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Saturday, December 1, 2012

Cold Days by Jim Butcher

By Jim_Butcher.jpg: Nonsequiturlass derivative work: Kelly (This file was derived from:  Jim_Butcher.jpg) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
We're going to try to review this book without spoiling it. We will mention certain subjects and characters who are and are not present in the book, so if that's too much for you (knowing who and what appears), don't read this if you haven't read the book yet. First, we will give you the grades we would give for the other books in the series, just so you have some basis of comparison and know what sort of installments we like to see in this series. Some people like the books that are heavy on action; some people like the introspective, emotional ones. This is what we like/don't like.

Storm Front: B-
Fool Moon: C
Grave Peril: A-
Summer Knight: B
Death Masks: A
Blood Rites: B+
Dead Beat: A-
Proven Guilty: B
White Night: C+
Small Favor: A
Turn Coat: A
Changes: A
Ghost Story: B+
Side Jobs: B-

Yeah, we liked Ghost Story a lot. We think we're in the minority here. We think this book scared the fans. It was sad, long, and the main character was dead. We think the positive reaction to Cold Days among fans is relief that the series they once loved hasn't changed forever. Still, we think Ghost Story was a more satisfying book. Yeah. the ending was frustrating, but it was also exciting. Plus, the twist at the end of Ghost Story (who killed Harry) knocked us on our asses. That book stayed with us longer and felt less like filler that had to happen in order to further Butcher's overall arc. Ghost Story was a story, and a very human one. Cold Days involved getting all the pieces in a chess match to where they needed to be.

We love books that deal with the White Council, the Denarians/Knights, necromancy/the dead, Marcone, cops, vampires, and family. We don't like when Butcher focuses on faeries. It's only tolerable when, like in Summer Knight and Proven Guilty, the White Council shows up to get in on the action, if only temporarily. We hate faerie so much. First of all, it's one long Jim Butcher boner, because every woman in faerie is unbelievably beautiful (as opposed to every other woman in this series...oh wait. Every woman is attractive in Harry Dresden's world. He must be a magnet), and he goes on and on and on about it. We're straight chicks, so it doesn't do much for us. We can't imagine that guys would rather read about hot girls than look at them. We do like the Faerie Mothers though. They are creepy.

Unfortunately, but predictably due to the last book and this book's title, this one was all about faeries. Faery Queens. Bleck. Dull. Too inhuman and cold. Cold Days indeed. Fix is the sole faerie character who actually invites sympathy, and we were grateful for his presence and actions in this one. In fact, let's keep going with what we liked. First of all, we too are grateful that the main character of the series is alive again. We liked Mab's idea of physical therapy. We liked everything to do with the island. Demonreach's purpose is mega-cool and sure to cause trouble with the White Council, which is what we love. We also liked everything involving Mac. Who is he?!! We liked the Outsider's psychic attacks. We liked Kringle. We liked Bob's Firefly reference that Harry didn't understand. We liked the good plotting.

We liked the scene with the Gatekeeper and the revelations there. It made faerie seem a lot more important, and that's needed if we have to see faeries so dang much. We liked Harry's reflections and observations about the nature of power and temptation. We liked Bob's new "movie projector" capabilities. The exposition between Bob and Harry could get old in previous installments, and now Butcher has a tool to make these conversations hilarious. We like that Harry's allies continue to be un-annoying and helpful. We liked Harry's romantic choices. We're not gonna say who (although you can probably guess) we never ever ever ever want to see together, but there's a couple that can't happen, and it was addressed in this book. Gross. Icky icky never never.

Most of all, we like the way this book picked up threads and pieces from the last books and continued them. It was like LOST, dropping hints and plot points for the future, and then actually picking them up. The continuity is great. We got answers to questions that were raised in the first book. Things we glossed over as unimportant in, say, Proven Guilty, turned out to be fairly pivotal. Butcher is great at world building and creating a puzzle. He's going to great lengths to drop pieces everywhere, much like in the Harry Potter series when Rowling laid down hints and then picked them up again, making everything tie together almost perfectly. Finally, Harry's reunion with Thomas was a highlight.

Now for what we hated. It was a lot. 1) No Maggie, Michael, Marcone, or Ebenezar. Three of these are people who, emotionally, should have been there to see Harry come back and react to it. Marcone is just awesome. We guess Butcher is saving these reunions for later, but ugh. We've already waited a year. 2) No one was surprised enough to see that Harry was alive except for Thomas. Sure, there are reasons why Karrin and Molly reacted almost the same way as if a neighbor had come back from Cabo, but why have those reasons? Why kill and bring back a main character and not take full advantage of the shock, awe, and tears? 3) The status of the Winter Knight and one of the queens by the end of the book. We guess we'll be seeing more fairies! Joy. 4) Too many fight scenes. Those are great to watch and boring to read.

5) The "little folk." Does anyone else find them completely annoying in every way? Yeah, they are helpful and good in small doses, but they were in this book too much. 6) The new characters Lacuna and Sarissa. Sarissa is like Susan 2.0 in that she is just bland and brave. 7) This installment didn't show us anything we haven't seen from this series before, except for the revelations of what's been going on in previous books. This type of story, adventure, and interaction is all old hat.

8) Not as much tension. 9) Not a surprising enough ending or evil plot. 10) Molly was jerked around too much, as usual, and the development in her character since the last book was a little sudden. 11) We got bored during the climax. 12) The Redcap. So grating! He should have died early on. 13) Some sexism. 14) While there was a reason for them, we didn't enjoy Harry's rape-y thoughts. Lots of women have been raped, and it doesn't seem fair to make them read these thoughts in a favorite book series.

15) This Winter Knight mantle scared Harry for a reason. There is a chance it can corrupt him and has already seeped into his brain a little. Now, we've already seen this with Lasciel and know how it will turn out, but we're not loving it right now. Lasciel tempted with power. The mantle tempts with sex and animal instincts (like rape, which is distinct from sex). We're afraid that it will turn out to be an excuse for Butcher to have his main character act like an evil pig and still technically be a good person and hero. We don't want to see Butcher's darkest fantasies, so we hope it's not like that.

(It reminds us of when Anita Blake got an excuse to be really slutty after getting something called the ardeur in another series. That completely ruined that series.) This mantle temptation needs to come and go, quickly. We're tolerating it only because we think it will start drama with the other wizards, and we love wizard drama. 16) Toward the end, we just wanted to finish it already. After waiting for a year for this. 17) Harry is still creating problems for himself. 18) This book was good for the overall, 23-book plot, but not for the characters. And we only get obsessed with things when we love the characters.

Edit based on internet surfing: 19) Lucyzephyr pointed out that in chapter 48, Butcher basically said that Lily being attractive would obviously lead to her being a victim. Not only physically attractive, young people are raped. That statement is messed up. We agree with this tumblr that even though the story gave a reason for these thoughts and fantasies, there were other ways to show dark, primal urges, and there was no reason for Butcher to have eight rape fantasies or for them to be as detailed as they were. Entertainment that references rape affects society. It went past what was necessary. Also, THERE WAS a gang rape scene in Grave Peril. We KNEW we read that right. How is that even a question?

Overall, our expectations for this book were low, since we knew it would involve Winter Court stuff, and we were STILL disappointed. The book was fine. We're just glad it's over so Harry can move onto other subject matter. We hate that we have to wait another year to get the book we would like to have had on Tuesday. We wanted more emotion, but a lot of that has been set up for next time (Maggie, Fix, Molly, Michael), so we're not worried that, eventually, we will get what we want. For now, meh.

Book grade: C
But we still love this series.


  1. This book had great plot and action, not great characterization/emotional fulfillment, and about 99.9% too much rape apology/fantasy. Still love the series. Got problems with this installment. Yeah, I think we're on the same page. XD

    I like the IDEA of the faeries and their courts waaaay more than I like their execution. It's all either completely horrifying or nothing but a fulfillment of the author's sexual fantasies. It could be awesome, but the awesome never happens.

    Except the Erlking and Kringle. I love those guys.

    1. Totally agree. Butcher is usually great with execution, but maybe he needs an advisor or partner when he thinks up the faeries. And that advisor should probably be a woman.

  2. Wall to Wall rape fantasies made reading this book very, very, very difficult for me. They come out of nowhere and as a sexual assault survivor, I literally cannot read them without throwing up. This book was a physical ordeal for me.

    Again, Molly exists as a vessel for Harry's manpain. She still carries a torch for him. He still refuses to see her has anything but a child (and continues to refer to their meeting as "that time she was still in a training bra"...ugh) that he is responsible for and has to make decisions for the good for. I really, really, really, really hope they never ever ever get together. Ever.

    I will tip my hat to Butcher for spearing the old trope of one kiss = instant relationship in the face. Murphy is the only person I could see even having something akin to a decent relationship with.

    1. Man, that sucks a lot. Sorry about that. We've never had that experience, and it was even uncomfortable for us. We feel for ya.

      We were also glad that Murphy wants to wait until he's less horrible to get with him, Big Kiss or no, haha.

  3. What the heck is this Firefly thing? Never heard of it. I'm either way too old or too young (extremely unlikely but remotely possible).

    1. You came to the right place with this question, haha. Firefly is a short-lived, but much-loved FOX TV show created by Joss Whedon (Buffy, Dollhouse, the Avengers movie). It's a space western with fantastic characters and only 14 episodes. Western sci-fi sounds cheesy, but it's not. It proved too off the beaten path for most viewers, and the network messed with the original order of the episodes, making it confusing for the people who really tried to watch it. After it was cancelled, it came out on DVD and gained a devoted cult following, for no other reason that it was just a really good show cut down too soon.

      This prompted Whedon to make a very decent movie to conclude things, "Serenity." It stars Nathan Fillion of the show Castle before he was on Castle. If you have Instant Netflix, I'm pretty sure it's all on there, and if you like The Dresden Files and other things nerdy, you'd probably love it. Both Leeard and I sure did. It's my favorite thing Whedon has ever done, and he's a creative guy.

      Now for the Dresden Files reference. Bob tells Harry to be quiet during his "Merlin movie," or Harry would "go to the special hell." That's a line from a Firefly episode where a traveling preacher warns the surly, hilarious captain of the ship not to sleep with a vulnerable woman. In context, it's funny.

    2. Just checked, and yep, both the series and movie are on Instant Netflix, which everyone should have at this point.

      Just in case any Dresden Files fans want to watch what Butcher thought worthy to reference, lol.

  4. I feel like there is a difference between Lash and the Winter Mantle. Lash gave him a sample of power. The Winter Mantle is pure power. The Winter Mantle is equivalent to the power that taking up the Coin would have given him. It's like having the amygdalae stripped while someone is attempting to turn you back into a caveman. Think River Tam mixed with "Beer Bad" Buffy. But a dude. Which is worse because men are have even less impulse control than women. Yeah I'm pissed about the sexism. I'm a straight female and have no interest in hearing the women's description but I let it slide because every single woman could use Harry or Thomas as canoe and a paddle if they wanted to. Which sounds awesome to me.

    1. I see your distinction. Lash offered access to power and the Winter Mantle forced it on him. And that's a good point. Now even Molly could probably take him. We always knew Murphy could, haha.

    2. Also, I nerded out HARD over your location when I checked out your profile (I thought you might be a Valerie I knew; same hair color in the picture). While I don't know you, one summer I stayed with friends on the island for 7 weeks and then this summer I stayed with them for one week. So I'm very familiar with your area. :-)

  5. FINALLY done with this one. Like everyone else, this novel was just hard to get through. As a guy who has worked many years with sexual predators (in a former life) I hold a special level of revulsion for such acts, and for the victims of such crimes. The descriptions contained within Cold Days concerning the Winter Court's effect on those who choose to enter it's ranks do indeed push the envelope, and Butcher doesn't need to drop to this level to advance a plot. As you say, it becomes more about the author's fantasies than anything else, and that is just abusing his power as an author, IMO.

    Bring back Michael, the Knights, the Denarians, and I'll be happy. What can I say, I'm old fashioned; I like Good vs. Evil and make no apologies for it :).

    Who knows? Maybe we will get lucky, and the Fairies will go the way of the Red Court, and as a finale we see Harry and his allies crush the big Foozle running the Outsiders as a finale. One can hope lol.

    1. Ha! You found the review.

      Agree. I like the good v. evil too. I also like the good vs. grey vs. legalistic vs. evil too, so I love the wizard court.

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