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by Jim Butcher
The eleventh book of The Dresden Files begins to shake up some of the comfortable formula, if a series of thrillers pitting one smart-aleck wizard detective against a Chicago-load of vampires, zombies, demons, homicidal fairies, and hell-bent necromancers, can be said to fall into a “comfortable formula.” In this installment, wizard Donald Morgan—the sword-wielding wizard cop who has had it in for Dresden since the start—shows up on his younger nemesis’s doorstep, asking for help.
Morgan is on the run after being caught standing over the dead body of a member of the Senior Council, but he swears he has been framed. Dresden agrees to help, figuring no one will expect him to shelter the wizard who has been looking for an excuse to cut his head off since he was sixteen years old. Plus, solving this latest crime may mean exposing the “Black Council” that has been thwarting the aims of the wizardly White Council. Clearly there is a traitor at Wizard Central in Edinburgh, but before Harry can finger him (or her), he has a lot of things to do. Things like saving his mostly-reformed vampire half-brother from an evil being so powerful that the mere sight of it nearly drives Harry insane. Things like finding out who paid another vampire and an otherworldly-thug summoner to mess with him. Things that will involve his cop friend Murphy, his apprentice Molly, and his Warden Captain girlfriend in ways that take him far beyond the comfort zone.
Some of the threats Dresden faces in this book seem as scary and unbeatable as anything he has crossed wands with before. And some of the tactics he takes to survive them push the limits of what he can do without losing himself. At one point, Dresden lures multiple groups of dangerous customers to the same spooky island and then, while they fight amongst themselves, plugs himself into a vast malevolent power, which he then uses to even the odds against the Shagnasty that has Thomas. And when the dust settles, the whole dust-up turns out to have been a diversion from his real plan. Even then, the danger is far from over.
Turn Coat shows us a Harry Dresden whose youthful brashness is backed up by the wisdom of experience and a wider repertoire of survival skills in a magical world that just keeps getting more dangerous. Call it acquiring more powers; or call it having more friends to back him up. Some of those friends, however, will be lost or out of commission by the end of this book. Harry will pay a big price in heartache. That’s the cost of standing up for good in a world full of supernatural crooks and monsters—to say nothing of pragmatic wizards who value the appearance of power more than truth and justice.
Author Butcher knows how to keep you on the hero’s side, even when he does not seem awfully heroic. Blending arcane knowledge with pop-culture savvy, the never-say-die soul of a fighter with the wit of a ne’er-do-well, exceptional (though somewhat unfocused) power with the vulnerability of an innocent, Harry Dresden is a hero who makes it easy for the reader to share his loves and hates, joys and aches, dread and terror. His adventures have plenty of action, but the fight scenes are held together by the complex interaction of the plans, rash acts, loves, and hates of many groups, people, and creatures he is involved with. And though the answer to the question “Who done it” may not come as a big surprise, neither will you be surprised when you close the book wanting more. The spell for that is Book 12: Changes.