CBRIII Maneuver #19 – Changes (The Dresden Files)
Profile: Modern Fantasy, Mage Detective
Summary: From the back of the book, “Long 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 vampiricRed Court. Susan then disappeared to South America, where she could fight both her savage gift and those who cursed her with it.
Now Arianna Ortega, Duchess of theRed Court, has discovered a secret Susan has long kept, and she plans to use it-against Harry. To prevail 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.”
After Action Report:
More book candy. Jim Butcher does a nice job of straddling the divide between raw book candy and something more substantial. At 12 novels and counting, Dresden’s litany of supernatural victories is getting a little long in the tooth, but Butcher has so far managed to keep the series from spiraling into utter worthlessness. Changes does as advertises and manages to really shake up the established circumstances, while utterly failing to move the over-plot forward.
Dresden Files books proceed in a very orderly fashion. Harry gets a case, gets pummeled, stumbles onto a second seemingly unrelated case, gets pummeled, starts putting it all together, Deus ex Magicka, plot resolution. The pummelings move around and vary in severity, but the overall plot is pretty stable. Changes does a really god job of abandoning the increasingly extraneous second case and exchanges the extra page volume turning Harry into a bloody pulp. The character always takes a beating, but this book pushes it to the extreme.
In some ways this is what the series has been building up to. Dresden has been going up against things that should have wiped the pavement with him over and over again. It isn’t surprising that he would get annihilated. Butcher uses this as a catalyst to upend the hierarchy of powers in the series. Dresden always had a strong moral compass, and thus far had managed to avoid the trending toward moral ambiguity that seems to plague the uber-powerful of his universe. But he gets one last fling as the knight in shining armor before his Faustian bargain comes back and bites him in the ass.
Changes is very much a middle novel. If the Dresden Files were condensed into a trilogy, this book would occupy much of the middle chapter. Even though the status quo is forever altered by the events of the book, we’re left in a place that feels pretty much like the place we started. The big bads that have been lurking in the background for the last half-dozen books are still off camera and will probably remain so for the next book. Any sense of forward momentum is stalled by the breakneck cliffhanger on the last page. Very much a setup for the next book.
The Dresden Files aren’t for everyone. The first person narration can get tiresome, and Butcher recycles dialogue concepts from book to book. Especially the one that goes “You can’t come. It’s too dangerous!” But the rewards are a great world setting that gets richer with every novel and a surprisingly dynamic approach to serial storytelling. Its not going to change your life, but it is still a great read.