Friday, April 16, 2010


Ah... I've missed a book that could really and truly be called a page-turner. The last several books I've read, in many ways I've struggled with them. I'm still only about halfway through Reavers of Skaith and I've been reading that for four weeks. And it's only 200 pages long! Fantasy fans (and more to the point, fantasy writers) could benefit from checking out a few mainstream suspense novels and incorporating some of their structure. There's a reason those novels are best-sellers, after all.

Jim Butcher's latest Dresden Files novel, Changes, had a very different impact on me than the books I've been struggling with recently. I got it last night at the library and was home with it again by about 9:30. Now, about 18-19 hours later, I've completely finished the 440 page novel. And I didn't even stay up all night or really miss much time from work to do it, either. It's just one of those novels that you can't put down and it just trips along so quickly that before you know it... it's over. I didn't even have time to put it on my "What I'm Reading" sidebar before it migrated into "What I've Read."

Changes is, in many ways, the novel I've been waiting for Butcher to write. All of my complaints; all of my worries about the series: he addresses 'em. He addresses 'em all. This is not one more notch in the formulaic tread of the series. This is a novel that really changes the game in profound and jaw-dropping ways. The last two novels hinted at that; the impression was certainly given that Dresden and Co. had merely scratched the surface of shadowy, dark conspiracies. But at the end of the day, they returned to (more or less) the same status quo that they were at when the book started.

Not so, this one. Dresden faces significant personal changes. Amazingly significant changes, that'll have no choice but to have a major impact on the books going forward. Murphy has major changes. The White Council faces major changes. The war with the Red Court of vampires faces major changes. Even the writing style and novel structure faces significant changes, ending on one heckuva cliffhanger. Butcher wasn't kidding when he named this novel.

It's a shame in a way that the Dresden Files novels took so long to show this kind of evolution. There's certainly a sense--a strong sense--that Butcher's writing more of these than he needs to in an attempt to stretch out the revenue stream as long as possible. That rarely leads to good results, but Butcher managed to hold it together for 11 novels with only minor hiccups along the way. By and large, they've all been very entertaining even so, the most recent ones especially.

But right when I'm at the point where I'm wondering if the series is going to continue to spin its wheels or actually finally go somewhere... man, does it go. Whew!

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