Book review: Changes

A new Dresden Files novel is always a reason to celebrate. Jim Butcher’s wizard-turned-licensed-private-investigator is one of the more compelling characters of the early century — a man with such commitment to be righteous, and such potential to be bad. And in the newest book in the series, Changes, Harry Dresden gets led step by step down the primrose path (quite literally at one point).

There is so much packed into Changes that it’s hard to write a spoiler-free review. Dresden’s erstwhile lover, Susan Rodriguez, returns to inform Harry that they have a child together — a little girl that’s been kidnapped as a human sacrifice by Red Court vampires. They have a chance to rescue the child, but the journey leads Harry into uncharted waters as he figures out how far he will go to protect his daughter.

Butcher is fantastic when it comes to laying on more and more tension, raising the stakes for his characters with every chapter. The first few chapters read nearly flat, and I wondered what was going on — until I realized what Butcher was doing. The novel, told from Dresden’s perspective, starts off flat because Harry has been flattened, steamrolled by the news that he has a child. Once I got it, the novel sped up to its normal locomotive-style pace. Finished it in about a day-and-a-half. And now I’m ready for the next one. Butcher is slowly revealing more and more of the overarching plot of the novels, which is detailing the fall of the White Council of wizards, and it’s like watching an interesting archaeological dig: the pieces unearthed in the series so far are fascinating, but it’s maddeningly slow going.

The novel might as well have been called Choices, because that’s what we see. Dresden makes choices and deals with the consequences. And in one of the most shocking endings — one I freely admit I didn’t see coming — I was left gasping at the supposed fate of one of my characters. That’s cold, Butcher. Cold enough to be worthy of the Winter Court.

The usual cast of characters abounds: apprentice Molly Carpenter, vampire half-brother Thomas, Bob the skull, gangster Johnny Marcone, fairy Toot-toot and many more. A little more of Harry’s family history is revealed, as he begins to feel more of a connection with his deceased mother.  But what interested me (and probably other long-term Dresden fans) was that it looked like the sexual tension between Dresden and sidekick Karrin Murphy was finally going to be resolved. But no — Butcher twists the knife in Harry (and the readers) just a little deeper, and makes you want more.

There are few authors whose work I rush out to buy in hardcover. Jim Butcher is one of those guys. Read Changes and it’ll have you clamoring for the next novel in the series.

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