Sunday, January 12, 2014

Review: Changes (The Dresden Files #12)

Long ago, Susan Rodriguez was Harry Dresden’s lover-until she was attacked by his enemies, leaving her torn between her own humanity and the bloodlust of the vampiric Red Court. Susan then disappeared to South America, where she could fight both her savage gift and those who cursed her with it.

Now Arianna Ortega, Duchess of the Red Court, has discovered a secret Susan has long kept, and she plans to use it-against Harry. To prevail this time, he may have no choice but to embrace the raging fury of his own untapped dark power. Because Harry’s not fighting to save the world…

He’s fighting to save his child.

Changes, by Jim Butcher, is the twelfth novel in the Dresden Files series. Harry Dresden, Chicago's only professional wizard, gets a call from his ex-girlfriend and half-vampire, Susan Rodriguez: "They've taken our little girl." Harry pauses for 5 seconds and then says, "Um, what?" In a single phone call, his life turns upside down. This shocking news hit him like a nuclear explosion. Harry is a father?!? In his childhood, he was an orphan who never knew his deceased mother (Margaret LaFey) and his father died when he was a toddler. Harry values family deeply, but he is both angry and disappointed that Susan never told him about his eight-year-old daughter, Maggie Angelica Dresden. More importantly, she has been taken by the Red Court vampires as a human sacrifice that would ultimately kill the child and everyone related to her, including Harry. Talk about a bad wake-up call.

Once he realizes the severity of the case, Harry is willing to compromise all of his values and even his own soul to save his daughter. His mentor, Ebenezer McCoy states, "I understand Harry, your little girl is in trouble and you want to be there for her." But Harry replies, "Not want to be", I said quietly, "going to be". After losing his office, home, and the support of the White Council in unexpected attacks, it's a wonder that Harry didn't lose his sanity. The Red Court vampires planned the ultimate plot against Harry. Thus, he must turn to the only person who can help save his daughter and himself: Mab, the Winter Queen of Air and Darkness. With his trusted companions and faith on his side, he embarks on a rescue mission where he will have to face an ancient and dark nemesis that is beyond his power. If he succeeds, Harry will be forever a changed man.

Oh wow! Jim Butcher did it again. He really knows how to tear a reader's heart out! Just as when I thought this would be another typical case for Harry, Butcher sets the stakes high and completely challenges Harry's values under dire circumstances. The title, Changes, is completely appropriate for this novel. Everything in Dresden's worldview changes: (1) He makes alliances he never thought he would choose, (2) he loses people that I didn't think he would see again, (3) he learns major secrets about his family heritage, and (4) somehow gains a new person I never saw coming: a daughter! Harry is a father, which puts him in a different category. He's no longer a lone ranger fighting against evil. He must protect his child against powerful enemies who will use that weakness against him. He knows this ugly truth, and thus trusts her to Father Forthill so that no one knows of her existence.

[Warning: This section contains major spoilers.] This is a new direction for the future of the Dresden Files series. When I thought Harry's adventures were getting stale, Butcher masterfully created a storyline that forced Dresden into a dangerous situation beyond his control that requires sacrifice. Harry doesn't like this reality but he had no choice when someone else's life is at stake. He also blames himself for Karrin Murphy losing her police career in the end. However, Murphy reminds him that she knew the consequences of her actions to help Harry and never regretted her decisions. Another shocker was mastermind half-vampire Martin's true motives. He revealed the truth to Harry through a soulgaze: Despite his wicked past, Martin set up the kidnapping as a ploy that would ultimately destroy the Red Court. Surprisingly, his calculated plan (which included him dying in the process) that had Dresden as the hero and Susan as the martyr succeeded. Finally, when readers thought Harry survived to live another day, a lone assassin finally shoots him when he's most vulnerable. Is Harry really dead or Butcher has some more magic up his sleeve?

Stay tuned for the first omnibus in the Dresden Files series, Side Jobs: Stories from the Dresden Files

Stay tuned for the thirteenth novel in the Dresden Files series, Ghost Story.

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