Cold Days, by Jim Butcher
Cold Days is the fourteenth book in the Dresden Files series, written by Jim Butcher. The book follows Harry Dresden, a modern-day wizard fighting crime in Chicago, taking up his new mantle as the Winter Knight, and having to save Chicago from disaster on Halloween night.
Warning! Spoilers follow here.
The book begins with Harry waking up in Mab’s bed, in the Winter section of Faerie, after being returned to his body at the end of Ghost Story. He is then subjected to several weeks’ worth of training for combat, under Mab’s tutelage. Harry is invited to a party that Mab is throwing, and his rehabilitation specialist, Sarissa, joins him. The party turns out to be a surprise party for Harry, as it is Halloween—his birthday. Harry is put on the spot to fight some of the bad guys in Winter, and does so while all the party guests look on. He makes a show of it, and shortly after, a pleased Mab gives him his first assignment as the Winter Knight: kill Maeve, her daughter and the Winter Lady. Since Maeve is an immortal, she can’t physically be killed, so this assignment immediately plagues Harry.
Thinking he needs to return to Chicago to enlist some help, Harry makes his rounds and gets help from his friends: Bob, Murphy, Thomas, Butters, Molly, Mouse, Andi, Mac, Justine, and the Little Folk. Bob tells Harry that immortals can be killed on Halloween night on Earth, and Harry plans to kill two birds with one stone.
Then, Molly tells Harry that Demonreach, the island that he is mentally connected to, has been steadily gaining energy and that she thinks it will blow up. The spirit of Demonreach confirms this, and Harry finds out that the island houses a giant prison underneath it, where many evil entities are kept—like a prison. Halloween is the only time that the dead can come back to the earth, so someone is going to unleash the baddies that night and Harry has to stop them. If the island explodes, Chicago and most of the Midwest is doomed.
Harry spends most of the book in Chicago, gathering other groups together in preparation for the massive explosion that is going to happen later that night. He discovers that a ritual will be performed at the island that night to expel the prison underneath. When things are ready to go and Harry and gang are ready to interrupt the ritual, the Wild Hunt appears and chases Harry. Murphy gets Harry on her motorcycle and they try to outrun the Hunt. Eventually, Harry shoots the Erlking and wrestles Kringle to the ground, which gives him control of the Hunt. He uses this to his advantage and begins taking out large ships where several different rituals are taking place.
Soon after the boats are taken out, however, Harry realizes they were a distraction. He hurries to get everyone on the island and they get to the lighthouse at the top of the island, where a giant sphere of light won’t admit anything that’s not “of the island.” Harry is able to go through, and inside he finds Lily and Maeve attempting to take the spirit of Demonreach out so they can access the prison and let it loose.
Harry is eventually able to enlist Fix’s help, and the two of them attack Maeve and her goons. Shortly thereafter, things come to light: several books back, when Mab was worried she was going crazy, it was actually Maeve going crazy. Nemesis, an evil parasite that has been behind most of Harry’s cases in the books, has infested Maeve and made her into an evil puppet. The parasite has allowed Maeve to lie, something that faeries aren’t able to do. Because she has been able to lie, she has deceived everyone around her, including Lily.
The rest of the gang sneaks into the lighthouse and proceeds to help Harry and Fix in taking everyone out. Maeve finally addresses everyone and we find out that Sarissa is actually Maeve’s twin sister—the successor to the mantle of the Winter Lady should Maeve die. Maeve caught onto the plan and has been leading everyone along this whole time. She was never going to set the prison free, she simply needed everyone in the same place on Halloween night.
Harry panics and summons Mab, who appears and tries to reason with Maeve. Lily, still believing that Mab is the crazy one, joins Maeve in facing her. After some talking, Maeve shoots Lily in the head and kills her. The Summer Lady mantle then travels into the nearest successor, Sarissa. Now, even if Maeve is killed, her sister cannot take her place. Thinking she has won, Maeve is caught off guard when Murphy rushes forward and shoots Maeve in the face with her gun, killing her. The Winter Lady mantle then travels to the only successor left in the area: Molly.
After all of this goes down, Harry and Mab talk outside and Harry finally sinks into sleep. He wakes up some hours later to find that Mab has taken the new Ladies back with her to begin their training. He and Murphy have a talk about where they stand after everything that’s happened, and decide to just see where it goes. Everyone leaves Harry alone on the island to start learning more about it and figure out where to go next.
Finally. This book was a breath of fresh air after the last three books. I found myself laughing and gasping throughout the whole thing. The relationship between Thomas and Harry is one of my absolute favorite things in the series, and it was very present in this book. All of the surprises at the end were great, I really didn’t see them coming. We finally returned to the old days where Butcher led you to the “right” conclusion, only to blindside you at the last minute. I’ve missed that. And Maeve gets killed? Does it get any better than that? One of the better books I’ve read in a long time. 5/5.
For Next Time
Skin Game, by Jim Butcher
Harry Dresden, Chicago’s only professional wizard, is about to have a very bad day…
Because as Winter Knight to the Queen of Air and Darkness, Harry never knows what the scheming Mab might want him to do. Usually, it’s something awful.
He doesn’t know the half of it…
Mab has just traded Harry’s skills to pay off one of her debts. And now he must help a group of supernatural villains—led by one of Harry’s most dreaded and despised enemies, Nicodemus Archleone—to break into the highest-security vault in town, so that they can then access the highest-security vault in the Nevernever.
It’s a smash and grab job to recover the literal Holy Grail from the vaults of the greatest treasure hoard in the supernatural world—which belongs to the one and only Hades, Lord of the freaking Underworld and generally unpleasant character. Worse, Dresden suspects that there is another game afoot that no one is talking about. And he’s dead certain that Nicodemus has no intention of allowing any of his crew to survive the experience. Especially Harry.
Dresden’s always been tricky, but he’s going to have to up his backstabbing game to survive this mess—assuming his own allies don’t end up killing him before his enemies get the chance…