Let's play a game, shall we, loyal readers big and small? Well, big at least, because it's a drinking game and I in no way condone underage drinking. The game is simple, pick up the latest Jim Butcher book, Cold Days, and take a drink or a shot every time a character makes a pop-culture reference. As a bonus round for all those hard-core readers/drinking game players, take two drinks or shots every time a character makes a reference to Star Wars. Keep in mind this is a buddy game: because I guarantee that after about fifty pages or so into the book, you're going to need a buddy to call 911 and report a case of massive alcohol poisoning.
That little bit of fun aside I can tell you with the utmost sincerity that I was super excited to read the new Jim Butcher book. I've been a big fan of his since I first got his book as a gift from a friend I no longer remember their name. I've read every book in the Dresden Files except his short stories (I have a massive distrust of short stories in a series of novels, but that's for another time) and even read his Alera Codex novels, which were supremely well done. I even watched the short lived TV series on Scify staring Paul Blackthorn.
I love Jim Butcher's books so much, that it was actually disappointing to read the newest book. I think in a way I was just ready for the books to be finished when Changes came around. Butcher spent so much time mutilating his characters life that I kind of want Harry Dresden to get a break and maybe relax in Cancun for a few days to recover. Ghost stories, the book before this one, also had a very final feeling to it, it being the book where Harry Dresden solves his own murder and in a sense gets closure over his death, only to be brought back in the new book. After everything that Dresden has been through, I think it's kind of reached a downward slope and it can only get worse from there.
Cold Days has reached a certain point of plot that makes it really hard to single one point out among the clutter. The book jacket makes a bit point of Dresden working for Mab, Fae Queen of air and darkness, and how he has to kill an immortal, but honestly, it's only a passing fad that lasts the first fifty pages or so and the last four or five chapters. The middle is a cluster of past enemies I don't remember and never gave much thought about, a lot of story about his destiny and fate as a Wizard, and a lot of back story into what's been happening to three of the main characters since the bullet first hit.
On the whole, the writing was excellent, and Jim Butcher remains a terrific storyteller, but I think as far as the Dresden Files go, they have already climaxed and are just waiting for a cigarette before they can quietly put their clothes on and sneak out before anyone realizes they are gone.