Saturday, April 10, 2010

Review: Changes

Changes by Jim Butcher
The Dresden Files #12

Not many SFF series last to book twelve.  As far as I know, this is the second longest running urban fantasy series behind Laurel K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake series, installment #19 due out this summer.  (Ok, the Dresden Files are often categorized as contemporary fantasy because the main character is male, and not female, but to me this is taking feminism a bit too far.  We have a detective story with vampires, werewolves, wizards, faeries, and everything else mankind has dreamed up set in modern Chicago.  It’s urban fantasy.)  Several of the entries in the series have hit #1 on the New York Times Bestseller list, and I would not be surprised if this one did as well.

For those of you who must be living under a rock, the Dresden Files follows one Harry Dresden, Wizard through his many adventures as a wizard with a private investigators license.  Belonging to the ancient order of wizards known as the White Council, Harry’s a bit too modern and rebellious to do that whole secrecy thing.  So he advertises his business in the phone book:
Harry Dresden – Wizard
Lost Items Found.  Paranormal Investigations.
Consulting.  Advice.  Reasonable Rates.
No Love Potions, Endless Purses, Parties, or
Other Entertainment.
Surprisingly, he does get enough business to make ends meet.  He also does consulting work for the Chicago PD’s Special Investigation’s Department, which is made up of the CPD’s misfits who get to deal with all the weird shit no one can explain without sounding like a trip to the psych ward is in order.

One issue I’ve had with the last few installments of the series is that they were beginning to feel stale.  These are the people Harry can count on for help, these are the people who are going to let him hang, and these are the bad guys.  There wasn’t a whole heck of a lot of forward momentum building, so that the reader could go ‘in the next three books, I can expect this bad guy to be gone and that issue to be solved,’ etc.  They felt almost like the boring middle season episodes in tv shows.  Yeah, they’ll give you information and build character and world development, but in the end you’ll walk away and hope that next week’s episode has a bit more flash.  Changes is a season finale.  Not series finale, mind you, just season.

As one can infer from the title, this book is about changing up the game.  The first book, Storm Front, takes place roughly ten to twelve years before Changes, and in that time Harry’s been able to put together a decent routine of solving murders, killing vampires, and saving puppies from poo slinging monkey demons.  Well, the poo has really hit the fan in this book, even for such a great poo dodger as Harry.  Harry’s old lover from the beginning of the series returns, with news that his heretofore unknown child by Susan has been kidnapped by the nastiest vampires on the planet, and she needs his help to rescue her.  After being fiercely mad at Susan (who wouldn’t be?), Harry gets down to business.  We see the return of a few old characters that have been off the map for a few books, some friendly and some decidedly not.  Harry and company have always been a bit harsh on the real estate, but this book is epic on the destruction scale.  There’s also an almost Shakespearean body count at the end.

My one complaint was that the buildup in this book was a bit slow for me.  Harry has a set list of people he calls on for help in every book, in fairly similar order.  Sure enough, he did so in this book, and the results of the team building were pretty predictable.  So while I appreciated the clue finding and piecing together of information, it was too broken up by non-interesting bits that likely could have been just as effective in summary.  But, who knows, clues to future books may have been in there, we’ll just have to wait and see.  Hopefully, with the amount of changes in the book, the format of the next few books will change up a bit.  Harry should be dealing with different sets of problems, and have different tools at his disposal.  If you like the Dresden Files, this one is a must read, or you’re going to be VERY lost in future installments.


Post a Comment