Thursday, December 31, 2009

Turn Coat by Jim Butcher

Turn Coat is the eleventh book in "the Dresden Files," about Chicago's only consulting wizard. Well, actually, he hasn't actually consulted -- or done anything likely to bring in any income -- for several books now. The Dresden books are still exceptionally enjoyable, but I'm beginning to get worried at how much they're showing Fantasy Power Escalation Syndrome: every book has to top the last, with bigger threats, greater dangers, and ever more awesome magics. One of the advantages urban fantasy -- fantasy novels set in the modern world and featuring characters we could expect to meet in our lives -- has over the traditional epic style is in their essential element of the everyday and mundane, and the Dresden books haven't rested anywhere near the mundane for several volumes now. I'll say again that I really think it's time for Dresden to have an adventure that doesn't involve the fate of wizardry's ruling White Council, or the super-powerful heads of the various vampire clans, or the Queens of Faerie, or any of their ilk. If all you ever do is save the world, it starts to get tedious after a while.

This time out, Harry isn't precisely "saving the world," but he is -- like most of the first half-dozen or so books -- intensely focused on saving himself from the dangers of his own side (the magical White Council), and, incidentally, in finding and eliminating a traitor on that Council. There's the usual cast of characters, and Harry does his not-really-swearing thing often enough that it grates (is it at all possible that a modern man would say "Hell's bells," explosively, in a moment of anger or frustration?), and Butcher pulls out the magical pyrotechnics several times to great effect.

(If I'm being vague, it's because I read Turn Coat about eight months ago, and neglected to write about it until now, in my year-end frenzy of catching up.)

Turn Coat has all of the virtues of a good series novel: the important supporting cast returns, and they show signs of continuing to change slightly, instead of staying static. Dresden himself is growing in skill and responsibility (though, of course, that also becomes something to watch out for; in a series like this, he could easily become Jehovah-level in another few books). And there is an overall plot that continues across the books, on top of the specific plot in this book. If you like magical adventures with a mostly-shiny hero in the modern world, the Dresden Files are about as good as they come.

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