Sunday 13 April 2014

#CBR6 Book 31: "Changes" by Jim Butcher

Page count: 546 pages
Audio book length: 15 hrs, 28 mins
Rating: 5 stars

Spoiler warning! This is book 12 in The Dresden Files and pretty much every single thing that happens in this book plays on stuff that's been introduced in earlier books. There is NO way for me to review this book without spoiling events from earlier books, and frankly, parts of this one. This book is full of surprises, so if you haven't read the book yet, please skip the review. I would also recommend that you avoid all other reviews, and even the blurb on the back of the book until after you've read it. 

So this is the book where Jim Butcher clearly decides that Harry's life, despite the many dangerous situations he's experienced and the challenges he's faced, was far too harmonious and cushy and decides to turn everything not only upside down, but really shake things up entirely. By the end of the book, there are few things I can think of that haven't been drastically changed in some or several ways.

So it turns out Harry is a father. Susan Rodriguez, his half-vampire ex-girlfriend (who first appeared in book 2, Fool Moon) got pregnant after their last encounter (in book 5, Death Masks). She's kept the existence of their daughter's identity from him, and only contacts him when the girl has been abducted from her foster family by Red Court vampires. Susan and her sidekick Martin show up on his doorstep, and while Harry is deeply hurt and shocked by her news, he is eventually forced to admit that neither he nor Susan have lives where they can raise a little girl. Maggie (named for Harry's mother) has been taken by Duchess Arianna Ortega, who wants revenge on Harry for killing her husband. As Harry and Susan frantically search for their child, they discover that the Red Court vampires, who are allegedly proposing a peace treaty with the White Council of wizards, are in fact planning to use Maggie in a powerful ritual, which will kill anyone of Harry's bloodline.

Over the course of the book, Harry not only has to come to terms with the idea of fatherhood and the knowledge that he may not be able to rescue his little girl in time, but his office is blown up by Red Court vampires (turns out they owned the whole building and has been charging him unreasonably high monthly rent) and his apartment building burns down. Luckily, he'd stashed away most of his magical artifacts in the Nevernever before the FBI came to raid the apartment, but apart from that, he's left with only the leather duster on his back. He's left literally beaten and broken and is forced to reconsider everything he'd previously been willing to do, in order to get the chance to rescue his only child.

With Butcher literally tearing down Dresden's entire life around him, it's so satisfying to see that Harry has friends and family who are willing to risk everything along with him. This is a book that starts with a bang and just keeps on getting more and more extreme. Every time I thought things couldn't get darker, Butcher turned up the dial. This book goes all the way up to 11. I kept being surprised at the twists and turns it took, and the final act reminded me a lot of the final episode of Torchwood: Children of Earth in terms of emotional punch and the way it wrung me out. I must admit that I had, sadly, had the very end of the book spoiled for me  (don't actually read the back covers of future books in the series before you read them, they spoil a LOT), but after all the other stuff that happens in the book, I doubt I would have been surprised either way. In a book where so many other transformative events happen to Harry Dresden, the ending of the book was really rather inevitable. This book, more than any of the previous ones, made me realise why everyone raves so much about The Dresden Files. I suspect there is very little that can happen in future books that would keep me from following this series until the final book now. Brilliantly done, Mr. Butcher.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.

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