|In Short:||An excellent addition to the series that lives up its name, and will leave fans wanting more.|
|Recommended?||Hell yes! (If you've read the series to this point, at least)|
|“Ack,” I said.
Fearless master of the witty dialogue, that’s me.
|-- Harry Dresden|
The Dresden Files has become one of my
main ongoing book-related obsessions in the past several years.
I'm usually patient enough that when new books come out I can
wait until they're available at a library, or I can borrow from
a friend, or just wait until the paperback comes out before
buying them. With the Dresden Files, though, I've preordered the
last several books, counted the days until release (I haven't
quite gotten to the point for X'ing out days on a
calendar, though), and moved my schedule around such that I
would have uninterrupted time to read (I didn't really need to
go to work that day, did I?). And so it was for the latest in
the series, the newly released Changes.
If you haven't read the series before, you should. I highly recommend it. You can start with the first book, Storm Front and work your way up to this latest one. Or you could pretty much start with any of the books, really, though probably best to start from near the beginning. I'm serious, go read them. Right now. I can wait. *whistles softly to himself* Oh, you're back? Excellent. Did you like the previous books? I thought you might. And good that you are now caught up, as while this book does introduce the characters well enough that someone new to the series would know what was going on and who people were, the significance of the events therein hold a lot more... well... significance to those who know the events leading up to this.
So just a quick introduction to the series/main character (yes, I realize that you just read the entire series up to this point as I had asked you to, and therefore any quick introduction would be, at most, superfluous, but we here at Geek Speak Magazine always strive to give the complete picture)(Well, that, and it gives me the chance to use the word "superfluous", which is just fun). The Dresden Files follow the life and times of Harry Dresden, the only professional wizard listed in Chicago's phone book. As Chicago is a great nexus of the world, Harry often finds himself facing off against impending doom of varying sorts (impending dooms?), whilst keeping his wits (and wit) about him.
Since this is Book 12 in the series (not counting various available short stories), and with a title like Changes, you might imagine that there would be... well... changes that occur. As such, I am going to attempt to be as spoiler-free as possible. So with that in mind, this book is about Harry joining up with his ex-almost-fiancé Susan Rodriguez to rescue their kidnapped daughter. "Whoa!" you say, "what happened to the thought of no spoilers that you had just stated?! The fact that Susan hasn't been heard from for several books and the fact that Harry doesn't have a daughter makes it seem like your statement is awfully spoilerish!" Okay, true, that could perhaps be construed as a spoiler, except that the very first line of the book is: "I answered the phone, and Susan Rodriguez said, 'They've taken our daughter.'"
Yes, as Butcher likes to do, the reader is thrown into the story immediately -- there is no calm before the storm. With that first line, we are off. While there are a few quiet, contemplative moments, the action does not let up until the very end. The writing (as found in the rest of the series) is fast paced, with chapters organized such that the reader regularly has the thought of "Oh, just one more chapter!". Which is why, for me at least, the book was read in one day.
The trials that Harry endures (physically, mentally, and magically) in his attempt to rescue his "daughter" (is she really his? Is it a setup? You'll have to read and find out!) lead to the titular changes. And changes there are, though some more significant than others. The events of this book have the potential of being the most compelling and consequential of any in the series. The keyword there, however, is “potential” as the full impact of some of these developments will not be felt until at least the next book (and/or short story). That is actually a point of concern for me, however. I applaud Butcher for having his main character “go there” and greatly look forward to finding out the consequences of Harry’s actions, but I fear that Butcher will use some kind of loophole (forced or otherwise) that would effectively negate (or at least backpedal a bit) the large step forward taken (or at least the large step taken – who knows if it was actually a step forward? [The Shadow knows!]). So we must wait to learn if the changes will, in fact, be as significant as they appear. Alas… the waiting game for the next book has already begun. Darn you, Jim Butcher! <Insert much fist-shaking here>
But how is the rest of the book, besides the potentially momentous plot elements? It is thoroughly enjoyable, with the aforementioned fast-paced writing, Harry’s trademark wit on full display, as is, as a treat for fans, a veritable cavalcade of characters from the previous books. One thing I have always liked about the Dresden series is how different mythologies and religions are brought into the fold, all essentially on equal terms. From literal forces of Heaven and Hell, to Norse mythology, to Native-American lore, to Faeries described by Shakespeare (Queens Mab and Titania, for instance), they are all present in Harry’s world. This is emphasized in this particular book as a number of characters pop up throughout the story, and all handled in believable and non-convoluted ways. With one possible exception, at least.
I had an issue with Thomas, Harry’s vampire half-brother. Previously throughout the series, Thomas had been fighting his vampire side, trying to live well without giving in to his demon (fear not, I won’t be making any “vampire with a soul” comments [even though doing so would be awesome]). That changed at the end of the previous book, Turn Coat, though, when, due to the events of that book, he had given in and embraced his inner predator. But with Changes, Thomas seemed to be more the old Thomas then the new. Maybe not completely like he had been, but more so than I was expecting. It wasn’t necessarily a problem, per se, but something I noticed that gave me pause. Perhaps my opinion on that will change upon a second reading of the book (oh yes, it will be reread).
Bottom line, Changes is a fine addition to the series, and I am looking forward to the next book already (with fingers crossed that the author won’t downplay some of the events that occurred). I definitely recommend it, if one has read the series to this point, and highly recommend the series itself, if one hasn’t. Changes is probably best enjoyed with a working knowledge of the back story, so it isn’t the best option to start the series with.