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Cold Days: The Dresden Files, Book 14
read by James Marsters
Penguin Audio Book, $34.96, 18 hours, 50 min
Release Date: November 30, 2012
James Marsters was an inspired choice for reader of the Dresden Files books. He’s versatile, with beautiful modulation and great inflections, and he personalizes the different characters delightfully. Bob the Skull, with his British accent, and Toot Toot, the leader Harry’s cadre of pizza-loving wee folk, were two of my favorites; but I suspect Marsters had the most fun with psychotic bitch goddess Maeve, the Lady of Winter, and with Harry Dresden’s retorts to her provocations.

Harry has his game back on, now that he’s back in his body, after being dematerialized through most of Ghost Story, after being riddled with bullets at the end of Changes – worst timing ever, Butcher, and you know it! He has survived 77 days of physical therapy, enlivened by the Queen of Air and Darkness’s daily attempts to kill him. As she explains to him, she has no use for a weak Knight. Supervising his recovery has been a young woman, a changeling of Queen Mab’s Winter Court, named Sarissa. Sarissa is the first to warn Harry that now that he wears the mantle of the Winter Knight, he may himself turning into the very sort of monster, Slade, his predecessor, had become – the first, but not the last one to so warn him. Indeed, the recurring, thrumming threat of being taken over by Winter’s mantle is the underlying drama of the whole story: keep an ear open for every time Harry doesn’t quiiiite sound like, well, himself.

Not that Dreseden has any time to sit around contemplating his navel and listening to the voices in his head. From the time he puts on the tuxedo to attend a Winter Court dance and follows Cat Sith down the halls to a room so baited with traps that he and Sarissa barely make it out with their lives, to the confrontation of powers on Demonreach Island at the end, Dresden barely has time to catch his breath.

Along the way, however, wonderful and terrible things happen, and virtually all of the characters you could want to see again reappear.

One of the great scenes involves the Wild Hunt, with the Erlking and a surprising accomplice chasing Harry and Karrin on motorcycles. Another has Dresden paying a visit to the Grandmothers – the Ladies who are senior even to the Queens of Summer and Winter, which gives Harry the opportunity to observe that dysfunction is clearly a multi-generational issue. He even gets answers to some of the really Big Questions, and glimpses aspects of reality Not Meant for Mortal Ken. But then, he’s no longer entirely mortal now, is he?

But as I said, the wicked-best scenes usually involve Maeve saying and doing things that leave you with your jaw hitting the floor.

If you thought reading these books was a blast, wait till you hear them read aloud by Marsters. ~~ Chris R. Paige

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