Cold Days: The Dresden Files, Book 14 Audible Audiobook – Unabridged
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Harry Dresden lives!
After being murdered by a mystery assailant, navigating his way through the realm between life and death, and being brought back to the mortal world, Harry realizes that maybe death wasn’t all that bad - because he is no longer Harry Dresden, Chicago’s only professional wizard. He is now Harry Dresden, Winter Knight to Mab, the Queen of Air and Darkness.
After Harry had no choice but to swear his fealty, Mab wasn’t about to let something as petty as death steal away the prize she had sought for so long. And now, her word is his command, no matter what she wants him to do, no matter where she wants him to go, and no matter who she wants him to kill. Guess which one Mab wants first?
Of course, it won’t be an ordinary, everyday assassination. Mab wants her newest minion to pull off the impossible: kill an immortal. No problem there, right? And to make matters worse, there exists a growing threat to an unfathomable source of magic that could land Harry in the sort of trouble that will make death look like a holiday.
Beset by enemies new and old, Harry must gather his friends and allies, prevent the annihilation of countless innocents, and find a way out of his eternal subservience before his newfound powers claim the only thing he has left to call his own… his soul.
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|Listening Length||18 hours and 47 minutes|
|Whispersync for Voice||Ready|
|Audible.com Release Date||November 27, 2012|
|Best Sellers Rank|| #3,401 in Audible Books & Originals (See Top 100 in Audible Books & Originals) |
#35 in Urban Fantasy
#40 in Contemporary Fantasy
#83 in Paranormal Fantasy
Reviewed in the United States on February 10, 2022
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Onto Cold Days...as with all of Jim's books in the Dresden Files you can read them stand alone and Jim does a great job of catching the reader up on everything going on with the main character Harry Dresden. He flawlessly reintroduces characters and gives you just enough background information to not be overwhelmed by their complex history but also enough to give you a concrete understanding of where these characters have been. If you've read the books in the correct order it adds even more to the story and I highly recommend you start at the beginning.
What I love most about Cold Days and Jims work in general is the blindfolded roller coaster ride he takes you on as a reader. I thought he had reached an apex in surprising his readers in earlier novels but Cold Days injects steroids into the roller coaster ride. I've read a ton of epic fantasy, hardcore Sci Fi and mystery books over the years and rarely am I surprised by what happens or can't see the plot evolving twist coming up around the corner. With Harry Dresden you really have no clue what is coming up next. Plots seem to twist on a dime and yet still make perfect sense. When reading this book you will have moments where you put down the book for a moment and say to yourself "did that really just happen...I never saw it coming" I've never read an author who has his ability to surprise the reader so much in such a short period of time. Cold Days accomplishes this feat 10 fold over most of Jim's earlier novels (which were action packed to begin with).
Some people have criticized Harry's lack of character growth and the have cited limited interactions with reoccurring characters when they learn Harry is not dead. I on the flip side think that Jim has done a very good job on both fronts. As with most of Jim's books and subsequently in Cold Days Harry is always on a very sensitive time schedule. This is no more apparent than in Cold Days when Harry has 24 hours to save the world. Considering the time sensitive schedule Harry's interaction with an old lover, best friend or brother is going to be a bit limited. I think fans of the series fail to realize that Harry only has time to do so much. He can't sit and chit chat with his brother or have more than a few minutes to catch up with Murphy when the world is being invaded by some of the most powerful beings in creation. When you transcend reality in fantasy but still keep manage to keep the element of "if this was real it would happen this way" within your work it is a huge bonus for the reader and Jim accomplishes this very well in Cold Days
As to Harry's character growth and the brevity of his role within the Winter Court not being properly explored I again remind the readers the guy has 24 hours to save the world, save his friends and save his life do you honestly think he is going to be doing a lot of life pontificating within this time frame. For what its worth I think Jim did just enough character development on Harry to remind the reader what Harry is all about. A good hearted but flawed hero with inner demons (literally)he is constantly battling and will continue to do so.
Perhaps one of my favorite parts of Jim's work and one that initially locked me into this series is the mash up of the fairy tale creatures Jim's creates and his ability to make fun of these cliche creatures by calling out the cliche though humor and sarcasm. Cold Days has scenes that will make the reader laugh out loud and shock then shock them a moment later. Again you will put down the book smiling and say to yourself "did Harry Dresden really just say THAT to one of the most powerful creatures in the world?" Humor and sarcasm allow Jim as a writter to attack the cliche pitfalls present in all fantasy novels. How many fantasy books heros dark or otherwise call out the cliche nature of their work or their world. Rarely if ever. Harry Dresden does it in every novel.
Harry Dresden, on the surface, is a walking cliche, a the quintessential archetype of a hero, physically strong, compassionate, tall, ruggedly handsome, inherently good natured and extremely powerful and the creatures / villains who inhabit his world are a walking cliches along the same vein. You can't get around it these days when writing fantasy or fiction at all. Wizards, vampires, angels, demons, fairies, dragons, ghosts all are present Jim's work. He involves almost every different fantasy subset and has them existing in the same time and the same place. Jim does a masterful job at weaving these conflicting worlds together aided by injecting pop culture, humor and sarcasm to address the genre's cliche nature thereby calling out the cliche to the benefit of the reader. On the outside Harry Dresden is one of the most powerful wizards in the world (very cliche for a hero) on the inside he is a sci fantasy nerd who does poor impressions of Yoda and is constantly rattling off movie quotes in between LARPing sessions. (a hero who is a secret nerd NOT CLICHE)
To look further lets talk about one of Harry's free time activities. In his free time Harry Dresden is in a live action fantasy role playing group with a bunch of werewolves (LARPers). Now this is amazing on so many different levels. 1. the fact that roll playing is mentioned in a fantasy novel at all, 2. the fact the one of the most powerful wizards in the world does this in his free time and 3. the fact that he plays in this group with a bunch of werewolves. So you say to yourself "you're telling me one of the most powerful wizards in the world is a LARPer", "This is a joke right?". Of course it is a joke and Jim's novels are littered with these tongue in cheek scenarios and wise ass comments that add more reality to the world Jim creates and makes the cliche character archetypes completely un-cliche. A hedgefund manager who is a closet Twilight fan, a plumber who writes poetry, a drug dealer whose favorite movie is "Gone with the Wind", a powerful wizard who... Larps. Non of these archetypes go together but in reality these archetypal conflicts happen every day in real life. This makes Harry Dresden's character so unique, real and fascinating. Besides being a world class wizard he is a normal guy on his days off... completely un-cliche, hence original.
Jim's books and characters become completely unique by his ability to call out the cliche nature of his work, his characters and the world he has created. For fantasy enthusiasts like myself this is a complete breath of fresh air for a genre that is over saturated with stereotypical dragons, epic save the world quests and long winded love stories involving vampires. Jim Butcher has created a world and characters unlike any you will see in contemporary fantasy and creating anything truly new and unique this day in age is quite an accomplishment. Read just one of his novels and you'll be addicted I promise.
Anyway, as usual, this is not the place to start the series. Many, many characters and events from previous volumes are referenced; it would be overwhelming to try to sort through character identities without a proper introduction. If you're thinking about starting this series, you should go back to book #1 (Storm Front) and go from there. Sounds like a lot of reading, but all the books are fairly enjoyable (and/or downright fun), and the time will fly by. Plus, if you ever forget who anyone is, there are decent Wikipedia summaries of all these books available online, as well as a pretty comprehensive character list.
I'll try to keep this as spoiler-free as possible, as far as Cold Days goes, but if you read the book description on Amazon's main page for this book, you'll see a spoiler for the previous book (Ghost Story), so I'm going to feel free to refer at least to that information. When this book starts, Harry has basically come back from the dead and is being nursed back to health in Arctis Tor, the stronghold of the Faeries' Winter Court. Mab, the Winter Queen, has some odd ideas about physical therapy, and Harry improves from some pretty serious damage in just a few months. Not only does he use his magical skills, but his physical abilities have been enhanced, as well. However, whereas he frequently used fire magic in the past, he's become more used to ice/cold magic and uses that a bit more often in this book (nice for a change, actually).
One thing that's interesting when you read a series with a first-person POV is that you focus on what the POV character focuses on. You don't necessarily know how others see him, unless they say something to him about it. A little of that goes on here (Harry's friends distrust him after he's been shot, come back as a ghost, and then come back -- alive -- as Mab's servant). But Harry's reunions with some characters (for example, his half-brother Thomas) and lack of reunions with other characters (e.g., his daughter), as well as Harry's reaction to an idle thought about commitment early on serve to show you just how messed up Harry is when it comes to relationships. While this dimension was always present in the series, it is really brought to the surface in this book. And it makes sense based on Harry's background, as well. Anyway, I like seeing new things done with the character, or seeing his personality from a new perspective. It's got to be difficult to do that after so many books in this series, and I appreciate the effort.
Another thing I like about this book is that you gain new insight into other characters, including a few who have been fixtures of the series but haven't really played key roles before now (Donar Vadderung of Monoc Securities, Mac from Harry's favorite bar, Rashid the Gatekeeper, etc.). In some cases, this means mysteries solved. In others, the mysteries are only beginning to unfold. In particular, I'm really interested in what happens with Mac, and figure we'll hear more about that in a future book. I trust Jim Butcher to deliver; though you might think there are loose ends in one book in this series, they do eventually get tied up (for example, you learn more about what was going on when Harry saw his godmother imprisoned in Arctis Tor a few books back). There's also a warning that Harry may be doing harm by feeding the Little Folk (i.e., Toot-toot and his friends) pizza, so I hope that gets explained in the future, as well!
The writing style and story structure are similar to past books. Harry does have a mystery to solve this time; he's given a task and when he gets new information, he has to decide who's telling the truth and whether or not to complete his task or take alternative action. This part of the story comes to a conclusion by the end of the book. There are quite a few battles in this book (maybe even more than in past volumes), and the arc of the series, overall, is further explored -- including things that happened in Harry's past (childhood and adolescence) and events of the first several books in the series. I like the dual story structure -- you are satisfied that events are coming to a close, but there are still reasons to come back for more! There are, as usual, four-letter words and "adult" situations (nothing terribly graphic, though, I think, and if you've read the other books in the series, you'll be used to this stuff by now).
There's a real sense of urgency in this book; Harry's task has to be completed on a certain night, and things are going wrong on Demonreach (the island in Lake Michigan that Harry has a unique bond with). Plus, we get a glimpse of a larger, supernatural conflict that's been going on for a long, long time, which is surely going to come to a head soon. This made it easy to keep reading right along without taking too many breaks.
The new "paranormal" entities in this book are the Outsiders. We've actually met one before (He Who Walks Behind), and now we learn there are more, and we learn about the threat they pose. I would guess that we'll be getting a lot more information about the Outsiders in future books. We get a little more insight on the Erlking and the Wild Hunt, as well. Everything is introduced at an appropriate pace (including new characters, and there are a few of those who will almost certainly be coming back later on). And I was surprised by a couple of events, which was great (because, thinking back, the surprises were set up appropriately, but I still didn't see them coming).
Overall, this was an enjoyable book for me. I appreciate the return to a more standard format (none of the ghost business!) and I'm looking forward to Skin Game.
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1. They are now pretty much critic proof. Jim Butcher has got the formula pretty much perfected, so if you're already a fan of Harry and his world you'll almost certainly enjoy the next volume, whatever Amazon reviewers or other critics might say. You might enjoy some marginally more than others, but overall if you liked all the previous books you'll like this one too.
2. The 'Dresden Files' sub-title really makes no sense any more. The books are now so far beyond their fantasy private-detective origins that I can barely remember the days when Harry was working out of a shabby office in down town Chicago.
'A Dresden Epic' would probably be a better sub-title now, because that's what they've become. Ghost Story: A Dresden Files novel was a bit of a return to smaller scale story-telling, but Cold Days ramps up the scale once again. If Ghost Story was a chance to pause and reflect after the destruction of the Red Court and the end of the vampire/wizard war, then Cold Days marks the start of an entirely new phase in the Dresden series; one where the stakes are even higher than before.
Butcher reveals this fact with a truly epic scene in the Never-Never, which expands the reader's understanding of the wider universe and makes him or her realise that all the books prior to this have only uncovered a tiny part of the bigger picture. Its a great way to expand the Dresden universe and send the series off in a brand-new direction. In fact the whole book seems to be setting up new plot threads and dynamics, but Jim Butcher is skill-full enough by now to weave all the developments into a satisfying and compelling story.
If I have a complaint about Cold Days its that the finale does become a slightly overblown affair that risks veering towards the ridiculous, with characters undertaking feats that are almost superhuman at times. It doesn't quite trip over that line but it does come close.
I would also say that, as the Dresden universe expands and focuses less on Chicago and the 'real world' and more on the Never Never, the series also risks losing the human scale that grounded it and made it so compelling. Wars against creatures from parallel dimensions are all very well, but a bit more pounding the pavements of the Windy City, uncovering supernatural crimes, and fewer massed battles wouldn't go amiss. May be then calling the series 'The Dresden Files' wouldn't seem quite as ridiculous.
This book is worth every bit of the 5 stars I've given, but if I was marking out of 10, I'd probably knock half a mark off for a very specific reason. Jim Butcher is fantastic at writing the Dresdent set piece stories - he's got it down to a charm, with the non-stop action, 24 hour deadlines, new characters, old characters, and the amazing epic showdowns. And he manages, extremely well, to develop the characters and to let us get to know them in the course of each story. But I'm missing some familiar aspects of Harry's pre-CD world - the apartment, the Blue Beetle, Mister the cat, things that gave the action a grounding in some sort of every day reality, as did some of the shorter stories in "Side Jobs". Of course Harry always ends up in some even more epic battle at the end of each book, but I enjoy the more mundane stuff as well and hope we get a bit more of a mix in the next books.
As with every Dresden book, the second time of reading is always my favourite! There are so many details and I always miss loads of them first time round. Some of the most important plot developments happen in the course of a couple of sentences, easily missed, and I'm sure I'll find even more when I read the book again. Can't recommend this series of books enough!
The plot is a direct continuation from Ghost Story, as Harry wakes as the Winter Knight. Regular readers will expect him to rapidly face off against the Big Bad, come off worst, fight a series of running battles becoming progressively more tired and injured and finally triumph in a spectacular conflict.
Unsurprisingly, this happens.
What will thrill diehard fans is that we - finally - get an explanation for what happen in Arctis Tor all those years ago. And it was worth the wait, creating an overarching mythos that ties the plots of all of the early books together in a way that almost seems planned. This alone makes the book worthwhile, but there are many trademark geek references (including Grimtooth's Traps!) and what must count as the best use of a Queen song in modern fantasy.
Cold Days misses out on 5 stars because of the repeated explanations (we get it, magic doen't work well over water, shut up about it now...) but is still a must read for Dresden fans everywhere.
And if you are not a Dresden fan, go and read book 1 asap.
Jim Butcher has woven a complex fantasy world that I do prefer to the lightweight Potter stories (which are not well written). I believe that the Dresden TV series flopped but I see why it would be very difficult to create on film....it's visuals are monster fights without the trappings of pretty symbols and stunning backdrops to name the more obvious. Having said that, the Dresden Files are a good read....although I do hope that we will return to Dresden's Chicago reality sometime soon.
The cast of supporting characters is much more interesting and enjoyable than the monster battles and huge injuries Harry suffers.
Jim Butcher is a clever story teller, writes well and is developing new books like chapters, always fast paced but too heavily weighted with improbable monsters and magic folk.
Harry Dresden's often flippant cheap wit is irritating and does not strike quite the right chord, and one wonders when he will learn a little diplomacy and grow up a tad.
If you like fantasy then read well written fantasy and this is in that category.