After the traumatic events of Changes and the beyond-death escapade of Ghost Story, readers might have been looking forward to the Dresden Files returning to something of a status quo. Harry Dresden, wizard and detective-for-hire could get back on the streets, tracking down ne’er do-goods of both the human and supernatural sort, using his wits, magic, powerful allies, and irreverent humor in order to see justice done.
Such is not meant to be, however.
(Warning: Spoilers for those who have not read Changes and Ghost Story)
In Ghost Story, it was revealed that Harry made a deal with Mab, the Fae Queen of Winter, agreeing to become her Winter Knight in exchange for healing and enough power to go rescue his daughter from an entire nation of vampires. Now that the situation has been put to rights and Harry’s soul is back in his body, Mab is forcing him to keep his part of the bargain, and she begins his “training” by attempting to murder him every day for a couple weeks straight.
And once Harry is strong enough to actively play the Winter Knight role, Mab’s first mission is for him to kill an immortal. At the same time, Harry becomes aware of a threat to a source of magical power that, if ignored, could unleash a plague of evil demigods on the world. So he has to find a way to circumvent a few magical laws while also ensuring a few stay unbroken.
No big deal, right?
One of the underlying issues in Cold Days is how Dresden has been or might be changed by his new station as the Winter Knight. It’s argued that the mantle of the Winter Knight inevitably changes whoever takes it on. No matter how pure their motives might be to begin with, they’ll eventually end up being a cold-hearted monster who thrives on violence and pure animalistic appetite. Yet is this Dresden’s fate, or can he find a way to hold on to his soul?
Another major revelation is a new Big Bad antagonist, who actually has been around since the beginning of the series–just waiting in the wings, subtly influencing people and events until conditions are ripe for invasion and conquest on a much grander scale. Readers start getting clearer glimpses of just how terrible a threat this is, and how much it has already impacted Dresden’s life without him even knowing.
If anything, Cold Days does at least a dozen things to shake up expectations even more and placing things in a constant flux. Harry’s powers are evolving, his personality is shifting, his allies are different, and by the end, some major players have either been eliminated or have inherited new responsibilities that are going to severely affect their plans to take it easy for a while.
It’s been stated how Jim Butcher plotted out the Dresden Files to be a twenty book series with a three-part apocalyptic finale. Now that we’ve hit book #14, there’s a definite ramping up of the stakes, the action, and the lengths Dresden and Co. will go to achieve their goals. Whatever cases Harry ends up facing in the next few entries, there’s little doubt that Harry’s battle to maintain his identity will remain a major focus, alongside further exploration of the terrifying enemy that has made its presence known.
And this reader simply cannot wait to see how these story elements continue to play out!