Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Changes, by Jim Butcher

So in a pleasant surprise from the local library, I was able to borrow the twelfth book in the Dresden Files series right away, Changes. And wow. Just wow. This is some pretty heavy stuff and as the title suggests, it makes some pretty serious changes in the universe as well. Which I think meshes well with my theory that Turn Coat represented a major dramatic shift in the series. And considering how this book ended it leaves me curious to see where the series can possibly go from here.

Dear and Gentle Readers: As has become a regular fixture in the reviews of this and the Honor Harrington series, this is the fair warning that there are spoilers contained within this book. In fact, it's literally impossible to talk about the book without discussing at least one spoiler. If you wish to avoid spoilers I advise turning aside now. 

Out of the various books in The Dresden Files, I feel like this one starts off right out of the gate and never lets up on the gas at any point in the book. ...I'm aware I mixed metaphors there but it makes sense. In the very first paragraph Butcher throws a literary brick through our window by declaring that not only does Dresden have a daughter, conceived on a rather interesting night with his old girlfriend Susan Rodriguez, but his daughter Maggie has been kidnapped by a high ranking member of the Red Court. Susan is rushing back to Chicago to get Dresden's help and while Susan doesn't know what the Red Court is planning for their daughter, they can both be certain it isn't good and it'll probably happen soon.

The result is an insane race against the clock to figure out what's happened to Maggie, where the vampires have taken her, and if they can hope to get there in time to rescue her. Dresden's obviously had time constraints before. Summer Knight, for example, had a ticking clock element. But this book more than any other has a strong and desperate sense of urgency as Dresden races across the globe to get answers and call in as much help as he can muster.

And Dresden does basically call in every favor he can get his hands on throughout this book. He calls on the White Council and through Ebenezer McCoy the Gray Council for help. Despite the issues from the last book, Dresden calls in his brother Thomas who's, at least in this case, willing and eager to help. Sanya, the only remaining Knight of the Cross manages to show up at a fortuitous moment. Murphy is adamant about helping Dresden, despite obvious risks to her police career. Toot-toot, Johnny Marcone, and Queen Mab all show up at various points and give help in varying degrees. You can really see how Harry is pumping every resource he has at his disposal and calling in every favor to be able to rescue his daughter in time. There's hardly a moment to rest throughout this book.

Butcher also doesn't hesitate to more or less burn Dresden to the ground over the course of this book as well. And I mean that very literally. The Red Court knows that Dresden will be trying to find his daughter and has sent a team of assassins after him. During a number of attempts on his life, Dresden's PI office gets blown up, the trusty Blue Beetle gets crushed into scrap, and Dresden's home gets firebombed. Not to mention the various attempts to just kill Dresden outright. I was seriously wondering if the Red Court would try burning down McAnally's pub as part of their ongoing campaign to destroy everything in Harry's life. Fortunately they don't get that far but it's very nearly a close-run thing.

The final confrontation with the Red Court is also truly epic. Harry manages to get a rag-tag team of friends and allies together and charges into the very center of Red Court magical power, challenging his daughter's kidnapper to a duel and ultimately having to take on the entire Red Court when they decide to back out of the deal. It's huge, it's intense, and it feels like a truly epic conclusion to a series. This is only underscored when Harry manages to not only wipe out the entire Red Court, but also gets shot and falls into Lake Michigan at the end of the book, presumably dead. I mean, I know that there are a few more books so I know that this is very obviously not the last that we've heard from Harry Dresden, but I wouldn't have been overly surprised if this had been the absolute end of the series. Considering one of the main antagonists has been removed and Harry's...well...dead, I'm curious to see how this series can possibly continue.

- Kalpar

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