Devourer of books with a preference for fiction. Quite good at competitive reading. Happily hoards books of all kinds. Gets stabby going too long without reading.
Dudes, this is book 14 in the series. Do NOT start with this one. Do NOT read this review if you haven't read books 12 and 13, there will be spoilers, because it's pretty much unavoidable when reviewing this book. If you're interested in the series, I would recommend starting with nr 4, Summer Knight. I would also like to heartily endorse the audio books, narrated excellently by James Marsters.
Proceed at your own risk from here-on out. Harry pays for having tried to set up his own demise to get out of his duties as the Winter Knight with some pretty physical therapy sessions at Arctis Tor, Mab's Winter stronghold. She is in turns strangely affectionate and caring, only to turn around and try to murder him creatively. For weeks on end, Harry keeps trying to fend of murder attempts, which forces him to grow strong quickly, both physically and in terms of his magic use. Sarissa, one of the Winter changelings is assigned as his physical therapist, but it's clear that the Winter Queen intends for her to be at Harry's every disposal, should he so wish it. Harry comes to realise that while the former Knight, Lloyd Slate, probably never was a stellar human being, he too easily gave in to all the baser urges that the mantle of the Winter Knight encouraged, which hurried on his moral corruption. Harry keeps fighting the feelings of intense anger, lust and jealousy throughout the book.
After several months of fun with training and murder dodging, Mab reveals her plans for Harry at a birthday party arranged in his honour. Of course, what's a Faerie party without more chances to die? Mab's daughter Maeve does her very best to seduce Harry to her side, when that fails, she tries to have him embroiled in a fight to the death instead. Makes it convenient that Mab's first command to her new knight is to get rid of said daughter, right? Harry has no idea how to go about killing an immortal, nor is he sure that he'd want to follow the order even if he figured out how to go about it. He's none to happy about the assistant Mab has given him either, the psychotic and legendary Cat Sith, who only barely conceals his contempt for the new human plaything Mab has acquired.
Because it's not a fun birthday for Harry unless he has more on his plate than one seemingly impossible task, there's also an issue with Demonreach, the hidden island in Lake Michigan which Harry bonded with (literally) a few books back. Some sort of mystical energy is building there, and it becomes clear that someone is setting up a ritual that could make the island explode, taking most of the Midwest with it if they succeed. Harry needs to figure out who is planning to target the island and stop them, as well as decide what to do about Mab's command, all in the next 24 hours. It's good to have deadlines, right?
By now, I'm pretty much in these books for the long haul. Jim Butcher has me hook, line and sinker and I am intensely attached not just to Harry (who it now seems very sure is going to survive until the end - hey, he's even done a stint as mostly dead), but to the supporting cast of Molly Carpenter, Waldo Butters, Karrin Murphy, Toot Toot the faerie, Thomas Raith, Mouse the dogasaurus, the rest of the Carpenter family and the assorted werewolves. Luckily for me, most of the characters I love show up to support Harry, as they always do, even when some of them have issues with Harry's hiding the fact that he was still alive from them for months. He inspires loyalty and devotion, even when he needs help with some pretty insane situations.
With the amount of challenges and levels of danger that Harry's been facing in the last few books, I'm honestly not sure how Butcher is going to keep amping up the tension. He's going to have to scale it down again for a few of the future books, otherwise I'm honestly sure how much he can keep ratcheting up the tension. The danger levels and stakes seem to get higher with ever book, and there doesn't seem to be that much further he can go now. What was interesting to me, was how long Butcher has clearly been building the plot strands in the series. Like in several of the previous books, so many of the important event in this book called back to previous stories. In this, much of what happens mirrors or plays on events all the way back in book 4, Summer Knight, where we first really got introduced to the various Queens of Faerie and that side of the Dresden Files universe. As I have always preferred the books that involve the faeries more than some of the other challenges Harry has faced, this was right up my alley. As Harry is now the freaking Winter Knight, it seems likely that more of future books will feature more of faerie machinations, and I'm ok with that. I'm now also completely caught up, and have already pre-ordered the audio book of Skin Game, which is out at the end of the month. Then I guess I'll have to wait impatiently for each new instalment like the rest of the fans.