Tuesday, May 05, 2009

“Turn Coat”, by Jim Butcher (Orbit)


Wise-cracking wizard detective + seriously scary monsters = rollicking good read

Harry Dresden, Chicago-based professional wizard, has done his best to keep his head down and out of trouble where the White Council of Wizards is concerned. The problem is, trouble keeps following him around. Now Harry finds himself faced with a typically nightmarish dilemma: Donald Morgan, formerly his chief persecutor among the Council’s Wardens, has been falsely accused of treason – and he has now come to Harry for help. With Morgan caught literally red-handed, Harry certainly has his work cut out to clear Morgan’s name (while also hiding him from other Wardens and the supernatural bounty hunters sent to find him), discover the identity of the true turncoat, and avoid suspicion himself. A single mistake could leave lives at stake. And one of them could be Harry’s…

The latest installment in the popular Dresden Files is another excellent page-turner from Jim Butcher. Harry is an intensely appealing character: streetwise, powerful, but ultimately flawed. Unlike many other fantasy writers, Butcher takes pains to emphasize magic’s limitations. His characters are not all-powerful, and magic is not a series of bangs and flashes capable of solving any problem. In fact, Harry tends to find that magic gets him into difficult situations far more than it gets him out of them.

Even Butcher’s monsters are human: Thomas, Harry’s vampire half-brother, is a fascinatingly complex take on the usual tortured stereotype, while even Morgan, who until now has seemed more like a machine than a human, turns out to have a heart after all. Throw in some clever detecting, Harry’s trigger-happy apprentice Molly, some seriously scary adversaries, good guys that are just as scary as the bad guys, and a finale that sidesteps the happy ending for one that is both moving and real, and you have another winner in an already strong series.

Butcher reworks traditional folklore and fairy-tale creatures, such as Titania and Queen Mab, and stock characters like vampires and werewolves, and makes them all his own. The dialogue is earthy and witty, the action fast-paced and the writing atmospheric and gripping.

This fantasy is not for the faint-hearted, but if you like genuine crime thrillers with supernatural chills, wisecracking wizards and a real sense of darkness, Turn Coat comes highly recommended.

Also try: Holly Black’s Valiant, Tithe and Ironside; Marie Brennan’s Midnight Never Come; Jennifer Rardin; Supernatural

Series Chronology: Storm Front, Fool Moon, Grave Peril, Summer Knight, Death Masks, Blood Rites, Dead Beat, Proven Guilty, White Night, Small Favour, Turn Coat

Reviewed by Emma

No comments:

Post a Comment