Book Review: Changes: A Novel of the Dresden Files

"Magic is pretty damned cool when things get rowdy, but there are times when there's no replacing a firearm," says Harry Dresden. As a licensed private investigator and a professional wizard, Harry has seen it all at least twice in the noirish Chicago that Jim Butcher has gleefully invented for him: start counting the uses for both cool magic and deadly firearms in this rip-roaring 12th entry in the Dresden Files series.

Bravado and snappy wise-guy comebacks are Harry's trademarks; backing down in a confrontation is not an option, no matter what the consequences might be. Proudly, Harry has earned his reputation among the wizards of the White Council as their "most famous maybe-psychotic problem child." Nothing scares Harry, not even the sworn enemies of the White Council, the relentless vampires of the Red Court.

And then one day the phone rings. Harry picks it up and the conversation leaves him in shock. What could shock a swaggering, jaded, self-assured, maniac wizard/PI into speechlessness? In the great noir tradition, there's a woman involved. Susan Rodriguez, the love of Harry's life, had walked out on him years before with nary a goodbye. Of course, she had been kidnapped by Red Court vampires and converted to a half-vampire but, really, is that any reason to leave a happy ménage with someone like Harry?

Hearing from Susan after so long is a surprise, but it is not enough to shock; the bad news is that Duchess Arianna of the Red Court has kidnapped their daughter, Maggie, and may have dastardly plans for her. When Harry finally recovers his ability to speak, he utters words to the effect, "Daughter? We have a daughter?"

Readers will wisely fasten their seatbelts as Harry begins the nonstop chase to reclaim Maggie. Throughout, Harry remains insouciant on the surface, but mad fury roils beneath. A loose cannon equipped with force rings and fire wands, he flies between mortal worlds and wizard realms as the clock tick-tick-ticks on the vampires' countdown toward Maggie's blast-off into a mysterious, and probably deadly, ritual. The Red Court is evil, but is it united?

All bureaucracies, even those populated by wizards and vampires, have internally warring factions, and Butcher exploits that reality for maximum suspense as Harry races madly against the clock. As Harry advises, "Find a way to make your enemy be your weapon." Up to the last satisfying set of unexpected twists in Changes, we have no idea if Harry will succeed in doing just that. --John McFarland

Shelf Talker: Nonstop fun and suspense as wizard and private investigator Harry Dresden races against the clock to reclaim a daughter he never knew existed.


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