There is magic in the written word. Some authors can conjure wonders and terrors from every page they write, enchanting us with their prose much as a wizard would with a spell. One such warlock of the written word is Jim Butcher, National Bestselling author of The Dresden Files and Codex Alera series. Sadly, even the greatest of magicians occasionally flubs a trick.
Turn Coat, the most recent addition to the Dresden Files series pits Harry Dresden against his fellow wizards in a who-dunnit where he is trying to save the life of his chief antagonist among the Wardens, Morgan. Morgan, the paragon of morality and conservative feelings in the White Council has been accused of the murder of a prominent member of the Senior Council, and only Harry can help him. That's right, the Warden who has wanted to put Harry down like a rabid dog is forced to turn to Chicago's only wizard listed in the phone book for aid and comfort against traitors in the society of wizards. Sounds interesting and exciting, right? Well... sadly, it falls a bit flat.
The story itself is pretty standard, and Butcher does a great job of working with the characters, but there is something missing from this book. I can only look at it and think that what is missing from this book is a sense of spontaniety. What exactly do I mean by that? Well, in the past it always felt as though Harry was being pushed around by all of the major characters in the story and flying by the seat of his pants as events unfolded around him. This time it felt more like Harry was in control and pulling the strings to make everyone move like puppets on a string. Gone was the sense that most of the other characters knew something that Harry didn't, gone was the sense of fighting to work through a tangled web, and gone was the sense of one lone man fighting against the rising tide. Yes, Harry Dresden has always seemed to rely on his web of friends and associates, but in this book they seemed largely ineffectual and not terribly impactful; even Karrin Murphy and Thomas seemed to barely even be there.
So, what does this mean? Well, for starters it does not spell the end of the series. Every author, no matter how good, has the occasional off book. Perhaps part of the problem is that White Knight was so good that any book following it would pale in comparison. That being said, Turn Coat felt from the outset like it could have been a whole lot more than it was, and though there was quite a lot of fantastic drama and a fantastic plot, this really just did not feel like a Dresden novel. As far as it goes, though, it is still a great book.
Fans of Harry Dresden will like the most recent installment and will be looking for the next one as eagerly as I am, but less strident fans may decide to stop here.