Thursday, June 24, 2010
Changes by Jim Butcher
"Hell's Bells" count: 20
Well, the title promises changes, and that is certainly what you get in this book. And the first of these comes right on page one: Harry Dresden has a daughter. Surprised? Yeah, well so was he.
The mother is Harry's old lover, Susan Rodriguez, whom he hasn't seen in many years. The reason for their separation is pretty simple, the kind of story you've heard over and over again - boy and girl meet, avoid their obvious attraction to each other for a while, and finally hook up. Boy tells girl all about the world of supernatural horrors in which he lives, girl finds it more intriguing than horrible, and manages to get herself bitten by vampires. Girl is able to resist turning all the way, but knows that she can't be around boy lest her emotions overwhelm her and she devours him whole. Boy and girl have one last night of fun together, girl vanishes into South America to join an underground cabal of vampire hunters.
No sooner does Harry discover that he has a daughter that she finds out she's been kidnapped, taken as a hostage by the Red Court of vampires for some purpose that is no doubt terrible and nefarious. As much as Susan knows it will hurt Harry to find out she'd been hiding their daughter from him, she also knows that he is the only one with the power and the resources available to get her back.
After all, Harry is a Wizard, a member of the White Council, if not one of their favorite members. He has contacts within the council that could prove useful, as well as resources that reach from Heaven to Hell. A far cry from the lone wolf that we met way back in Storm Front, Harry now has connections and resources that will allow him to take on some of the most powerful beings in the world as they attempt to use his daughter for their own evil ends.
As the title implies, of course, Harry does have to make some very serious choices in this quest; choices about how far he's willing to go in order to save his daughter, to say nothing of whether saving his daughter is even the right choice to make in itself. After all, the Red Court has been at war with the White Council for some time now, and the slightest mistake one way or the other could just make the whole thing worse. The last thing the White Council wants is their least favorite loose cannon (and, not for nothing, the guy who got the whole war started in the first place) complicating matters unnecessarily. The supernatural world is pretty much ready to fly apart as it is, and one mis-step could mean death and destruction on a scale greater than anyone has ever known.
In the end, the choices that Harry has to make in this book will haunt him for the rest of his life, if not longer. I would probably not be wrong in saying that this book marks a major turning point for the series.
If you've been reading this from the beginning, which you really should have, then this is going to be a rough book. I've made mention before of how Butcher likes to play hardball with his characters sometimes, but this book is so much more than that. This book is an all-out attack on everything that Harry holds dear to him, a scouring of his life that puts him into an entirely new situation. What this is in preparation for is anybody's guess, but I can tell you this much without really spoiling anything - Butcher had better damn well have the next book on a fast track or he'll find me sitting on his front porch with a torch and a pitchfork and a haunted look in my eyes. 
Given that, as of this writing, the book has just come out, there's not a lot I can say about it in detail. If you've been following the series, you're going to read it no matter what I have to say, and I don't want to ruin anything for you. All I can really say is that this isn't my favorite of the series, at least not upon first reading. It's a little rushed in parts, and has one too many deus ex machina moments for my liking. The only thing that mitigates that is the knowledge that Butcher wastes nothing in his storytelling, and even the biggest miracles come with a price that will have to be paid. And I expect that the payoff will be something to see. Having said that, though, Changes will probably hold up as one of the most significant of the Dresden Files books once the series is done. In terms of what happens to the characters in this book, it's really like nothing else that's come before it.
So brace yourselves, kids. This one's a bumpy ride. As with all the Dresden Files books, though, it's well worth it.
"Harry... I've got a bad feeling that.... I've got a bad feeling that the wheels are about to come off."
- Karrin Murphy, Changes
 Yes, yes, I know that, to paraphrase John Scalzi, the author is not my bitch. Still and all, waiting for the next book to come out will be like trying not to fart in church - interminable, impossible not to think about, and oh so relieving when the opportunity finally arrives.
The Dresden Files on Wikipedia
Changes on Wikipedia
Changes on Amazon.com
Jim Butcher on Wikipedia
Harry Dresden on Wikipedia
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