Changes is the twelfth book in the series, and, sadly, the one that finally killed my affection for the series.
So, alright. I get that Butcher wants to ramp up the drama factor, and that it's tough to bring out a more apocalyptic fight each installment. But, honestly, this is perhaps the worst possible way to go; blow up or otherwise destroy 90% of the touchstones that make a Dresden book Dresdeny, while simultaneously adding three or four new layers to the serious heavy plot-angst that Dresden carries around.
My least favorite things, in order of increasing severity:
- Dresden's house and office and car (and hell, his freaking duster) get blowed the hell up. This sucks, plain and simple. This is like if Arthur Conan Doyle had decided "You know what we need to cut out of Sherlock Holmes? 221B Baker Street!" Furthermore, this is the most obvious symptom of the root problem I have with this book - all the fun, quirky bits that made the series fun to read are the things Butcher is throwing out.
- Susan and Harry's "baby-ex-machina." There are just so many problems here. Let's just ignore the fact that this is the most blatant, un-abashed plot contrivance in a sea of plot contrivances. How about the fact that Susan's argument for not letting him know is that he wouldn't understand the reasoning behind her needing to be hidden away and not with him, when, for eleven freaking books, his first reaction to anyone wanting to help him out has been to try and cut all ties and keep them safe?
- Every woman in the universe wants Dresden's Wizard Staff, knob on the end and all. This has pretty much always been true, but Butcher didn't used to have every one of them talk about it, taking up 25% of the freaking book. In this one alone, the tally of beings sexually interested in Dresden enough to spend time talking, being talked about, referencing or actually humping him includes Molly, Susan, Murphy, the head of the Wardens, and one of the freaking vampire twins.... and then we have the obligatory uncomfortable sex scene with Mab, the Winter Queen. Which leads me to the next point...
- Him becoming the Winter Knight sucks. Really? Was the Lasciel nonsense SO great that we have to go through another multi-book arc where Dresden is attached at the hip to a beautiful temptress as powerful as she is blah blah freaking blah. God DAMN it, man, we've seen this before. You rode Nicodemus and his Magical Monstery Tour into the freaking ground, partly by attaching one of them directly to Dresden's brain. Now you're going to ruin the freaking FAIRIES?! But SUMMER KNIGHT WAS AWESOME WAAAHHH WHY IS HE DOING THIS MOMMY I'M SCARED!!!1!
- When Mouse talks (because Harry's a dog at the time), he's an irritating, bossy smart ass. It was a terrible idea to have him talk, anyway, but the characterization behind his speech is such a mismatch, it basically ruins my ability to enjoy a GIANT MAGIC DOG. And that, my friends, is the last speck of childlike wonder in my soul, closing the door on its way out.
- Harry slits a bound man's throat, and then, for an encore, Harry kills Susan in front of their daughter after tricking her into turning into a vampire. I don't really have much more to say here, except that I didn't care much for Dresden's "I'm going to the dark side" moments when there were only one in a book and they didn't actually make him a monster. When they're coming two to a book, and are followed by everyone hugging him and going "Poor Dresden... heroic Dresden," it's honestly just a little vomit-inducing. This is actually the worst single problem with the book - these two scenes, in an otherwise well-written Dresden book, might still have been enough to kill my love for the series.
- The entire book is a sack of cliches. Seriously; he should have either ended the series at Dead Beat (Thus, going out on top), or, as I'd thought he might do, actually adjusted to the fact that Dresden works best as episodic pulp stories, and knocked off this EPIC DRAMALAMA nonsense that he's killed the fun with. I mean, honestly - if any more of Dresden's lines were variations on "But they have my daughter!" he'd turn into Harrison Ford and sleep in Callista Flockhart's car or something. Nothing in this book feels new or fresh; it's all either cliches, or, worse than that, cliches IN THE DIRECT CONTEXT OF DRESDEN. You could almost literally make this book by cutting and pasting parts from the previous novels. Oh, wait - make that only the angsty, violent, and brutish parts, along with sidelong references to the fun parts that, more often than not, involve destroying them.
And now, the worst problem of all....
I am not sure whether to consider the "shot in the heart" ending a problem, because, by that point, I kinda want Dresden dead.
Long story short - I give this one a Zero out of Five. No, in fact, it gets a negative two, because it has killed my enthusiasm to read the previous books that I enjoyed. I'm never quite going to enjoy scenes with Mouse, or Susan, or Harry himself quite as much as I did.