thomas’s car and Harry’s staff. (Major Change #3)
Thomas and Molly get Harry back home and try to figure out what to do with him in his condition. They also involuntarily trigger a soulgaze between Molly and Thomas. Thomas is weakened and his demon is in control, and Molly offers herself and Thomas tries to feed on her. Mouse breaks it up. Harry is able to come back and break things up, but he orders a penitent Thomas out because he’s no good to him. Harry is on crutches now and he gets Molly back and plans to head to Father Forthill’s where the Red Court can’t get them. But as they’re leaving, someone Molotov Cocktails Harry’s building, and there are other tenants in there.
Harry blows a hole in his ceiling to help get to the other tenants, then forces a window open to let Mister out (which is one reason I will always love Harry—he looks out for his cat). Harry makes it up to the second floor and gets Mrs. Spunkelcrief, his landlord, out. Then he tries to get up to the Willoughbys above using the ladder, but an explosion sends the ladder flying and Harry falls onto a planter. He can’t make it to the Willoughbys, but suddenly Sanya, the one remaining Knight of the Cross, shows up and saves the couple. Everything seems okay, until Harry mentions he can’t feel his legs.
They figure out that it was the Eebs who threw the Molotov Cocktail. Harry gets his friends to take him to Father Forthill’s, watching his home burn down as they go (Major Change #4). He’s essentially paralyzed from the waist down. He uses his power to call forth Uriel, the angel who gave him the soulfire, but Uriel can do nothing for him. He confirms that Harry has a spinal fracture, but he also confirms that Maggie is still alive and that she is, in truth, Harry’s daughter. Harry asks for help but Uriel claims to not be able to offer any and he tells Harry to remember what Vadderung told him. When Uriel leaves, Harry summons Mab.
Harry’s spirit self appears on the stone table we saw in Summer Knight. He is naked. Mab appears, but she speaks through the Leanansidhe because apparently Mab is angry and her anger would cause Harry pain. Harry offers to take up the mantle of the Winter Knight, but only if Mab lets him deal with the situation with Maggie and doesn’t ask him to turn against his loved ones. Mab takes issue with his conditions but he claims he will then turn to Nicodemus and the Denarians and Lasciel’s coin. In the end, Mab agrees. But before Harry can become the Winter Knight, he must kill the previous Winter Knight, Lloyd Slate to return the power to Mab.
As Harry stands over Lloyd Slate, Mab gives him a true seeing of Maggie—alive, but frightened and threatened by the Red Court. With that image before him, Harry slits Slate’s throat. Mab gives him Lea to help him in whatever way she can, then she consummates the deal with an act that appears to be sex but is much more than that, a symbolic joining as well as a physical one.
Harry is now the Winter Knight. But can he save Maggie? Will the power corrupt him? Tune back in next week for the rest of Changes.
Rajan Khanna is a writer, narrator, and blogger who always perversely wanted to see Harry become the Winter Knight. Though maybe, perhaps, not under these circumstances. His website is www.rajankhanna.com and he tweets @rajanyk.