I love Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files series. I’ve read all the books many times and make sure that I’ve got each new book the day they are released. I’ve listened to them all on audio book, too. So I am a fan, and you need to keep this in mind throughout the review. I am going to complain, but the complaining comes from a place of love. Despite my complaints, I enjoyed this installment. I’ve already bought the next book, Skin Game, coming out on May 27th. Spoilers coming up.
Butcher has created a rich tapestry. The mythology itself is not super complicated – it’s pretty straight forward European and judeo-christian. The richness comes from 14 books worth of relationships and character development. In Cold Days, Harry is feeling his way after losing everything, including his life, being a ghost, solving his own murder, and coming back to life to find himself the monster he never wanted to be – Mab’s creature, the Winter Knight.
There is a comfortable predictability to the Dresden books. Harry is going to be faced with something overwhelming. He won’t want his friends to help, but they will insist. He will do the right thing, even though it’s likely to get him killed. He and his friends will succeed by the skin of their teeth and there will be a price for victory. But the joy of reading is partly in the predictability.
Something happened in Cold Days that kicked me out of my comfortable rut – Harry met Santa Clause. Santa hangs out in Fairie when he’s not getting ready for Christmas. You know, fuck that. Harry’s all, “Wow, Santa Clause!!!!” and I’m all, “fuck off, Butcher!!!!” I don’t know why Santa’s two appearances pissed me off so much, but they really did. It felt like a stupid gimmick that Butcher used because he didn’t trust his story. Dresden’s world, aside from being full of magic, fairies, angels, demons, etc, is pretty mainstream. It’s very gender normative and quite Christian, though the only remaining Knight of the Cross (God’s own warriors) is a self-described atheist. There is a sense that everything is happening for a reason, that some greater hand has dealt Harry the cards he needs to play the role that has been assigned to him. I don’t share this world view. The pervasiveness of Christian mythology through out the series doesn’t generally bother me, in part because it doesn’t feel like proselytizing. I don’t feel like Jim Butcher wants me to feel one way or the other about Christianity, he’s just writing the world he knows. But for some reason, Santa was just a European Christian symbol too far. I went back to Goodreads and read the reactions I had to the book as I read it the first time. They were mostly along the lines of, “Stop with the fucking Santa!!!!” I can only hope that Santa stays away for the remainder of the series.
This book ends with a victory that has an incredibly high price for Harry’s protege, Molly. I am looking forward to seeing where Butcher goes with this. It will be interesting to see Molly in a position of being of equal or greater power than Harry.
Turn Coat and Changes remain my favorites of the Dresden Files books.