Turn Coat: Book Eleven of the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher
Published March 2010 (UK), by Orbit UK, US 2009.
Review by Mark Yon
So, we reach Book Eleven of the Dresden Files series.
(Which reminds me, for the record, as there are spoilers here, please read the ever-lengthening list of other reviews first:
(Book One (Storm Front) review here; http://www.sffworld.com/brevoff/219.html ; Book Two (Fool Moon) review here: http://www.sffworld.com/brevoff/232.html ) Book Three (Grave Peril) (link here: http://www.sffworld.com/brevoff/243.html ), Book Four, Summer Knight (link here: http://www.sffworld.com/brevoff/281.html), Book Five, Death Masks (here: http://www.sffworld.com/brevoff/416.html );
Book Six, Blood Rites (here: http://www.sffworld.com/brevoff/419.html );
Book Seven, Dead Beat (here: http://www.sffworld.com/brevoff/473.html ); and
Book Eight, Proven Guilty (here: http://www.sffworld.com/brevoff/560.html );
Book Nine, White Night here: http://www.sffworld.com/brevoff/588.html .)
I last reviewed Harry Dresden in April 2010 with Book Ten, Small Favour, here:
After the events of the Fae in Small Favour, we’re back into Wardens, Wizards and vampires in this one. The cease-fire present between the vampires and the wizard White Council seen in Small Favour still remains, but is still fragile. This is in no small part due to the so-called Black Council, the fifth-columnists within the White who seem determined to bring the wizards down.
We start, as is usual, with a bang. Though most of the novels start with a bit of a jump, this one tops the lot so far. Harry is at home when on his doorstep appears a badly injured Morgan, the Warden with whom Harry has had a difficult relationship with to date. Asking for protection from the White Council, Morgan then collapses.
Though harbouring a fugitive from the Council means death, Harry protects his former adversary whilst he investigates the crime that Morgan is accused of, namely the murder of Senior Council member Aleron LaFortier. Harry feels that Morgan has been framed as an attempt to discredit him and the Council, as well as reignite the situation between wizards and vampires.
Here we’re back to the story that has been developing over the last few novels, that of a traitor (or traitors) in the White Council, hence the title of the novel.
As events unfold, the circle broadens in this one. We start to see things from a more global perspective as Harry goes to the scene of a murdered Warden at the White Council’s headquarters in Edinburgh, Scotland. There we get some idea of how the headquarters works, as well as more of an impression that magic is not just centred in Chicago or the US but as a global magic network.
This is also shown by the brief mention of the Paranet, which maintains a global network between wizards and witches. (As an aside, it is odd to think how little the Internet was available to the general public when the series started in 2000.)
We also have unlikely allies who end up fighting together in order to deal with a problem that could affect them all.
(POSSIBLE SPOILER: The thought of wizards, werewolves and vampires fighting together against a common enemy should get you quite excited and here Jim doesn’t disappoint. END SPOILER.)
In order to bring new elements to the mix, there are also some new characters as well as the old. Here we have introduced Vince Graver, a private investigator for hire that Harry employs to do some of the background work for him. To emphasise the international nature of the series (and perhaps due to UK book sales), we have some British Wardens appear (though briefly introduced in Small Favour) and a bad guy by the name of Binder who plays an important part in causing disruption.
However, the Big Bad Protagonist of this tale is a malevolent new creature for Harry to deal with: a Navaho Indian legend, a skinwalker (who Harry refers to as ‘Shagnasty’ – not really appropriate for a British audience!) To add to this we have vampires who wish to break the truce and nasty spiders in the NeverNever.
Though there are developments then, it is still the relationships of the characters here that matter. Harry has continued to socialise with Anastasia Luccio and in that respect things are looking up here. The relationship between Harry and Karrin is briefly emphasised but reinforced here. Molly is now becoming a much more rounded and confident character, but makes errors here that could backfire badly on her and Harry.
Harry has to go against his allies in the White Council for what he believes in.
And we learn more about Mouse.
There are some major changes here, that will no doubt have an effect on events later. Thomas Raith, Harry’s half-brother, is changed by what goes on in this book and not necessarily for the better. The biggest plot point is the death of a fairly major character, which leads to some serious soul-searching by Harry.
What is perhaps the biggest thorny question here is that there is an ethical issue whether the sacrifice of an innocent individual is acceptable for the greater good. It is something that sits uneasily with Harry, due to his background, and yet in Turn Coat it leads to consequences that are neither an easy nor a happy solution.
If you thought after eleven books this series has said all it can about Harry, this book proves there is still more to tell and there’s no sign of stopping. The ending leaves open a number of intriguing developments that mean that this story isn’t over, and I want to read the next one soon. Still very much recommended.
In homage to my reviews of the previous books, here are the key themes in short: generally more continued goodness this time around on a grander scale. More Morgan, more White Council, the return of the werewolves, a little Bob, quite a lot of Mouse, a little Mister, quite a bit of Thomas, the return of Justine, more vampires than we’ve seen for a while, quite an amount of Karrin and yet more complicated personal life for Harry, the Paranet, an early and a late appearance from Butters but still no polka, no dinosaur, no weregoats but a very vicious skinchanger, and a really BIG duel.
Onto Book Twelve (Changes!)
Mark Yon, August 2010