Although it may be obvious, I feel it only fair to mention that I am a fan and so cannot discuss this book dispassionately. But if you love the series, love the enchanted world of Harry Dresden and Jim Butcher ... I'm there with you. I have read every book Jim Butcher has written, or at least every one I have been able find via the good offices of Amazon or Audible.
I listen to them, read them, listen to them again and wait impatiently for the next installment. I even liked the TV series, though it was hardly the Harry I knew. I mean really, he didn't even have his leather duster. I loved it anyhow. When you're hooked, you're hooked.
The previous book, "Ghost Story" in which Harry was neither entirely alive nor dead was treacherous and difficult for Harry's fans. I liked it well enough, though it certainly was a change from previous Harry Dresden adventures. I was sure it was a bridge to the next phase of Harry's wizarding. I was right.
In "Cold Days," Harry is back, in the flesh. Changed, less careless of life having more or less lost it ... but as the Knight of Winter, he is powerful in new ways. This is just as well because his foes are stronger than ever and they aren't going away.
"Cold Days" is very satisfying. Although Harry gets pulverized, I am consoled knowing Harry will survive what would kill an ordinary mortal. He has already survived death. Earlier books ended with more resolution than the last few books have done. Now, each book is an episode in a continuing story line.
Jim Butcher is a clever. He extracts Harry from impossible predicaments wherein he faces horrendous odds, then adroitly uses these apparently hopeless situations to move the story in a new direction that will become the next book. No event is wasted. Everything is part of a giant jigsaw puzzle. A piece of the full picture is revealed in each subsequent installment.
Which brings me to my one criticism: the sudden inexplicable alterations of existing characters in which they reverse their previous persona. From a reader's point of view, such sudden turnarounds are a jolting. While there are no rules about this sort of thing, having an evil character suddenly become a good one or vice versa is disorienting. It takes a bit of time, with me sitting there and says "what?" until I am able to realign my thinking. A few extra hints along the way might be helpful. But it's a quibble. For all I know, there were hints I missed because I was looking the other way.
I'd keep reading even if the characters started walking on their hands and speaking Latin, but wouldn't mind less abrupt transitions. It's not a matter of believability; more like giving readers a chance to catch up with the author who for obvious reasons is way ahead of us. If you are already a Harry Dresden fan, reality is unlikely to be your issue. You probably left it behind a long time ago. Harry's world of wizards, demons, ghosts, strange immortal beings, mythological creatures and weirdness of every type is far removed from reality, but within the rules Jim Butcher has created for the Dresden world, it flows better if characters' personalities change in accordance with what we know of them. Just saying.
I love the Dresden universe. My world has more than enough evil to keep an army of wizards busy, but the evil on this plane is likely to consist of grey bureaucrats, smarmy politicians. Fighting them is like trying to punch a hole in jello. You can't beat them; they have no substance.
In Jim Butcher's world, Harry fights evil for me. He takes his lumps and then some, but he's out there fighting for justice, right and good, even when it seems he's taken the wrong turn. Despite appearances, Harry is never bad. He is stubborn, too wedded to his own opinions and habits. He's a poor listener and does not heed advice, a combination that has cost him dearly.
Yet Harry is changing. He has grown. He's painfully (in the most literal sense) aware of his mortality and fragility. He knows he's made terrible mistakes he can never set right. He's not cocksure; he's more of a planner, less inclined to charge headlong into danger unless it is the only possible course. Mindless violence is no longer his default setting. This is good.
I'm sensing a climactic conclusion to the series coming. I would love the series to go on forever, but that is not the way of authors. There will be a few more books, relationships to work out, a future to plan, but ultimately, Harry Dresden and Jim Butcher will move on. I hope what comes next will be at half as good. Harry's awesome reality has become a metaphysical home away from home. Maybe in my next incarnation I will have magic of my own ... but in this life, I'll have to settle for the me I am. It may not be much, but it's what I have to work with.
James Marsters' excellent narration adds enormously to the pleasure of the story. He's the right narrator: don't switch!!.
The story within a story (or play within a play), what is real versus what's fiction is not a new or original concept, no matter how many readers seem to think it is. Shakespeare used it and as Scalzi himself bears witness, there have been a lot of movies, books, plays and so on that have used one or another variations on this theme. I don't have a problem with that. In fact, I like his wililingness to explore a classic theme and was interested to see where he was going with it. I also appreciated his acknowledgments of others who have used some version of this story.
I really enjoyed the first part of the book, the interaction of characters with reality/unreality. I wasn't bothered by "he said/she said" and didn't much notice it. What I did notice by the end of the first coda as he was moving into the next ending? variation? was I was getting bored.
It really was like a piece of classical music that has one coda too many,
I liked the first coda well enough. His exploration of the mind of a writer in the throes of writer's block was interesting, although a bit heavy-handed. By the final coda, I was antsy and felt as if I had slipped back in time to find myself in a college writing class .. not a good thing.
I listened through to the end, though I drifted a bit toward at the finish as the book pounded relentllessly to its conclusion.
Less would have been more. It was a good idea, a clever concept. It had good narration. But it needed more plot. It felt like a movie that runs out of script 20 minutes before it runs out of film, too thin a tale to support its own length. I've read lots worse ... but Scalzi has written much better.
It has been a long wait since Perfect Blood. I read it at least four times in print and as an audiobook. When Ever After arrived, showing up simultaneously on my Kindle and in my Audible account the day before yesterday, I was dizzy with excitement. Finally!
Casual readers for whom books are just another way to pass the time will never understand the particular excitement of receiving a long-awaited book. This was a joyous event, a happy day. Finally, the next installment of the Hollows.
The thrill isn't gone, not by a long shot. I had just completed "A Memory of Light," the fourteenth and final book of Robert Jordan's (now Brian Sanderson's) Wheel of Time, so I needed to travel from one magical realm to another. It is a testament to my mental agility that I can slide so swiftly between planes of unreality and nary miss a beat.
I always read the audio version first, then read the book in print. Margeurite Gavin is so much the voice of the Hollows I can't imagine anyone doing a better narration. She was perfect as she has been in previous books.
I want to avoid spoilers since the book was released just two days ago and many fans haven't read it yet. I'll update it later when more people have had a chance to read it. In the meantime, I'm not going to tell you what happens, but I will tell you how I feel about it.
I had been enjoying the book. I was missing Ivy -- though not as much as I thought I would -- until I got to the second part of the book. At that point, I went from enjoying it to being enthralled.
After another chapter or two, Ever After had become so exciting and I was so gripped by the story, I trotted out to the living room and announced: "This book is so good you aren't going to see me again until I'm finished." I believe I babbled a bit more, then went back to my office and back to the world of magical Cincinnati, the saving of the Ever After, the world, and the shaping of Rachel Morgan's future.
Two hours later, the book ended.
I sighed, sitting there, absorbing the silence, unwilling to let go of the magic and bump down to my real world. So I stayed there for a while. Then I turned the computer off. It was late, nearly seven and past dinner time. I turned the oven on -- frozen pizza would have to do -- too late for anything more complicated.
Ever After was the most satisfying reading experience I've had in a long time. It scratched all my literary itches. There was magic passion and battles. There was a blooming of love and hope, the sadness of loss, and powerful demons to vanquish. I mourned the fallen, exalted for the living and dreamed about the what might lie in the future.
If a witch, an elf and a demon can work together to save the world, what other dreams may come?
Will Patton is an amazingly appropriate voice for the Dave Robicheaux books. Even though I know his work as an actor ... and he has done a lot of work on some pretty important series -- he's so authentic to my ears as the the narrator since Mark Hammer passed away that I never see the actual Will Patton in my mind, only the images formed by the words of the author. This is, in my opinion, exactly the way it should be. The narrator is the vehicle, not the star. That's a great deal harder than it sounds.
I love this series. I recognize that Dave and Clete are getting pretty long in the tooth, but the author also recognizes it, acknowledge it. I had thought the last one might be the end of the series, but it was good to have the guys back. It was also very interesting to get a look at the world from Clete's point of view, surprisingly different from that of Dave. His very different life experiences and childhood changed the picture and I very much enjoyed it, making this the best of the series in a while ... maybe three or four books.
I sense that the boys are going to have to pack it up and pack it in pretty soon. The Bobbsey Twins from Homocide are getting tired and I suspect that the author is getting a little tired of them. It's been a long and excellent run. I hope there will be a couple more books to come, but regardless, James Lee Burke is a fine author and if it isn't Dave and Clete, it'll be someone else.
And that will be good, too.
First, you don't have to guess that this is an other-worldly version of The Magnificent 7 (AKA The 7 Samurai) because King tells you it is in his intro. So I'm not giving anything away because it's no secret. It's beautifully done. This is NOT a horror story. It is fantasy fiction with a wonderful plot, a great reader, and King writing at his best.
I'm not a fan of King's horror genre stories. Just not my thing. But oh my, this man can write and when he is at the top of his game, nobody writes better. He is not merely a good writer: he's a great one. Lyrical. Elegant. Creative. Of this series, this was my favorite and remains so. For anyone who loves really well-written sci-fi fantasy, this is absolutely worth your time. Although reading it as part of the series certainly helps to keep track of the characters and locales (King references places from other stories and brings in characters from other books), nonetheless the book does stand on its own legs. You might miss some references if you're not a King fan and haven't read all his other books (I'm one of them and my son, a die-hard King fan had to fill me in on who was who), but the story works regardless.
If you've read this in hardcopy with the wonderful illustrations, it's still worth giving this a listen ... especially if it has been a few years since your initial reading. Audio is just a different reading experience. Different pacing, differently nuanced. And absolutely worth your time.
I was feeling bereft after finishing Mike Carey's Felix Castor series (the final two not available on Audible for reasons I cannot fathom, but available in print and for Kindle) ... and then, I found Harry Dresden.He has kept me well-entertained for weeks and if this is the end, I will miss him very much.
Although not my absolutely favorite fantasy series, it is up in the top five and I have enjoyed every single one of these books. This one is quite different than all previous ones ... and for a while, I felt like I'd wandered into a different series. But Butcher is a fine writer and skillfully brings you back to a Harry you recognize, albeit a somewhat subdued, thoughtful ... as well as sadder and wiser ... version of him. The end caught me by surprise, though really, when I thought about it, it shouldn't have. I don't want to spoil it for you, but I will say that the end was perhaps both inevitable and highly appropriate. I just didn't see it coming.
Butcher leaves room to continue the series if he chooses, but he could leave it as is and that would be okay too.
This is a fine series. It's fun, there's lots of violence, crazy monsters, many complex characters who are evil, but not entirely ... good, but not entirely. Lots of shades of grey and with some notable exceptions ... but there ARE exceptions. There are a few totally evil characters and some nearly perfect good guys. Harry Dresden is well-intentioned, but far from perfect. He came a long way since the beginning of the series and I hope there will be at least one more book. All things come to an end, but I would be glad for a bit more time to hang with Harry Dresden.
If you are serious fan of Fox News, maybe. And if you're genuinely convinced that there's a terrorist behind every rock and anyone who doesn't agree with you is an anti-American potential terrorist, you'll love it.
How about believable characters? A real plot wouldn't have hurt either.
The narrator was fine. The book was almost a parody of Clancy's earlier efforts. Is Tom Clancy actually writing the books at all any more?
I wouldn't have published it. If it were a different author, it probably wouldn't have sold.
This is the third disappointment in a row from an author who used to write great thrillers. I never agreed with his politics, but the books were good. Now, the characters are all stereotypes and the plots are simplistic and silly. The great wealth of detail and careful crafting of characters and plots that made his book outstanding are just gone. They've been gone for a while, but I kept hoping that they'd show up again. I have hoped and faithfully bought the books ... but now, I think it's over for me. I'm going to give up on this author. I seriously doubt Clancy is writing the books himself anymore. They don't sound like his writing. I don't even recognize the characters: they have the same names, but they don't act like they did. Sad.
I couldn't get into it. I wanted to, but the concept is very dated and dark. I am a big fan of "after the end" science fiction, but this didn't do it for me, even though I really like Will Patton as a narrator. Maybe at some point I'll go back and give it another shot, but not now. And probably not soon.
I devoured this series when it was first published and really loved them. So I was thrilled when unabridged versions finally showed up on Audible. It was a long wait. I wanted to love these books to death, but I didn't. I enjoyed them, yes, but love them? The world has turned and a lot has changed since they were written. The urban vampire genre has come of age and there are some very gifted writers churning out some fine work (my favorite: Kim Harrison) and sad to say, Anne Rice's vampires seem pretty stiff and contrived in comparison. And oh the lectures on morality. Yikes, I had forgotten how preachy she is. Sometimes (but far from always!) what she has to say is interesting. Certainly her ability to take a long view of human development through history can be entertaining... to a point. If you keep in mind that Ms. Rice was a bit of a pioneer in the genre, it is easier to accept the tales' limitations. "Queen of the Damned," with its very complex plot and characters is my favorite of the series. This is my second favorite. Or was. I am unlikely to reread it. Just ... well ... not good enough. I wish it were. I wanted it to be better. I really really did. Oh well. Perhaps I expected too much.
These are very long books and there are a lot of them. This is the first of the series. I suspect it will turn out to be the most interesting of the bunch (I'm currently completing book 2). There are lots of battles, lots of evil doers plotting bad stuff, albeit sometimes for what they believe are good reasons. There is much varied terrain in a well-designed universe where fortunately for us, everyone speaks vernacular English. The narrator is very good, although his repertoire of accents and voices is a bit limited. Sometimes hard to tell the girls from the boys and there are way too many London cockneys in this strange land. And far too much pointless description of food and meals in general. I really don't care. It sure does add a lot of pages to the book, but I don't thing it adds anything else. This is a good series if you like this kind of thing (I do), but don't be expecting J.R.R. Tolkien or even Robert Jordon. Martin isn't that good. He isn't lacking in grammar or basic authoring skills, but it does feel like he is working very hard as the books unfold. I found myself drifting off far too often. Is it worth reading? Yes, probably. If length matters and you like a lotta book for your credits, you'll certainly feel you've gotten your money's worth. I am finishing book 2. I will probably read at least one or two more ... eventually ... but I suspect I won't finish the whole series. I just don't love it enough to spend that much time in this world.
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