“ Author: Jim Butcher / Format: Paperback / Date of publication: 03 March 2011 / Genre: Fantasy / Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group / Title: Changes / ISBN 13: 9781841497143 / ISBN 10: 1841497143 / Alternative title: Dresden Files: Changes - Jim Butcher / Alternative ISBN 10: 1841497134 „
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It's always wonderful to see a series going from strength to strength and getting better as it goes along. However, when this happens, there inevitably becomes a point where it gets so good, you can't help but think that the next one can't possibly be any better as it feels like the series has peaked. ''Changes'', the twelfth in Jim Butcher's ''Dresden Files'' series, is such a book.
Nobody could have expected Harry Dresden, professional wizard, to become a father, least of all Dresden himself. Given the dangers inherent in his profession, the child's mother has kept the secret from him for many years. Until one day the child, Maggie, is kidnapped by a senior member of the Red Court of vampires, who plan to use her as a sacrifice to power a bloodline curse that would not only kill the child but Dresden himself. It's not the latter than concerns Dresden, who sees his own death as an occupational hazard, but no-one messes with an innocent child, especially his innocent child.
Dresden cannot take on the Red Court alone, but fortunately he has a cast of friends from both this world and the other to help him. This brings together one of the largest casts of characters in a ''Dresden Files'' novel, with both sides throwing huge numbers of warriors into the fray. With some of the protagonists being literal guardian angels and the F. B. I. becoming involved way over their heads, the battle is frequently physical as well as magical, which is a slight change of style.
The problem with large casts is making sure there is enough storyline for everyone to be fully involved and keeping them all distinct. Fortunately, the characters have long been one of the strongest parts of the series. The minor characters may blur together slightly and with such a large cast some do fade into the background, but each has their part to play and there is not point where I felt that a character had been added merely to take up space, which can happen so often with ensemble casts.
We get to see a much different Dresden this time around, too. Usually he's quite laid back and full of wry asides. Some of this is still present, but this time he's motivated by anger and has less time for jokes. Dresden is usually a Chandler-esque private investigator, but here he is more of an action hero. Whilst the role doesn't entirely suit him, based on what I've read previously, it certainly suits the story very well and Dresden himself does grow into it as he goes.
This was a much different ''Dresden Files'' story than usual. There was less intrigue and fewer twists than usual, with the basic idea being a relatively simple one. There were still some intriguing revelations, but the main point here was the action and danger quotient. You can usually tell in a series like this that the main character will come out of things fine, but I was never entirely sure this time around. At several parts of the story, I was worried for Dresden's future and concerned this was going to be the end of the series and the ending doesn't really help remove that concern. I don't think I'll be sure exactly what happened here until the next book - if there is a next - in the series is published, as Butcher leaves it wonderfully poised. I wonder if Butcher himself is unsure of what happens next and in his uncertainty the reader is left in the dark.
If you're new to ''The Dresden Files'', the twelfth book in a series is never the place to start, although '' Changes'' doesn't stand alone too badly. There are few points where the reader is left wondering too hard about what went before, largely because the immediacy of this story is so great. Conversely, if you're only going to read one ''Dresden Files'' novel, this is the one to read, as it's got all the aspects that make the series great, with magic thrown around, lots of characters from both the worlds Dresden inhabits and wonderful pacing. Whilst I would suggest starting with the series from the beginning and working up to ''Changes'', as the series has been improving steadily as it evolves, one way or another you should ensure you do read this as, even alone, it's a great book, especially when a hardback copy can be found for as little as £3.75 at Green Metropolis.