Valyruh’s #CBR5 Review #41: Cold Days by Jim Butcher

So, the latest in the Dresden Files supernatural thriller series came out late last year and I’ve just finished it. I took a bit of a hiatus after the last one, called Ghost Story, in which the protagonist and hero of the series, semi-mortal wizard Harry Dresden, dies and comes back as a ghost! Yeah, right! Determined as I was to enjoy Ghost Story to the hilt, as I had the previous volumes in the series, I just couldn’t wrap my head around my favorite wizard going all incorporeal and stuff. So I was thrilled to discover that Harry is now back from the dead, and elevated to the post of Winter Knight to the Queen of Air and Darkness, Mab. And she’s a bit of a nutter, as most of the high fairys are, and manages to turn her knights into looney-tune rage-balls and her enemies into very very dead. So if she managed to resurrect Harry and bring him back, it can’t be for anything good. Or can it?

For die-hard fans of this series, you’ll note that sooner or later, Harry hooks up with most of his former mortal (and immortal) friends—including potential love-interest Karrin Murphy. The bad guys are bigger and badder and uglier than ever, if that is even conceivable, and what is at stake is once again Harry’s first love, the city of Chicago. The spirit of Demonreach is back, Bob the Skull is back, Harry’s half-brother  the White Vampire Thomas is back, so is the mysterious Gatekeeper, and so is Harry’s apprentice Molly Carpenter, cooler, more powerful and more in love with Harry than ever.  Harry is torn between his burning desire to get back to the mortal world he knows and loves, and his sworn loyalty to Mab even as he knows that he is little but a glorified assassin at the Queen’s bidding who is slowing going mad under her “tutelage.” Harry gets an apparently insane order from Mab to kill an immortal—Mab’s evil daughter, no less—and in the process of trying to decide whether he can or should obey or not, he uncovers a conspiracy of what you might call “global” proportions which he, and only he (once again!) can stop before the whole world goes to hell—literally.

The action is non-stop, the plot is cool, and the villains are truly terrifying, and I certainly got my supernatural high on with this novel. Nonetheless, I was distressed by the fact that, in Cold Days, our hero has undergone a truly disturbing transformation. Prior to turning into a ghost, Harry Dresden was the consistently overworked, underpaid, and underappreciated wizard we all know and love, who managed to protect his city and his friends from the dark forces while keeping up a steady stream of wisecracks and humorous observations about everything from technology to sexual politics to religion. In Cold Days, Harry has entered the ranks of the supernatural, whether willingly or not, and while more powerful than ever, he also feels no pain and, it would appear, little emotion either. He is subject to terrifying and violent impulses which he must struggle to control, and is somehow now “above the crowd.”  Whether this is the author reminding us for the umpteenth time that power corrupts, or whether Butcher is seriously messing with the direction his main character will now take–which he shouldn’t, in my opinion–remains to be seen when the next volume comes out at the end of 2013.