Reviews: Cold Days

Incredibly Lackluster

It's surprisingly hard for me to recommend Cold Days. Nothing really clicks compared to past books. The tone zigzags around, a lot of new things are thrown at us, the humor tends to fall flat more often, and there's too much stuff that could be cut out. Even a lot of the references seem forced, like they're there because they have to be. I suppose it'll appeal to the biggest fans, but everyone else should approach with caution.

The biggest problem is the book's pacing. In and of itself, the plot isn't that bad, but it takes an incredibly long time to get going. About fifty pages pass before the plot begins properly, and as soon as it gets some momentum, it grinds to a screeching halt to make way for a completely different one. And just as that one starts moving, it stalls for a second to introduce another one. By this time, the book is about halfway over. A large chunk of the book is exposition for concepts seen in-depth (or at all) for the first time, which makes me wonder if it could've been split into two. It certainly feels like it; the plotlines don't mesh particularly well and there are several subplots that ultimately go nowhere.

"Bigness", for lack of a better word, is another problem. As the fae (and, later, Outsiders) play a large part in the book, it's important to capture their inhumanness. However, almost all of their descriptions, whether as a group or individuals, have the same formula: "You think X is really Y? That's just peanuts compared to Z!" Rinse and repeat over and over and over and over. It just doesn't stop. It doesn't get much better when Things and Concepts Mortals Cannot Comprehend start appearing; the descriptions are all variations on, "You wouldn't understand." Combining these prevented me from getting engaged in the story in any meaningful way and the stakes were quickly so absurdly high that I figured there was no way Harry could lose. If the next book wants to be good, its scale should be a lot smaller.

Most frustratingly, loads and loads of questions are brought up. An arc is obviously beginning to form to answer these, but there are just so many dangling threads. If this keeps up in the next few books, I'll stop following the books altogether. I've seen the series have its ups and downs, but this is probably the worst book yet.

Great fun to read, and fills in a lot of lore

I really can't remember the last time I read a book that was this much fun. It seemed like at least once every four pages something happened that made me want to smile or even laugh out loud. The Dresden books followed a monster-of-the-week format for the first 10 or so volumes, changing in 11 when they dealt with a traitor in the White Council and then, apparently, ditching that format entirely with Changes. The old books were great fun, but I gotta say... I prefer the new Dresden.

Ghost Story was something of a miss, in my opinion, except for some scintillating details about how things worked on the angel's side of the curtain in the Dresdenverse. Cold Days is much more like it. The first 50 or so pages, which the other reviewer slams as being unimportant to the plot, function as something of an overview of what life is like in Winter. After that, the story launches into an epic confrontation that ties together a surprising number of past Dresden stories, fires a number of Chekov guns, and gives a strong indication of where things are going to go from here.

While the book is great, at this stage of the game it can only be recommended to a real Dresden fan, so I'll try and contrast it with the older books from that point of view. This book seems substantially darker in tone; the new impulses the Winter Knight mantle give Dresden are a little disturbing. I don't remember anybody saying "fuck" in previous Dresdens, and it happens in this book on a fairly regular basis. It has gotten more explicit in other senses too - Dresden was always given to lurid descriptions of the females in his life, and that has intensified in this new book but at times it comes across as extraneous fanservice. It ties together and explains a large number of different forces at work in Dresden's world (about damn time), moves all his personal relationships forward (in one particular case, ABOUT DAMN TIME) and then drops some Changes-level ... changes ... on some of his supporting characters.

All in all, this book is a great read but more than anything makes me very excited for the next few volumes. Even if it returns to a monster-of-the-week format again, this book shows that Dresden is swinging in a totally different weight class now, with stakes higher than ever.