One of the biggest issues with a SF/F series is in the area of character development and growth. While mysteries require no change to the characters themselves, a series has the difficult balancing act of maintaining accessibility for first time readers, while simultaneously rewarding fans with meaningful growth and character development. One of the tipping points in a series is when the hero has done so well as to move out of the circumstances that started the series, and into a larger, more demanding role, which takes them out of the series premise, and into a series of power-leveling exercises against ever-more potent foes and dangers.
Jim Butcher’s Cold Days, the penultimate entry in the Dresden Files series, manages to avoid this issue, as the wizard Harry Dresden picks up a new role following his death and aftermath in Ghost Story, but the problems (and the wisecracks) remain. As the Winter Knight to Mab, the Queen of Air and Darkness, the power level has been upped for Harry’s adversaries, but for Harry? Not so much.
A good part of the novel is spent getting the band back together, as the various members of the supporting cast are reunited with Harry and wind up working with him on his latest struggle. It’s one of them more enjoyable parts of the book, as the characters are integrated more or less seamlessly into Harry’s life, with some unexpected twists since last we saw a few of them. As the Winter Knight, there is more mayhem, and especially more intrigue, as befits a mortal working with the Sidhe.
The book flows really well, as I would expect from the fourteenth book in a series, but offers easy accessibility for the newcomer to the Dresden Files. Harry’s setting out on his new role as Winter Knight, and I’m curious to see how well the shift to a wider focus is going to play out in the series. The next novel , Skin Game, is already out (and has been since May, 2014), so we’ll get a chance to see how things shake out after this debut of a new chapter in Harry’s life.