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Cover illustration by: Chris McGrath
Cold Days by Jim Butcher
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Series: The Dresden Files (Book #14 of 25)
Genre: Fantasy, Urban Fantasy
Pages: 529 pages (US Kindle edition)
Published: 29th November 2012 by Orbit (UK) & 27th November 2012 by Roc (US)
Cold Days once again established The Dresden Files as one of the most consistently good series out there.
“I know it’s not thematically in tune with my new job and all, but I find it effective. Build a man a fire and he’s warm for a day,” I say. “But set a man on fire and he’s warm for the rest of his life. Tao of Pratchett. I live by it.”
By this point in the series, you should know the drill already. If Harry Dresden received a mission from Mab, you know things are about to go incredibly bad for him and everyone involved. But here we are. Cold Days is the fourteenth book in The Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher, and I must say that I’m seriously enjoying the darker turn that the story takes. I’ve seen several readers voiced their complaints about the darker tone, but I have to say that I disagree; I’m enjoying it so much, and I think the series is all the better for it.
‘“Bad things are inside everyone,” I said. “I don’t care how gentle or holy or sincere or dedicated you are. There are bad things in there. Lust. Greed. Violence. You don’t need a wicked queen to make that happen. That’s a part of everyone. Some more, some less, but it’s always there.”
“You say that you were this wicked from the beginning?” Lily asked.
“I’m saying I could have been,” I said. “I chose something else. And I’m going to continue choosing something else.”’
There’s a lot of things I cannot talk about anymore on my review due to spoilers, and the things I can talk about will sound repetitive. I can’t avoid this, this is the fourteenth book in the series, after all. What I loved about Cold Days is Butcher explored the price of having too much power. This isn’t actually a new theme; it’s a recurring theme in the series, and as the stakes and danger that Harry and crew faced keep on escalating, it is not a surprise that Harry and his friends have to attain—and use—a much bigger power and magic than before. We know that Harry, at the core of his heart, is a good guy, and the same thing can be said for the rest of his friends. But more often than not, too much power changes characters. This is a theme that’s thoroughly pursued by Butcher in this book, and the moral struggle that Harry encountered felt real.
“See, that’s the tragedy of the human condition. No one wants to be corrupted by power when they set out to get it. They have good, even noble reasons for doing whatever it is they do. They don’t want to misuse it, they don’t want to abuse it, and they don’t want to become vicious monsters. Good people, decent people, set out to take the high road, to pick up power without letting it change them or push them away from their ideals.
But it keeps happening anyway.
History is full of it. As a rule, people aren’t good at handling power. And the second you start to think you’re better at controlling your power than anyone else, you’ve already taken the first step.”
The biggest surprise for me in this installment is how much I enjoyed the action scenes. I think the only books in the series so far where I thoroughly enjoyed the actions were Dead Beat and Changes. The pacing is well-executed, the scale of the battles has exponentially increased, and the entire section in Demonreach and Lake Michigan was awesome. This is, once again, the fourteenth book of the series already, there’s no more time for repetitive mission-based detective solving and all that. Ever since Changes, I loved that I couldn’t predict the story too much anymore. Butcher’s writing still flows well, maybe even better than before, and the ending signified a bigger threat to come in the next installment. The only minor issue that didn’t really work for me is that the plot in Cold Days revolves heavily around the faeries of the series, and I’m not too much of a fan of faeries in my fantasy reads.
“Because even if they are doing something immoral, I’d be an idiot to start criticizing them for it if I wasn’t perfect myself. Smoking is self-destructive. Drinking is self-destructive. Losing your temper and yelling at people is wrong. Lying is wrong. Cheating is wrong. Stealing is wrong. But people do that stuff all the time. Soon as I figure out how to be a perfect human being, then I’m qualified to go lecture other people about how they live their lives.”
Not much else to say, Cold Days is spectacular. I can’t believe that I’ve read fourteen books in the series; this is by far the biggest urban fantasy series I’ve read so far, and it’s astounding that I still find myself so engrossed by each installment. Harry Dresden has said it, a storm is coming in Skin Game, Harry’s life has drastically changed since the first installment, and I’m so pumped to find out what’s coming next.
“Wizarding just isn’t what it used to be. Not so many years ago, I’d think it was a busy week if someone asked me to locate a lost dog or a wedding ring. It had been horribly boring. I’d had lots and lots of free time. I hadn’t been rich, but I’d gotten to buy plenty of books to read, and I’d never gone hungry. And no one had tried to kill me, or asked me to make a horrible choice. Not once.
You never know what you have until it’s gone.
Peace and quiet and people I love. Isn’t that what everyone wants?”
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