‘Dresden Files’ 14th novel hits shelves

Image used under fair use doctrine

Image used under fair use doctrine

Jake Alden

Image used under fair use doctrine
Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden, hero of Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files series of novels, has a lot in common with other fictional private investigators. He’s got an eye for detail, a knack for witty sarcasm and an address in a sprawling modern city — Chicago, to be precise. There is, of course, a tiny detail that sets Harry apart from his literary colleagues.
He’s a magician. And not the Houdini kind.
To date, Harry’s supernatural cases and battles against the hidden evils of his world have spanned a whopping thirteen books, with a fourteenth, Cold Days, on the way. The series’ page count is daunting, to say the least, but the books read quickly, smoothly and easily. Each mystery is a real page turner that does a nice, neat job of setting up an intriguing case. There are enough twists and turns to keep readers surprised, all while shaping and explaining the supernatural world that Chicago’s only practicing wizard inhabits.
The setting of the Dresden Files is a seamless combination of multiple sources – European folklore, urban legends and Christian theology are all interwoven into an intricate but easily comprehended background mythos for the stories. Harry and his friends explore a universe populated by the series’ own versions of werewolves, fairies, necromancers and God.
Most of the paranormal inhabitants of the novels are far closer to their original cultural roots than other modern day interpretations. Not only that, but Butcher really manages to make his vampires and sorcerers fresh, placing them in an exceptionally accurate depiction of Chicago and modern day life. Over the course of the series, Harry has attended a disco rave hosted by otherworldly aristocrats, visited a hair salon that employs vampires and met a group of werewolf students at the University of Chicago.
Butcher comes up with some pretty funny blends of contemporary U.S. and Old World culture and folklore, and the humor of the series in general is where Dresden Files really shines. Harry makes for a bitingly witty and clever first person narrator, and the books are peppered with comical irony and amusing pop culture references. The banter between Harry and his lecherous assistant Bob the skull or “will they or won’t they” love interest Lt. Karrin Murphy freshens up the already smartly written dialogue. Plus, there’s occasionally a bit of subtle meta-humor lampooning film noir and modern horror novels.
While the series has always been a good read, there is absolutely no better time than now to start reading about the adventures of Harry Dresden. The reason why can be summed up in two short words.
Cold Days.
For reasons that are spoilers of the highest degree, a lot of people thought that the twelfth novel, Changes, might just be Butcher’s last installment in the Dresden Files. The release of thirteenth book Ghost Story proved to be a tremendous shock to some readers, as well as the most shocking novel in the series to date. The purpose behind this departure from the norm is simple; Butcher is planning on taking the series in a brand new direction, and Ghost Story was the transition between Changes and Cold Days. Cold Days is, in essence, the start of a brand new series starring Harry and his various friends, enemies and inner demons.
And what a start it is.
Dresden Files didn’t start out as a lighthearted story, and the series as a whole was getting a little bit darker with each subsequent installment. Cold Days just dives right into the deep end and through the bottom of the pool; Chicago’s only wizard, after recovering from the brilliant twist at the end of Ghost Story, gets thrown into a situation so dark it’s ultraviolet. Fortunately, both Harry and the series hold onto their humor and their occasionally happy moments, but Cold Days still remains the grittiest and most chilling of Butcher’s books so far.
It’s also worth noting that this newest novel departs from some of the series’ familiar plot elements and structure. Harry’s no longer in the employment of the Police Department’s Special Investigations unit. His new employer is a frightening supernatural entity who doesn’t play by such silly human rules as ethics or sanity and who’s bound Harry against his will to its mysterious purposes.
The series also takes a departure from the norm insofar as Harry’s new master doesn’t plan on using him as a detective. Solving mysteries are still a key component of the novel’s main plot, but Harry’s getting used as an assassin. An assassin sent to kill a being that can’t technically be killed.
Things get crazy fast.
If you’ve never read the books, now is the time to pick up Storm Front, Harry’s first literary adventure. There’s a whole new brand of Dresden Files books on their way to the shelves, and you owe it to yourself to at least get started on the original flavor of Dresden mysteries with the most compelling ones yet in the making. If you’re already a fan, you’re in luck. Cold Days won’t fail to disappoint, until you reach the end and get left hungry for more.
By Jake Alden