By Jim Butcher (Official Webpage)
Buy it here: Changes
Changes is the reason we read the Dresden files. After 11 books of getting to know Harry Dresden, of suffering, loving, fighting, and joking with him, everything culminates in this book. Unlike many long series that fizzle out in the end, that build up expectations that cannot possibly be met, Changes surpassed all my expectations and gave me more.
The Dresden Files is worth reading every book for Changes alone. It is the capstone on one of the best fantasy series ever written.
The reason I first started reading the Dresden books was a simple one. I saw the covers frequently, and was intrigued by them. After reading the first two books, Storm Front and Fool Moon, however, I thought the series had potential but wasn't living up to it. So, I was fully content just leaving it.
About a month after that, Changes came out, and my Facebook was abuzz with how much people loved that book. After a good while of people explaining it to me (and also explaining how the series really didn't start until the third book), I went back. So, in a sense, I gave the series another shot because I heard how completely fabulous Changes was.
Needless to say, you can guess I had HUGE expectations for this book. As the series progressed and I liked it more and more, I felt there was just no way Butcher could deliver what I wanted in Changes. I'd been given blockbuster after blockbuster (Grave Peril, Death Masks, Proven Guilty, and Small Favor all come to mind. Oh, and a zombie t-rex ride), and yet I wanted this final book to be all that and then a lot more. There was no possible way he'd pull it off.
Guess what. He did. Changes is one of the best books I've ever read. Of course, there are reasons for that, which I'll now elaborate on.
Changes, read by itself, would still be a good book. But what elevates it into the "holy crap everyone needs to read this" sphere is the eleven books before it. Because we've had extensive time with Dresden (and in his head, since the books are first person), we know him as a character extremely well. We know what his virtues and vices are. We know what things hurt him the most. We know how, when is back is really to the fire, he might slip up and fail. That possibility is always there. He's human, and he's full of multiple levels of real human qualities and quirks.
It's all the buildup that makes Changes work so perfectly. Needless to say, this is the "Season Finale" of Dresden books, in more ways than you'd think. Nearly every character in the previous series is at least mentioned, with many of them (including a few you wouldn't think would) ally up with Dresden for the final fight. While many plot threads are tied off, lots more are opened, making way for what will be the next "season" of Dresden.
Oh, and about that: Dresden makes some changes (and some very dramatic things happen to him) that will be downright shocking for long-time fans of the series. Butcher isn't afraid to change (pun intended) everything, including ruining things considered sacred and untouchable. It will be very interesting to see where Ghost Story goes, considering the choices Dresden had to make during Changes.
So, here's the most basic, spoiler free version of the plot: Susan calls Harry in the first sentence, saying the Red Court vampires have taken their daughter.
Susan, as you may know from following my reviews, is Harry's almost-vampire girlfriend, who is only spared from becoming a vampire by resisting the urge to drink blood for the first time. She's been gone since Death Masks, which is a good half-dozen years ago, making it fully possible for her and Harry to have a child.
And, if you know anything about Harry, there are a few things that rub him the wrong way. 1. Anyone attempting to hurt his family. 2. Women in distress. 3. People who hurt kids.
Yeah. Harry is going to go Man On Fire on this one.
In preparation for this review, I actually went back and re-read the last 6ish chapters (which is essentially the climax of the novel, and the series) just to make sure they were as good as I remembered when I read them at 3 in the morning.
Good news: They are. Great news: They are actually better the second time.
Butcher is a freaking genius with regards to how well he pulls everything together. As stated, I had expectations that were sky high, and he completely surpassed them. Changes makes me want to go back and start the entire series over again, just to better understand Harry in hopes of gleaning even more from the finale.
While it was already pretty damn high up, Changes pretty much puts The Dresden Files as my #1 favorite fantasy series ever. It really doesn't get much better than this.
Now the hard part: Surviving until 2011 without a new, full Dresden novel.
Bonus: Expect a full series review sometime eventually!