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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

"Changes. Dresden File #12" by Jim Butcher (Reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

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AUTHOR INFORMATION: Jim Butcher is the author of eighteen previous novels which includes the NYT bestselling urban fantasy series, Dresden Files which has also been made into a television series by the SY-FY channel of the same name and the fantasy sextet Codex Alera series which ended a few months ago. Jim Butcher is also a martial arts enthusiast and a live-action gamer.

PLOT SUMMARY: Nearly 10 years ago, Susan Rodriguez was Harry Dresden's lover-until she was attacked by his enemies, leaving her torn between her own humanity and the bloodlust of the vampiric Red Court. Susan then disappeared to South America, where she could fight both her savage gift and those who cursed her with it. Now lady Arianna Ortega, Duchess of the Red Court, has discovered Susan’s secret and she plans to use it- to further her own vendetta against Harry. Thus to prevail against the mighty odds set this time, he may have no choice but to embrace the raging fury of his own untapped dark power. Because Harry's not fighting to save the world... He's fighting to save his child.

CLASSIFICATION: Changes is the 12th book in the Dresden Files series, an Urban Fantasy series that follows a similar writing pattern of using humor and action for the storyline. Unlike the previous novels this one ends in a cliffhanger which was a new twist to this series.

FORMAT/INFO: The HC edition stands at 448 pages and is divided into 49 chapters and an author’s note. The narration is via first person and features Harry Dresden as the sole POV

April 6, 2010 marked the US Hardcover publication of Changes via ROC books, an Imprint of Penguin books. The UK version was published on 8 April, 2010 via Orbit books.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: Changes is the 12th book in the Dresden Files and is possibly the most explosive book in the series. Not only is there a titular pattern change in the offing but the plot twists and the eventual conclusion of this tale will definitely get reader emotions high and most likely have a rather voluble output as well. This review will as bit tricky as we are at such a point in the series that while even discussing the non-spoiler aspects of this book, I could potentially be spoiling the previous books for readers not acquainted with the previous titles. If you haven't read the previous novels and wish not to be spoiled, it is best that you not read further into this review.

For those of you who have and are still here with me, here is Changes in a nutshell “Changes is the best book I have read in the series”. It begins from the premise that Harry’s daughter has been kidnapped by the Red Court Vampires. The tricky part is that Harry did not have a clue about her existence as Susan Rodgriguez [Harry’s ex-flame and the mother of the child] never revealed it to him. Thus with such a tantalizing opening, the book pitches Harry, Susan and Martin(no-last-name) in search for clues in Chicago and at the Red Vampires' most recent hangout.

Beginning the litany of surprises in this book is the fact that Harry’s lease might be fueling an enemy of his. The next thing to happen is an explosion which ruins Harry’s business prospects and further complicates his search for his child as the national authorities get involved due to implications of terrorist-like activity. The search gets further complicated when the White Council is approached by an important Red Court emissary (in this case Lady Ortega) and offered an all important proposal. Needless to say this throws a huge magical spanner in Harry’s way.Thus with his friendly options cut off, Harry has to turn towards other non-friendly ones and this is where things become even more interesting. The remaining part of the plot follows the general pattern of the previous Dresden books, however the events are too spoiler-ish to recant here.

It’s safe to say Jim Butcher is getting into high gear and slowly showing what he truly intends to do with this series. The climax has some really great revelations and twists. I was stunned by at least 2 of them and to cap it up Jim Butcher ends the book on a cliffhanger of EPIC proportions. Be warned when you finish the last page, you will be rushing to know what happens next and will be one of many who eagerly look forward to the next chapter in the Dresden Files next year.

[On a side note Jim Butcher has revealed that in his short story collection Side Jobs, to be released later this year, it will contain a short story/novella called Aftermath which will be set 45 minutes after the end of Changes and will be featuring the POV of Karrin Murphy. So this will be an important follow-up in regards to the cliffhanger at the end of Changes.]

As far as writing goes, I didn’t have any issues with this book, it follows Jim Butcher’s style of lacing humor with action, though the humor is often then previous novels due to the darker plot content. There were a couple of plot points which are not resolved and could be potentially explained in the next book which was a new twist to the Dresden Files. People who have enjoyed his previous books will have similar (if-not-better) feelings with this one. Those readers who have had previous issues with his books will find no new charms to win them over. Jim Butcher is writing a character driven, humor-laced, action packed urban fantasy series and he’s not making any apology for it. Dive in and find out for yourself as to why this series is heralded as to the Gold standard for all UF books.


Markt said...

Good review - just a note: All Butcher's Dresden books, including this one, are written in First Person.

The Reader said...

Hi Mark

Thanks for pointing that out, I mistyped that in the review :)


Anonymous said...

This book was completely awesome in my opinion, and I think easily the best in the Dresden series. I loved the ending too, and I don't consider it a cliffhanger... just something that happens at the end, a twist ending of sorts.

For the "cliffhanger" that it was, the plot/mystery to be solved in this installment gets concluded completely, so in that regard we get a complete story here.

The Reader said...

Hi Anon.

That's a good point you bring up, however I felt as the previous books neatly tied up all the plot elements. This one didn't, there are still some questions left & the way this one ended. I felt the word "cliffhanger" would be apt for the situation.

But in the end, its only words & I'm glad that Jim Butcher chose to go in this direction as it opens up a dark avenue for the future books.


Okie said...

I really need to get into this series. I keep hearing great things about it.

Anonymous said...

Na', the usage of cliffhanger is completely correct because it is indeed a cliffhanger. But I do think a bit of a clarification, without spoiling of course, of what the cliffhanger entailed was fitting. Since it clearly doesn't leave the plot of that book hanging, we're simply left in a peculiar status at the end.

As for plotlines not getting resolved? Well, this is a series afterall, and previous books have indeed left some plotlines open. I think the way the book ended has given the book a notion of more lose strings, but they really aren't. Feels the same like previous books in that regard.

Many of the books have left some uncertainty particularly towards the unknown organization causing the problems since book one, we've had uncertainty of Susan when she got converted. We had some uncertainty at the end when Dresden announced that the White Council was coming after he started the war, we had the one where he picks up Lasciel's coin with Nickodemus still around, etc. Nothing as big as the latest book, but certainly some of the previous books have left some plotlines open.

Though I agree with the notion that the other books for the most part were more closed more tightly, but with that said, as mentioned previously, the plot of the book itself was resolved completely and completely tight. It's just the aftermath of it that kinda left us hanging in it's transition towards what comes next.

Those will be my 2 cents.

Anonymous said...

I didn't like it at all. I was starting to have issues with Harrys character in the last book, but after what happened, especially with Thomas going through all those changes, I had hopes that maybe there would be more depth in this book. NOPE. Harry isn't just more shallow now, but he actually pretty much says "If my family is OK, the rest of the world can burn"!!! How much more selfish can a person be? Can such a selfish person possibly be a hero? Sure, we all love our kids. Thats because they are a part of us. Its the same as loving ourselves. Its good to love yourself. To a point. Not to mention Butcher works this constant "awww...aren't kids cuuuuuuute? Wouldn't you just HATE to see anything bad happen to wittle bitty ice cream chompers????". Getting very old. Yes. Their little snotty noses just have to be dried with a hanky. But a childs life is not worth more then an old persons life, nor the life of a mother, nor the life of a teenager, nor the life of a middle aged person. All life is worth a lot. Just not to Harry. I understand he is supposed to be an anti hero. But even anti heros are supposed to have some nobility. Not just a plot that makes them save the world every Thursday, even when they are just persuing totally selfish goals. The extra characters are very cool. But thats getting old too. Why aren't the main characters ever as intriguing as the ones we get a brief introduction to? I wish they were. I also am getting a bit sick of the constant Christianity thing. Im a Christian. But I also know that the Church is not always a force for good. So it would be nice if Butcher hid his total hate for Wicca, Paganism, and anti Christian movements of various sorts. Its just kind of ikky. Like why are all non human things either Christian angels/crusaders or evil?

lollipop4598 said...

Oh and is anyone else starting to think that Harrys schemes are starting to get completely silly, and the only reason the bad guys don't win is that Butcher is writing the book with Harry as hero? Harry wins against insane odds, with silly plans, a handful of companions, and the fact that God is on his side, so there is no suspense. Harry never loses. He never even fails to humiliate his foes while winning. Its just too much.

Anonymous said...

I'm with Anonymous two comments up.
Dresden is such a self-righteous dick in this book. All his values, all his integrity, go right out the window. He is a rage-fueled arsehole this whole book, taking out his fury on friend and foe alike. The way he treats the Archive is deplorable, and hypocritical given his fervent defense of her not so long ago. When his buddy gets shot in the back, Dresden whines about how his day isn't going well. And the dark compacts... where is all his concern about becoming evil and harming innocents? Gone because some girl he's never met is in danger? You know who has weak rationalizations for violent and destructive behavior? Every villain in this series. Now Harry is one of them.

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