I am a diehard Dresden Files fan, and with each successive book, I’ve gone in expecting to be thoroughly entertained. This time around I was not.
I was absolutely mindblown.
ETA: Putting a cut tag in here because while I’m not revealing anything that isn’t revealed on Jim’s own site in the blurb for the novel or the preview chapter he posted, if you want to remain absolutely spoiler-free, you’ll want to skip this review post.
Jim Butcher knew what he was doing when he titled this book. From the very first sentence, everything you think you know about Harry Dresden, all the people he knows and loves, and the world in which he operates is turned completely on its ear. The biggest of these changes was revealed on Jim’s own site, so I will go so far as to say that yeah, revealing that Harry has a small daughter he never knew about? WHOA.
But that’s only just the beginning. Sure, it’s an earth-shattering revelation for Harry, but the fact that it’s a daughter by Susan, the long-lost lover who’d left him to go to South America and fight the vampire transformation that’s been enforced upon her, is only the first of a one-two punch. The other blow? The kid’s been taken by the Red Court vampires. And she’s going to be sacrificed.
I have to admit that I was deeply leery of the idea of setting Harry up with a kid. He’s matured a lot through the course of the series, and the Harry of this book is absolutely better father material than the Harry of the initial books would have been. That said? Harry also lives an extremely dangerous life, one which is not suited under any circumstances to caring for a small child. But I needn’t have worried. Jim handles everything pertaining to the kid quite believably, including what eventually happens to her. If anything, my only beef about her at all is that little Maggie is barely an actual character presence in the story; she’s way more of a MacGuffin than she is a member of the cast.
And. And. And. Really, this book’s way less about Harry going “ZOMG I’M A FATHER” (though don’t get me wrong, it’s absolutely about that) than it is about how Harry’s determination to save his little girl lays unutterable waste to everything about his life. And I do mean everything. Long time fans of the series, you better be prepared to have all of the little signature details you’ve come to know and love about what makes Harry Harry to be blown to kingdom come.
And be prepared for a cliffhanger, because Jim Butcher is a cliffhanger-writing BASTARD. Hopefully he won’t actually be making a habit of this–hopefully this’ll just be a feature of the fact that this is the midpoint of the series. But I can forgive him the cliffhanger just because this is hands down the best novel he’s written yet. The writing is flawless, and Butcher’s got his sense of pacing down to a finely honed art by now; in the big climactic battle sequence, I had that thrilling “MUST! READ! NEXT! PARAGRAPH!” urgency that comes with truly epic adventure.
Five very, very well deserved stars.