Friday, February 08, 2013

Review: Cold Days by Jim Butcher

As expected, I wasn't able to blog as much as I wanted this week ^_^; However, it wasn't so much laziness as lack of time and exhaustion. I wanted to have this review ready for yesterday, but Wednesday, I was soooo tired. Too much curling will take a toll on you which is why I'm so awed at curlers who compete... Playing two games a day for a week - the stamina that it takes!! Anyway, I promise a post on curling to come! So far in the in-club event, we're 1-1. We have another game tonight and if we lose, we're out. Really hoping we'll win! :)

While I didn't blog much this week, the two reviews I managed to write - Did You Miss Me? by Karen Rose and this one, Cold Days by Jim Butcher - were two that I really wanted to write. Both were part of my Favorite and Best of 2012, so I'm just glad I got to share my thoughts with you all :)

For those who are interested by this review, before you read on, I'd like to warn you that there are spoilers in the blurb and in the review. If you have not kept up with the series since Changes or even prior to it and do not want to be spoiled, do not continue on!! You've been warned! Actually, the review part, i.e. "My Opinion" and "My Grade", is pretty much spoiler-free, so you can read... but if you don't want any spoilers, than do not read the book's blurb and my attempt at summarizing it, "The Story."


***Warning: This review contains spoilers. Read at your own risk***

Cold Days by Jim Butcher
published by New American Library (ROC) in November 2012

After being murdered by a mystery assailant, navigating his way through the realm between life and death, and being brought back to the mortal world, Harry realizes that maybe death wasn’t all that bad. Because he is no longer Harry Dresden, Chicago’s only professional wizard.

He is now Harry Dresden, Winter Knight to Mab, the Queen of Air and Darkness. After Harry had no choice but to swear his fealty, Mab wasn’t about to let something as petty as death steal away the prize she had sought for so long. And now, her word is his command, no matter what she wants him to do, no matter where she wants him to go, and no matter who she wants him to kill.

Guess which Mab wants first?

Of course, it won’t be an ordinary, everyday assassination. Mab wants her newest minion to pull off the impossible: kill an immortal. No problem there, right? And to make matters worse, there exists a growing threat to an unfathomable source of magic that could land Harry in the sort of trouble that will make death look like a holiday.

Beset by enemies new and old, Harry must gather his friends and allies, prevent the annihilation of countless innocents, and find a way out of his eternal subservience before his newfound powers claim the only thing he has left to call his own…

His soul.
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Dresden Files, Book #14

The Story: Last warning here, there are spoilers in this review, so if you don't want to know, don't read further!

In Changes, Harry needed power to save his daughter and therefore accepted Mab's long-standing offer for the position of Winter Knight. Knowing what it entailed, Harry tried to wiggle out by ordering his own hit. However, the Queen of Air and Darkness wasn't about to let Harry slips through her fingers and was able to keep him alive by combining her efforts with Demonreach. Grateful to be alive and having no choice about his new role, Harry has decided that he'll assume his responsibilities as the Winter Knight, Harry-style :)

However, in his wildest dreams, Harry never expected Mab to ask for the near-impossible for his first mission as the Winter Knight: to kill an immortal. Turns out there is a conjunction of time which occurs every year when immortals are vulnerable: Halloween night. Except that only gives him about 24 hours to pull it off. And when Mab's sanity starts being questioned, Harry has to decide whom to trust and which immortal to kill.

Of course, Harry's life cannot be that easy and killing an immortal is not all he has to deal with. Upon his return to Chicago, Harry learns the true purpose of Demonreach: a jail created in four dimensions by Merlin to imprison magical creatures that make naagloshii (Turn Coat) one of the least dangerous creatures housed in minimum security. He also finds out he's been chosen to be the warden of this prison and that it is currently under attack and if the enemy succeeds, it will not only blow up the island, but also Chicago and part of the country. And of course, Harry's deadline is November 1.

And if Harry manages to accomplish his mission and save the world once again, he should find a way to get rid of the parasite with which Mab and Demonreach bargained with to keep Harry alive before it burst forth from his skull...

My Opinion: All right, I'm going to sound like total fan girl in this review, but what can I say? Cold Days was a great, great book and it's been a while since I've enjoyed a book this much. You know the exhilarating feeling you get while reading, the not-turning-the-page-fast-enough,  the wanting to jump because it's so exciting that you can't contain your energy and the jaw-dropping at the twists? Yeah, that was me while reading Cold Days LOL.

So what was it about Cold Days that made it so good? LOL, everything :) But first and foremost, I think it was the story. As usual, it was complex and well thought out, but more importantly, exciting! It started with the identity of the immortal that Mab wants Harry to kill. My reaction was like "Wow, really?!?" and just built up from there with a lot of good twists, culminating in a jaw-dropping ending. That ending was so unexpected, but oh so brilliant, and it showed us that Mr. Butcher knows exactly where he is going and that he's been planning ahead. Every event and small detail which are found in the books are there for a purpose :) And really, it just makes it more exciting for the future because you don't know what the author will pull out of the hat. Something else that contributed immensely to making this story so exciting is that we finally get answers to some questions that arose throughout the series. For example the purpose of Demonreach, why is Rashid known as the Gatekeeper, etc. and some of these revelations added to the wowzer factor of Cold Days :) Of course, there's still a lot of unknown going on, but at least, Mr. Butcher touched upon some and that was enough to assuage our hunger. Most authors with long-running series have their characters going through some adventures confined in one installment with an over-arching storyline connecting these installments whereas Mr. Butcher has many over-arching storylines... Sometimes, it actually feels like there's too many ^_^; But when you get a book like Cold Days where some of your questions are answered and where everything falls into place and comes together so nicely, it doesn't feel so... in fact, it makes you want more!

Another reason I loved this book so much was the humor :) There are a lot of main characters in other series who are sarcastic, but really, Harry is a first class wise-ass LOL. And it's not just Harry, but the dynamics he has with the other characters, the tone and the delivery. Also, Cold Days is the 14th book in the series, so there are some insider jokes, little things that wouldn't be funny if you haven't read the book. In any case, I know that at times when I wasn't enthralled by the book, I probably was grinning like a lunatic LOL.

And of course, you also find the usual in Cold Days: lots of action, an interesting cast of secondary characters, a likable hero, etc. It's going to be interesting to see how Harry's character develops, him being the Winter Knight. For now, he seems to be himself, but can you really not be affected by near-death experience? Also, it is said that the Winter Knight mantle changes a person... Personally, I don't want Harry to change too much, but it is time for more. I enjoyed seeing the gang and two thumbs up to Mr. Butcher for not overdoing the reunions. All the characters that were seen had a purpose and that's good. There's still a lack of romance in this series, but I don't mind much... and a relationship between Harry and Murphy - one that I've been wishing from the start - is being discussed. I liked that it's still in the air because there's a lot to consider and it makes it realistic.

All in all, Cold Days was really a great book. I loved everything about it, but I do have one niggle... Why wasn't Harry's godmother, Leanansidhe, part of the story? Given that the book involved the Winter Court, it would have made sense for her to be present... It just didn't make sense to me that she wasn't.

My Grade: A. There's really only one word to describe and sum up my feelings about Cold Daysepic!!! It was such a great book, totally worth the wait! :) And that's why Cold Days was my best and favorite read in 2012. Now, I can't wait till the next book - Skin Games - and hopefully, Mr. Butcher keeps it up!