Book Review: Changes

In the previous review of a Jim Butcher book, I was looking at his Codex Alera series. Today, I’m looking at the latest book in his Dresden Files series – Changes. [NOTE: There are some spoilers contained below. Nothing that you shouldn’t know if you haven’t read some of the books and the blurb on the back cover.]

Some background: Harry Dresden is a wizard, the only wizard listed in the yellow pages in Chicago under “Wizard”. He has a cat called Mister, a dog called Mouse, a knowledge spirit that lives in a skull called Bob and an ex-girlfriend (Susan) who was infected by the Red Court vampires and now lives very far away from him. In Changes, Susan comes back, and tells Harry that the Red Court has taken their daughter (which he never knew about). The search and rescue against the Red Court is on, and time is not on Harry’s side.

What I’ve always liked about Jim Butcher is that he gives his characters depth – they have, well, character. Harry Dresden has immense depth. He makes tough choices, he makes mistakes, he cracks jokes when he shouldn’t, he fights against the odds for everyone besides himself – and gets beaten to a pulp many times because of it. Dresden, however, is not the only character with that kind of depth. All of Jim Butcher’s characters have motivations, expressions, quirks and mannerisms that set them apart from everyone else. All of his characters are unique, and that is probably the biggest reason that I still love his books.

Changes follows where Turn Coat left off, and boy-oh-boy did it give me a shock.

In Changes, Harry makes choices that you would never expect an author to actually let his characters do. In Changes, Harry faces situations that you wouldn’t expect an author to put his characters in. In Changes, things happen that affect everyone. This is a very “real” fantasy novel. The characters don’t have choices between clear-cut right and wrong – at best, they have selections of varying shades of grey, and sometimes it’s a choice between bad and worse. Changes made me stop and think many times, and even now that I’ve had lots of time to think it through, I still have no idea what I’d do if I were in a situation like that.

The plot is great, especially because of the twists and turns presented by the horrible choices that the characters have to make. Things happen that you couldn’t predict and I found myself reading short sections twice just to make sure that I had indeed read it correctly. The one thing that shines through is the overall theme – the title of the book – Changes. People make choices. Things change – and not always for the better.

It really is an amazing book, and the series as a whole is good (though my brother would disagree). The characters are rich, deep and well thought out, and like I’ve said – the plot is great. If you like fantasy, if you like good literature, then odds are that you’ll like the series. If you’ve read the previous books in the series and liked them, you’ll love this one. You’ll laugh; tear-up a little; be horrified; be shocked; and at the end of it, you’ll wish it had a few hundred more pages.

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