Tag Archives: Penguin

Review: “Cold Days” by Jim Butcher

Title: Cold Days
Author: Jim Butcher
Series: The Dresden Files #14
Rating: *****
Publisher/Copyright: Penguin, 2012

SPOILER ALERT! This review contains spoilers, not for Cold Days  but for the two previous books, Changes and Ghost Story.

Harry Dresden was the only professional wizard in the Chicago phonebook. But a lot can happen over the course of three books….First, the Red Court vampires kidnapped his daughter (whom he didn’t know existed) and tried to sacrifice her in a spell that would wipe out her entire lineage–including Harry and a number of the senior wizards of the White Council. Which was about when Harry fell and broke his back, paralyzing himself at least for the short term. In order to gain the power to save his daughter, Harry sold his soul and accepted the position of Winter Knight for the Winter Court of the Fae. Power corrupts, and the power of the Winter Knight is about as corrupting an influence as you can find–and Harry is well aware of the monster he would make if he allowed it to happen. No sooner is his daughter safe and sound than Harry finds himself on the receiving end of a high-powered sniper rifle….awakening months later to find himself a disembodied spirit. He doesn’t really have time to get used to it though, because something is stalking Chicago’s spooks. To make matters worse, Chicago has become a very scary place without its resident wizard to deter the baddies and Harry’s friends are all in very real danger. Even as a ghost, Harry can’t resist putting himself between his friends and danger….but at the end of the day, crisis averted for now, Harry awakens once more in his own body. He’s been comatose for months on his island, being tended by the island’s conciousness Demonreach and the Winter Queen, Mab. Turns out, she won’t let her new knight go that easily….

Harry lives! He’s been nursed back to health in the depths of Arctis Tor, stronghold of the Winter Court and his new boss, Mab, the Winter Queen. He is hers to command, at least so far as she can convince him is necessary. And her first job for him? Killing Maeve, her daughter the Winter Lady. This doesn’t make sense on multiple levels, as a mortal simply does not have the power to kill an immortal except in very rare and specific situations, none of which are scheduled any time soon. To make matters worse, there’s something wrong with Demonreach, the island Harry has a complicated connection with. If he doesn’t find a way to prevent it, half the Midwest is going to become a crater. To make matters worse, Harry is only now becoming aware of the true face and purpose of what he has been referring to as the Black Council. It is not at all what he has thought it is, and anyone could be compromised. All of the allies he trusts think he is dead. He can call on the power of the Winter Knight, but even if he is able to avoid becoming a monster that may not be enough to tip the scales in his favor this time….

The crazy thing about the Dresden files is how the author, Jim Butcher, manages to make each book more epic than the last. I finished this book less than two days ago and I’m already jonesing for the next installment. May it come quickly….I am very anxious to see how events play out following that ending.

Content: This is rated R. The language is occasionally harsh, but not gratuitous. The violence can be brutal, but fits the tone of the book. Harry Dresden inhabits a very dark world, and it gets darker with every book. He tries to be a force for the light, but sometimes he has to settle for lessening the darkness. There is a fair amount of sexual content, again, not gratuitous, but present nonetheless. Obviously, this book contains magic. I am very impressed by how respectfull of Christianity Butcher is, however, and I encourage you not to dismiss this out of hand.

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Review: “City Of Dark Magic” by Magnus Flyte

Title: City Of Dark Magic
Author: Magnus Flyte (Pseudonym for Meg Howrey & Christina Lynch)
Series: City Of Dark Magic #1
Rating: ***
Publisher/Copyright: Penguin, 2012

I received a free copy of City Of Dark Magic via Goodreads’ FirstReads program, which I highly recommend checking out. The idea is that the publisher or author creates buzz for the books by releasing copies of them to readers who are encouraged to review them on the internet. This is one of those books I signed up for in the first frenzy of finding the program–I probably would not have picked it up from the library or a bookstore, and I don’t know if I would sign up for the giveaway in a less frenzied state. Frankly, the descriptions don’t really sound like a book that’s up my alley. That said, it was entertaining despite its flaws.

Sarah Weston is a music student who is offered a job out of the blue cataloging the handwritten Beethoven manuscripts for a Prague museum. But all is not as it seems….her mentor (who had been in Prague doing the same job Sarah is to do) supposedly commited suicide, which Sarah finds highly suspicious. She’s not sure what to think of the various other academics and staff working at Prague Castle in preparation for the museum opening–every one of them is odd in their own way. Even stranger is Nicolas Pertusato, a dwarf with a bad attitude and more secrets than a man should be able to aquire in one lifetime, and Max Anderson Lobkowicz, the newly-returned prince of the Czech royal family who Sarah feels an irrational connection with despite–or because of–his air of mystery. But when people begin showing up murdered, Sarah will have to decide who she can trust as she tries to stay alive and figure out what is going on….Throw in time travel, a flatulant Beethoven, mysterious “Hell Portals, a cold-hearted US Senator who will do anything to keep her past under wraps, and you have the chaotic acid trip that is City of Dark Magic.

This is kind of an odd book, and doesn’t quite fit into any particular genre. (You get the impression this is by choice, but from looking at reviews I have to conclude that more people are annoyed by it than are fans of the effect. I didn’t mind it, aside from it making this part of the review difficult.) Spy thriller? Sure, sometimes. Romantic comedy? Yeah, I can see that. Paranormal thriller? Yes, but not as much as the cover and synopsis imply. Mostly that comes at the very end. Historical Fiction? Not really, though for all I know all the historical info you get is completely accurate. I’m not a Beethoven scholar. Young Adult offering? The tone says yes, but the content says no. Erotica? No, but not for lack of trying.

Like I said, the book was entertaining despite its flaws–it held my interest, and for me that covers a multitude of sins when reviewing a book. That said, it did have a number of fairly problematic flaws that some people won’t be able to get past.
–The book is set up as a suspense thriller, but lacks suspense. Sarah is trying to figure out just what is going on, but you the reader already know what the villain is up to and who she is because you’ve been in her head from almost the beginning of the book!
–Through most of the book the villain is remembering a character by his first name and trying to recover evidence of their relationship that would be fairly damning for her career. At the same time Sarah is tracking the same character through the archives by his last name, trying to figure out what he did with certain items. This would be the perfect setup for a big reveal/WTF moment, and in fact you get that moment when Sarah figures out at least part of the picture, but the surprise is spoiled for the reader about a page and a half early when the narrator casually refers to him by his full name. The whole thing initially left me feeling stupid–“Wait, was I supposed to know that already?”–until I went back and checked…no, there was no way the reader could make that connection prior to that point. The deletion of the character’s first name in that conversation would immeasurably improve the suspense value of the book. Or, if suspense was never the intention, clear it up from the beginning and have one or both people refer to him by his full name.
–As a staunch conservative, I was offended by the polically correct characterization of the villain, Charlotte Yates, as a cold-blooded Republican senator. I’m tired of the villains in these things being members of the GOP. To make matters worse, the current (Republican) President at the time of the novel is a reincarnation of the worst parodies of Bush II. Even leaving my own offense at this aside, the authors are about five years too late for that to work well.
–Yates is characterized as “the most powerful” senator, but she holds no real position such as Speaker of the House or Senate Majority Leader. However good the authors’ research was in the area of Prague, they fell short on this one.
–A lot of the characters feel more like cariactures. There’s very little depth to most of them. Sarah had a bit more depth, but I didn’t find her overly likable–in fact, she’s a bit of a slut (her own words even, not mine!) Nico was probably the most interesting character, and fairly well developed, but doesn’t get enough page-time to counteract the one-dimensionalness (is that a word?) of the other characters.
–This has more to do with the marketing. The synopsis and ads I’ve seen on Goodreads are full of spoilers, including a bit about a “400-year-old dwarf,” a development that isn’t revealed until the last hundred pages or so and is supposed to be a surprise.
–Again, this kind of has to do with the marketing. The book is written under a pseudonym and there’s apparently a snide bit in some versions (not mine, I only saw it on the internet) about how the manuscript showed up unsolicited at the publishers with a weird postmark and just the author’s name on it. One reviewer completely attacked the book over this, saying that kind of thing drives him nuts. I personally don’t mind and am sometimes amused by this kind of thing–remember Lemony Snickett? I really hope this one blowhard didn’t cause the publisher to remove that note–the rest of the references to the author’s ficticious persona don’t make as much sense without it.

Content: This is squarely R-rated. There are multiple sex scenes that range from fairly explicit to largely implied. The language is definitely R-rated, but nowhere near the level of, say, a Tom Clancy novel. Violence is hard to rate in a book, given that it all depends on your imagination. There are multiple instances of fairly horrific violence, but the prose isn’t descriptively very gory.

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