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After a brief interlude in the afterlife, Harry Dresden’s new job makes him wonder if death was really all that bad in this novel in the #1 New York Times bestselling series.
Harry Dresden is no longer Chicago’s only professional wizard. Now, he’s Winter Knight to Mab, the Queen of Air and Darkness. Her word is his command. And her first command is the seemingly impossible: kill an immortal. Worse still, there is a growing threat to an unfathomable source of magic that could mean the deaths of millions.
Beset by enemies new and old, Harry must gather his friends and allies, prevent an apocalypse, and find a way out of his eternal subservience before his newfound infinite powers claim the only thing he has left to call his own...
About the Author
A martial arts enthusiast whose résumé includes a long list of skills rendered obsolete at least two hundred years ago, #1 New York Times bestselling author Jim Butcher turned to writing as a career because anything else probably would have driven him insane. He lives mostly inside his own head so that he can write down the conversation of his imaginary friends, but his head can generally be found in Independence, Missouri. Jim is the author of the Dresden Files, the Codex Alera novels, and the Cinder Spires series, which began with The Aeronaut’s Windlass.
Read an Excerpt
Mab, the Queen of Air and Darkness, monarch of the Winter Court of the Sidhe, has unique ideas regarding physical therapy.
I woke up in softness.
What I probably should say was that I woke up in a soft bed. But . . . that just doesn’t convey how soft this bed was. You know those old cartoons where people sleep on fluffy clouds? Those guys would wake up screaming in pain if they got suckered into taking one of those clouds after they’d been in Mab’s bed.
The fire in my chest had finally begun to die away. The heavy wool lining coating my thoughts seemed to have lightened up. When I blinked my eyes open, they felt gummy, but I was able to lift my arm, slowly, and wipe them clear. I’d gone jogging on beaches with less sand than was in my eyes.
Man. Being mostly dead is hard on a guy.
I was in a bed.
A bed the size of my old apartment.
The sheets were all perfectly white and smooth. The bed was shrouded in drapes of more pure white, drifting on gentle currents of cool air. The temperature was cold enough that when I exhaled, my breath condensed, but I was comfortable beneath the bed’s covering.
The curtains around the bed parted and a girl appeared.
She was probably too young to drink legally and she was one of the lovelier women I’d ever seen in person. High cheekbones, exotic almond-shaped eyes. Her skin was a medium olive tone, her eyes an almost eerie shade of pale green-gold. Her hair was pulled back into a simple tail, she wore pale blue hospital scrubs, and she had no makeup at all.
Wow. Any woman who could wear that and still look that good was a freaking goddess.
“Hello,” she said, and smiled at me. Maybe it was just the bed talking, but the smile and her voice were even better than the rest of her.
“Hi,” I said. My voice came out in a croak that hardly sounded human. I started coughing.
She placed a covered tray on a little stand beside the bed and sat down on the edge of it. She took the cover off the tray and picked up a white china cup. She passed it to me, and it proved to be filled with not quite scalding chicken noodle soup. “You do that every day. Talk before you’ve gotten anything down your throat. Drink.”
I did. Campbell’s. And it was awesome. I flashed on a sudden memory of being sick when I was very young. I couldn’t remember where we’d been, but my dad had made me chicken noodle soup. It was the same.
“I think . . . I remember some of it,” I said, after several sips. “Your name is . . . Sarah?” She frowned, but I shook my head before she could speak. “No, wait. Sarissa. Your name is Sarissa.”
She lifted both eyebrows and smiled. “That’s a first. It looks like you’re finally coming back into focus.”
My stomach gurgled and at the same time a roaring hunger went through me. I blinked at the sudden sensation and started gurgling down more soup.
Sarissa laughed at me. It made the room feel brighter. “Don’t drown yourself. There’s no rush.”
I finished the cup, spilling only a little on my chin, and then murmured, “The hell there isn’t. I’m starving. What else is there?”
“Tell you what,” she said. “Before you do that, let’s shoot for another first.”
“Eh?” I said.
“Can you tell me your name?”
“What, you don’t know?”
Sarissa smiled again. “Do you?”
“Harry Dresden,” I said.
Her eyes sparkled and it made me feel good all the way to my toes. More so when she produced a plate that was piled with chicken and mashed potatoes and some other vegetables that I had little use for but which were probably good for me. I thought I was going to start drooling onto the floor, that food looked so good.
“What do you do, Harry?”
“Professional wizard,” I said. “I’m a PI in Chicago.” I frowned, suddenly remembering something else. “Oh. And I’m the Winter Knight, I guess.”
She stared at me like a statue for several seconds, absolutely nothing on her face.
“Um,” I said. “Food?”
She shivered and looked away from me. Then she took a quick breath and picked up an odd little fork, the kind they give to kids with motor control issues—it had lots of rounded edges—and pressed it into my hand. “If you’re willing to go for three, we’ll have had a really good day.”
The fork felt weird and heavy in my fingers. I remembered using forks. I remembered how they felt, the slender weight of them, the precision with which I could get food from the plate to my mouth. This fork felt heavy and clumsy. I fumbled with it for a few seconds, and then managed, on the second try, to thrust it into the mashed potatoes. Then it was another chore to get the stupid thing to my mouth.
The potatoes were perfect. Just warm enough, barely salted, with a faint hint of rich butter.
“Ohmmgdd,” I muttered around the mouthful. Then I went for more.
The second forkful was easier, and the third easier than that, and before I knew it the plate was empty and I was scraping the last of the remains into my mouth. I felt exhausted and stuffed, though it hadn’t been all that much food. Sarissa was watching me with a pleased smile.
“Got it all over my face, don’t I?” I asked her.
“It means you enjoyed the food,” she said. She lifted a napkin to my face and wiped at it. “It’s nice to know your name, finally, Harry.”
There was the sound of light, steady footsteps coming closer.
Sarissa rose immediately, turned, and then knelt gracefully on the floor with her head bowed.
“Well?” said a woman’s velvet voice.
My whole body shuddered in response to that voice, like a guitar’s string quivering when the proper note is played near it.
“He’s lucid, Your Majesty, and remembered my name and his. He fed himself.”
“Excellent,” said the voice. “You are dismissed for today.”
“Thank you, Your Majesty,” said Sarissa. She rose, glanced at me, and said, “I’m glad to see you feeling better, Sir Knight.”
I tried to come up with something charming or witty and said, “Call me.”
She huffed out a surprised little breath that might have been the beginning of a laugh, but shot a fearful glance the other way and then retreated. The sound of her sneakers scuffing on the hard floor faded into the distance outside the curtained bed.
A shadow moved across the curtains at the end of the bed. I knew whose it was.
“You have passed your nadir,” she said in a decidedly pleased tone. “You are waxing rather than waning, my Knight.”
I suddenly had difficulty thinking clearly enough to speak, but I managed. “Well. You know. Wax on, wax off.”
She didn’t open the curtain around the bed as much as she simply glided through, letting the sheer cloth press against her, outlining her form. She exhaled slowly as she reached my side, looking down at me, her eyes flickering through shades of green in dizzying cycles.
Mab, the Queen of Air and Darkness, was too terrifying to be beautiful. Though every cell in my body suddenly surged with mindless desire and my eyes blurred with tears to see her beauty, I did not want to come an inch closer. She was a tall woman, well over six feet, and every inch was radiance. Pale skin, soft lips the color of frozen raspberries, long silver-white hair that shone with opalescent highlights. She was dressed in a silk gown of deep frozen green that left her strong white shoulders bare.
And she was about six inches away from being in bed with me.
“You look great,” I croaked.
Something smoldered in those almond-shaped eyes. “I am great, my Knight,” she murmured. She reached out a hand, and her nails were all dark blues and greens, the colors shimmering and changing like deep opals. She touched my naked shoulder with those nails.
And I suddenly felt like a fifteen-year-old about to kiss a girl for the first time—excitement and wild expectation and fluttering anxiety.
Her nails, even just the very tips, were icy cold. She trailed them down over one side of my chest and rested them over my heart.
“Um,” I said into what was, for me, an incredibly awkward silence. “How are you?”
She tilted her head and stared at me.
“Sarissa seems nice,” I ventured.
“A changeling,” Mab said. “Who once sought of me a favor. She saw Lloyd Slate’s tenure as my Knight.”
I licked my lips. “Um. Where are we?”
“Arctis Tor,” she said. “My stronghold. In the Knight’s suite. You will find every mortal amenity here.”
“That’s nice,” I said. “What with my apartment burned to the ground and all. Is there a security deposit?”
A slow smile oozed over Mab’s mouth and she leaned even closer to me. “It is well that you heal,” she whispered. “Your spirit wandered far from your body while you slept.”
“Free spirit,” I said. “That’s me.”
“Not anymore,” Mab murmured, and leaned down toward me. “You are shaking.”
Her eyes filled my vision. “Are you frightened of me, Harry?”
“I’m sane,” I said.
“Do you think I am going to hurt you?” she breathed, her lips a fraction of an inch from mine.
My heart beat so hard that it actually hurt. “I think . . . you are who you are.”
“Surely you have no reason to fear,” she whispered, her breath tickling my lips. “You are mine now. If you are not well, I cannot use you to work my will.”
I tried to force myself to relax. “That’s . . . that’s true,” I said.
I hadn’t seen her picking up the thick, fluffy pillow beside me while she held my eyes. So I was totally unprepared when she struck, as fast as any snake, and slammed the pillow down over my face.
I froze for half a second, and the pillow pressed down harder, shutting off my air, clogging my nose and mouth. Then the fear took over. I struggled, but my arms and legs felt as if they’d been coated in inches of lead. I tried to push Mab away, but she was simply too heavy, my arms too weak. Her hands and forearms were frozen steel, slender and immovable.
My vision went from red to black. Sensation began to recede.
Mab was cool. Unrelenting. Merciless.
She was Mab.
If I did not stop her, she would kill me. Mab couldn’t kill a mortal, but to her I was no longer one of them. I was her vassal, a member of her court, and as far as she was concerned, she had every right to take my life if she saw fit.
That cold knowledge galvanized me. I locked my hands around one of her arms and twisted, straining my entire body. My hips arched up off the bed with the effort, and I wasn’t even trying to push her away. There was no opposing the absolute force of her. But I did manage to direct her strength just a little to one side, and in so doing managed to push her hands and the smothering pillow past me, freeing my face enough to suck in a gasp of sweet, cold air.
Mab lay with her upper body across mine, and made no effort at all to move. I could feel her eyes on me, feel the empty intensity of her gaze as I panted, my head swimming with the sudden rush of blessed oxygen.
Mab moved very slowly, very gracefully. There was something serpentine about the way she slithered up my body and lay with her chest against mine. She was a cold, ephemeral weight, an incredibly feminine softness, and her silken hair glided over my cheeks and lips and neck.
Mab made a low, hungry sound in her throat as she leaned down, until her lips were almost touching my ear.
“I have no use for weakness, wizard.” She shivered in a kind of slow, alien ecstasy. “Rest. Heal. Sleep. I shall most likely kill you on the morrow.”
“You? A Princess Bride quote?” I croaked.
“What is that?” she asked.
Then she was gone. Just gone.
And that was day one of my physical therapy.
* * *
I could describe the next few weeks in detail, but as bad as they were, they did have a certain routine to them. Besides, in my head, they’re a music video montage set to the Foo Fighters’ “Walk.”
I would wake in the morning and find Sarissa waiting for me, keeping a polite and professional distance between us. She would help me take care of the needs of my weakened body, which was rarely dignified, but she never spoke about herself. At some point after that, Mab would try to kill me in increasingly unexpected and inventive ways.
In the video in my head, there’s a shot of me eating my own meal again—until, just as I finish, the giant bed bursts into flames. I awkwardly flop out of it and crawl away before I roast. Then, obviously the next day, Sarissa is helping me walk to the bathroom and back. Just as I relax back into bed, a poisonous serpent, a freaking Indian cobra, falls from the bed’s canopy onto my shoulders. I scream like a girl and throw it on the floor. The next day, I’m fumbling my way into new clothes with Sarissa’s help—until a small swarm of stinging ants comes boiling out of them onto my flesh, and I have to literally rip the clothes off of me.
It goes on like that. Sarissa and me on waist-high parallel bars, me struggling to remember how to keep my balance, interrupted by a tidal flood of red-eyed rats that forces us to hop up onto the bars before our feet get eaten off. Sarissa spotting me on a bench press, and then Mab bringing a great big old fireman’s ax whistling down at my head at the end of my third set so that I have to block with the stupid straight bar. Me slogging my exhausted way into a hot shower, only to have the door slam shut and the thing start to fill with water. Into which freaking piranha begin to plop.
On and on. Seventy-seven days. Seventy-seven attempted murders. Use your imagination. Mab sure as hell did. There was even a ticking crocodile.
What People are Saying About This
“Butcher is the dean of contemporary urban fantasy.”—Booklist
“Harry Dresden is perhaps the best-written supernatural detective working today.”—SF Revu
“If there is an author that defines urban fantasy, it is Jim Butcher.”—Fresh Fiction
“What would you get if you crossed Spenser with Merlin? Probably you would come up with someone very like Harry Dresden.”—The Washington Times
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Our Review, by LITERAL ADDICTION's Pack Alpha - Michelle L. Olson: THE DRESDEN FILES is one of my absolute favorites and I don't wait long to read the installments when they're released, so to say that I was a bit giddy after receiving an ARC from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review would be an understatement. I settled in as soon as I could with it, and 100 pages in I was already saying: "The brilliance of Jim Butcher & the fantastical world of Harry Dresden never cease to amaze me! 20 pages in I had counted no less than 3 pop culture reference, laughed audibly at least a handful of times, shook my head with wonder & wanted nothing more than to call in sick & read for the next 18+ hours straight" Upon completion of the book 2 days later, my exact words were: "5 stars isn't nearly enough for a book that had me laughing, crying, gasping, and so much more. And only Jim Butcher could give me 515 pages of so much goodness that it was almost overwhelming, yet leave me desperately wanting more after the last page was turned. Just...wow!" This release had it all and then some! This review isn't even going to begin to do it justice... One statement could sum up this book: Harry's back - bigger and better than ever! The reference humor was stellar, the action, as always, was intense and mystifying, the intrigue and mystery were compelling and gripping and every last page left me wanting more and there were more than enough surprises to go around. In true Jim Butcher fashion, Cold Days starts quick, builds steadily, grows to an almost combustible crescendo and then closes with a sequence of events that literally had my heart racing and me screaming out loud in outrage, shock, and frustration. Well over 10 books ago I would have said that I didn't think it could get any better. I'd have been wrong. It has, it does, and I have a feeling it will continue to do so. LITERAL ADDICTION gives Cold Days a WELL deserved 5 Skulls and strongly urges anyone who hasn't read The Dresden files to start, and soon. This series is epic and will continue to be an easy favorite and an automatic auto-buy for me.
I'm sure this would be an amazing book if my nook would stop telling me its only on preorder! I want to read it desperatly, however my nook won't allow me to. Never preorder anything on your nook it doesn't work right.
I am one of the people that was more than a little disappointed in Ghost Story. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the book, just not as much as Changes. It is just my opinion, but this book leaves even Changes behind in the dust. People are killed, both friends and enemies. Harry is going to have to learn to come to terms with the mantle of the Winter Knight, or he is going to continue to get his a## kicked left and right. We learn the story of Demonreach. Harry is a freaking wuss in regards to his daughter. (My main complaint with the book.) Harry's relationship with the Carpenters is probably going to be changed forever. The ending will tear your heart out. Harry decides that the best way to deal with one of the most feared and fearsome creatures in Fae is to point a gun in their face and threaten to blow his or her brains out. Oh, yeah, you may never look a Santa Claus in the same way again. A word of advice to those that had problems pre ordering the book on their Nook. I have learned not to pre order. I just called the book up on my Nook at 12:05 am, ordered, and started reading. This way seems to work out best.
As a Dresden Fan, I'd like to start off by quantifying my favorites - that will give you a clue as to where I stand on Jim Butcher's famous detective. Small Favor and Changes. There. Now on to Cold Days, which is now also a favorite and probably shoves Small Favor down a notch. Cold Days is an absolutely chaotic masterpiece of both the paranormal and detective worlds. Jim Butcher, who has honed his craft for over a decade brings us a warped, tangled web of insanity that could only have come from the faerie realm. True to his characters, Butcher plays with your emotions as Mab orders Harry to kill an immortal being, only to have Dresden come under the awful suspicion that Mab herself is the problem. From a series plot arc perspective, more is revealed about the overall situation, Demonsreach, Rashid the Gatekeeper, MacAnnaly, the internal workings of the Summer and Winter Courts, making Cold Days into one of the most informative books in the series if, like Harry, you're trying to get the bottom of why everything has gone wrong. Harry's struggle to deal with mantle of the Winter Knight is a constant battle against the same forces he has always repressed in himself, and he never comes closer to growing that goatee and wearing black silk. As for Harry's female problems, nothing is solved, in and someways, made infinitely more complicated. The ending of Cold Days had me rocking in shock, my hand over my mouth as my heart both broke and burst at the same time. Cold Days may not be Butcher's masterpiece novel, but it's damn close.
Saved from the waste that was Ghost Story, that's about all I can say. Ghost Story was a huge let down, this picked the story back up and makes it worth continuing with the series. And for once, I didn't see the ending coming like 20% through the book. It ended with a twist I didn't foresee, and that's a rare and good thing. If your a Dresden Files fan who was sitting on the fence because of Ghost Story, chuck GS in the trash and forget if ever happened. This is the book that we should have gotten last year.
I just finished this book and i will have to say i am greatly impressed. I literally could not stop reading, the excitement and tension built up to a palpable level and the whole story was superb. Well done Mr. Butcher
Couldnt put it down, it was that great. And now I find my self wanting to punch a Queen or two. Lol Love this stroy line, it just gets better and better.
Butcher does it again! Change is the only constant in the Dresden universe. Each novel reminds you why you love Harry and his friends. With each passing novel, Dresden becomes more confident in his ability to stick it to the supernaturals that want to end him or his world. Read it and you won't be disappointed!
Loved the latest installment in The Dresden Files! Can I be crass and say that I am on "Team Molly?"
Always a good read... no if only 'Skin Game' were out.
Some exciting things happen in this installment of the series. That's one of the things I love about these books. Butcher is always expanding his characters and not afraid to let them change and grow. I love how we see Dresden growing from a pretty good wizard to a really kick-ass wizard. This seems uncommon in most fantasy books I've read. Usually the wizards are all already old and powerful (like Gandalf or Merlin). Here we get to see the growth. I'm always impressed by the complexity and depth of the world Butcher has created.
Harry is back from the dead now and continues the fight against evil, injustice, and boredom. This novel is not quite as strong as some of the other titles, but is still a good read. Harry continues to amuse us with his steady repertoire of wise cracks, and the dark humor of a man with too much responsibility on his shoulders. The action is good and there is plenty of it. You finally find out what all of the previous books in the series have been leading up to and why Harry's character has been developed along the path he has chosen. Yes there is a central theme. There is some interesting character development throughout the book. You learn a bit more about Mab and another 'lil guy who has been present throughout the series but in a very minor role. If I have any criticisms about the book is that Butcher struggles a bit to bring nearly all Harry's allies back into the book and it feels a bit crowded in that respect. Another thing is that I really never felt like Harry was as intensely desperate as in some of the other books. The tension is there but it is so drawn out as to make the reader somewhat numb by the time the real showdown starts. The plot follows the pattern of the other books with a slow build up to a big-time brew-ha-ha at the end, adding in lots of other small conflicts along the way. If you liked the previous titles from this series, you will like this one too. I would never recommend starting with this book although Butcher recounts some of the most important plot development to-date. I had a good time reading this book and look forward to the next title.
I have read almost all of the Dresden books and have been a mild fan; they are fun and easy reads...however this book is very different and pretty much not so good. In fact I got about 85% through it and stopped. It's so wrapped up in the creatures of Faerie and all of that, it loses it's grounding and there is no compelling mystery or narrative. I'm a Dresden reader and I got lost with Butcher throwing all these creatures into the action...it's the human story that is totally missing from this one. I do not recommend it, and felt insulted by it. Sorry, Jim.
Jim Butcher is a fantastic writer. He takes twists and turns with Harry Dresden that keeps you guessing and wanting more. Also he adds wonderful lines (my favorite is that Harry checks to see if he is wearing a red shirt before going into battle). If you are a first reader of this series, this is a good stand alone book, but to enjoy all the flavor of the book, you must go back and read all the others. My co-worker and I discussed possible endings for this book before it was released. We were wrong! This is not a writer who is predictable. Loved the book and can't wait till the next one.
Now I understand why I suffered through "Ghost Stories". Harry is back in all his glory. New twists and old friends make the series fun to read again.
Jim Butcher outdid himself with this one. It was amazing! I finished my first read-through this afternoon, and as soon as I finish the next Iron Druid book (which came out the same day as Cold Days), I'm gonna reread this one.
What a great book if you are a Dresden fan, probably the best in the series. Surprises, action, and expectations of more good things to come. Can't wait until the next one.
LOVED IT! Definitely one of my favorites of the whole series. Without giving any spoilers, I have to say, I love how Butcher ties together elements from the prior series, and the twist at the end was fantastic. I couldn't put it down. Now I can't wait for the next one!
The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher is one of my all time favorite series. I have no clue why I put off reading Cold Days for so long because it was an absolutely fantastic return to Harry's Chicago (and the Nevernever) - I actually had to give myself a bit of a refresher. Anyway, Harry and company have gone through some pretty major changes, but they're all in top form even if they've changed a bit along the way. As awesome as all the action, magic, sense of humor, and mystery are, the characters are totally what make this series and that's no different here - it's a pleasure to see how much everyone, especially Harry, has grown over the course of the series. In this case, Harry's taken on the mantle of the Winter Knight and the stakes have never been higher. After that gut-punch of an ending, it's time to jump into Skin Game! Here's to hoping Michael Carpenter will be back for the next round, and we'll get to see Maggie.
Some more step in journey.