This is a blog with spoiler free reviews. Most will be Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Horror, but there will be some books in other genres, including the occasional Non-Fiction review. There is an ongoing series of Cover Reveal Round-Ups, and sometimes I'll write an article on something that interests me.

19 April, 2012

REVIEW: CHANGES

Cover illustration: Chris McGrath
Cover design: Peter Cotton

CHANGES
THE DRESDEN FILES BOOK 12
BY
JIM BUTCHER

ISBN: 978-1-84149-714-3
Pages: 540
Publisher: Orbit
Originally published: 8 April 2010
This edition published: 3 March 2011

On the cover:

Meet Harry Dresden, Chicago's first (and only) Wizard P.I. Turns out the ‘everyday’ world is full of strange and magical things - and most of them don't play well with humans. That's where Harry comes in.


But even a career of narrow escapes and supernatural shenanigans hasn’t prepared Harry for this. A vampire with a grudge has kidnapped his daughter - a daughter he never knew he had. Furthermore, this vampire plans to use her blood in a violent ritual sacrifice - designed to kill Harry, his ex-partner Susan and their child.


As allies are perilously thin on the ground, Harry must find a new source of strength. In the past, there had always been a line he wouldn’t cross, and he’s never given in to the full fury of his own untapped dark powers. But then, only his own life was at stake.


MAGIC - IT CAN GET A GUY KILLED

   Before we start I'll just have to admit this is the first Dresden Files book I've read. I don't usually start in the middle of a series, and this is one of the few times I've done that. The reason I did it this time was that I won this book from Stefan Fergus over at Civilian Reader. (Thank you, Stefan!)
   So when you read this review, keep in mind that I have not read any other novel in The Dresden Files series.

   Reading this book was a very strange experience. It's book twelve in a series, but I didn't really feel I missed out on anything by jumping in that late. At first I liked how previous events were explained, so I got a good idea of what has happened before, but as the novel progressed I started to find the constant detailing of past events rather unnecessary and quite frankly boring. I can't imaging how tedious I would have found it had I read the previous books. But I imagine I'd be pretty pissed off at all the repetition.
   I'd go so far as to say that this reads like a first book in a series that starts in the middle of the main character's story. I was baffled by it to be frank, and it made reading the book a tedious task at times.

   This sort of infodumping is prevalent throughout the book. Butcher seems to have made it his mission to hammer into the reader who everyone is, and their place in the magical society that is the setting for the novel.
   There were a couple of instances where for no logical reason little or no information was given. Considering how the rest of the book was structured I found this very jarring.  And there are a couple of times were the events happening in the books are glossed over too, which felt even stranger. It was like the infodumping took precedence over the story.

   The story itself is not very original. There is an abundance of Fantasy cliches, and some of the characters introduced seem to be brought in from history/mythology for no good reason other than that it was easier than thinking up something original.
   Butcher is however pretty good at writing action. When events are moving along at a fast pace, the narrative flows much better. But even here the flow is hampered by Butcher having Harry Dresden's thought function as narration. This goes on the whole book, but it is especially noticeable in the action scenes.
   The plot is also strangely bland. The characters seems to have an incredible talent for being dense, right up until the moment when they are about to be killed by it. Then they inexplicable act like people in total control of themselves and exhibit great amounts of quick thinking.
   When the book ends you also feel a bit cheated as to how easy it was. And it isn't hard to see how events could have been totally different if the characters were allowed to display the level of competence they exhibit in the final battle earlier in the book.
   
   I think Harry Dresden is at surface level a very interesting character, but I really wish there was some more depth to him. He feels a bit like a cardboard cut-out of a wizard, one who functions more like a Deus ex machina than a real protagonist.
   The rest of the characters are mostly the same way. They don't really seem to have any personality and agenda outside of what they need to be to make the plot hang together. (Which it barely does.)

   When I started this book I was hoping I'd like it, I enjoy reading long series and getting to know the characters really well. Unfortunately what this book did more than anything else was annoy me, and I really can't understand how this series has become so popular based on what I read in this novel.
   The story was popcorn-fiction, there was no real depth to it. It may have worked as part of an ongoing TV-series, but as a novel it fails to engage. There's some good ideas in there, but they never get a chance to be more than that. The novel felt almost unfinished, like there was details to be added to flesh out the story.

   This is not really a novel I can recommend. I can however not speak for the rest of the series, only what I have read, but if this is at all representative I'd steer clear. There are so many Urban Fantasy books out there that are so much better than this, and I urge you to seek them out rather than read this.
   I must say though, that I can see how this would work very well as light entertainment for some people. And if you are just after reading something that doesn't require you to engage much, this could work for you. 

5 comments:

  1. I've actually read the first six Dresden novels. That's how long it took me to realise I did not enjoy them enough. To me it was the potential I came back for so many times, but in the end it just does not deliver. I agree with the lack of character depth, and the at times unexplainable behaviour of the cast.

    Great review :)

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    1. Thanks :-)

      I used to stick with series where I can see the potential. But Now I have so many good books to read that I just can't justify the time it takes me.
      And I did read the whole Sword of Truth series, so I feel I have done enough "giving it a chance" for a lifetime.

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  2. I read the first three and was soo sick of the repetition of ALL the details, so I took about a year or two break. Then, I really enjoyed the fourth book and plan on going further. I just need to take long breaks so the repetitions are helpful more than annoying.

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    1. I like your idea. But it wouldn't work for me, I like to plow through all the books in a series with maybe a break or two for other books in between, but essentially in one go.

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    2. I used to be that way, but ever since I started blogging I take long breaks between everything. I'm currently catching up on the Wheel of Time, have one more book to go in MBotF, on book 5 of the Dark Tower, and way too many others. That's why I'm making this the year I finish as much as possible.

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