Review by Alexius White
A year and a half ago, I came across Jim Butcher’s Dead Beat. Ever since reading Dead Beat I have been in love with the Dresden Files. Of course, I had to do some back peddling and read the first six books in the contemporary/ urban fantasy series. Once all of those were done, I read all the books following Dead Beat which is the seventh book in the series. I have not as of yet read Side Jobs or Ghost Story. It’s with this in mind I must say I have mixed feels about the twelfth book, Changes.
Jim Butcher’s Changes is the twelfth book in his highly popular Harry Dresden series, better known as the Dresden Files. The book picks up a year, or so, after the last book Turn Coat. Sometime in the mist of the two books the war between the Red Court Vampire (Reds) and the White Council of Wizards has come to a pause, of sores. They still hate each other but are at a standstill. It’s not really made clear which side has called for the standstill. However, my money’s on the Reds, you need to read the book to find out why.
Changes, like the other books in the series, is told through the eyes of Harry Dresden, Chicago’s first and only wizard private investigator. The tone of this book is much darker than the other books in the series, mainly thanks to the pessimism and the pace. First, in just about all the books, Harry is way more optimistic than he is in Changes. In Blood Rites, the sixth book, he even made a special belt buckle in the shape of a bear. The buckle was used to fill him with the strength of passive energy, “like a stadium fill with screaming Harry fans.” (You have to read it.) At first I felt that one reason for this uncharacteristic pessimistic mood could be the major physical and emotional beating Harry takes in Changes. Then I remember that Harry takes a physical beating in every book. (I mean if he wasn’t a wizard with crazy hailing powers he’d be dead by now.) However, Changes establishes a new level of emotional weight for Harry. One Harry and the readers are not use to. The emotional weights are placed on Harry within the first few lines of the book. You can say what you want about Jim Butcher but the man knows how to grab the reader’s attention with only the first few lines of a book. Second, the pace of Changes is different then the other books in the series. Yes, the opening is amazing and completely out of the blue. However, the book does drags in the middle when Harry is most pessimistic. The pessimism most likely is the reason for the dragging pace, but I did have a hard time getting through it. It was just too slow and dark. The pace does pick up a lot toward the end.
Changes takes place over the course of a few days and nights. It spans Chicago, Edinburgh, and Chichen Itza, with stops in the Nevernever. Changes brings a lot of old favorite characters back. Sanya, a big Russian and an agnostic Trotskyite who nevertheless wields one of the three holy swords of the Cross, Esperachius, the sword of hope. Karrin Murphy, the Sergeant in the Chicago PD assigned to Special Investigations who takes up another one of the swords of the cross in this book. The last sword is taken up by Susan Rodriguez, Harry’s ex-girlfriend. Susan is a Red Court Vampire and a member of the Fellowship of Saint Giles.
As I said early, I had mixed feels about this book. After I finished reading Changes, I had a lot of questions, and a lot of answers to questions I never asked. There are several story lines that end with this book, which I liked. There were some things Harry did that I didn’t like but I understood he really doesn’t have a lot of opinions. I love the big fight scene toward the end of the book. When the bad guys started dying, I started cheering. It made me happy. The end of the book is amazing, love cliffhangers. Like I said before Jim Butcher knows how to get you interested.
I finally came to this conclusion about Changes, this is not the book for new comers to the Dresden Files. Don’t start with his book. It would be better to start with one of the first seven books and go from there. If you are not already a reader of this series and read Changes first you won’t get the reasoning behind a lot of Harry’s acts or the actions of the other characters. All followers of the series will read it and most likely understand my mixed feels about it.
Over all I did like the book and give it four stars.