Remember when Harry Dresden used to be a P.I. wizard for hire and random Chicagoans would hire him to solve this or that unexplained problem in their life? Yeah. Me neither. This book kind of puts the final nail in that coffin for good and forever and marks the beginning of a trilogy (at least) of books which includes this one, Ghost Story and Cold Days. In Changes everything falls apart (I mean everything), Ghost Story is all about reflection and lesson learning from the whole everything falling apart scenario, and Cold Days is taking the lessons learned and trying to come to grips with a new reality. The Dresden Files series has always had a lot of through lines and connections between books but these three really seem to be more tightly bound - almost one story in three volumes so be prepared.
But back to Changes specifically. In the first few pages it is revealed that Harry has a daughter with Susan Rodriguez that he doesn't know about. And the little girl is in trouble. You can imagine how well Harry responds to the news that he has a 6 or 7 year old daughter that Susan has hid from him and that the girl (Maggie) has been kidnapped by a Red Court Vampire. He does not respond well at all. The rest of the plot involves Harry calling in all his allies and pulling out all the stops to save his child. In the end, Harry must do things that will haunt him for a long time and make him question himself like never before. Well as much as Harry does things like "question himself."
In this installment, Butcher seems to be aiming to accomplish a complete game changer. He gives Harry a child but then strips him of almost everything else. All those things we've come to associate with Harry are stripped away plus more. It's done thoroughly and well. Also if you are a Murphy fan she gets some great scenes and likely should receive the MVP award for the climax battle. If you've missed Susan Rodriguez, you'll have fun catching up with her. I only vaguely remembered her since I read books 1-10 long, long ago so I didn't really care about her in the least which made all of her and Dresden's emotional reunion, conflict and relationship drama just kind of annoying.
Which brings me to the point. Did I enjoy this installment of the Dresden Files? It was okay. It had its spectacular moments. The climactic battle scene is fantastic and I do appreciate overall what Butcher was doing to his character (aka being very very mean to him). I also like that this book has massive repercussions for the direction of the series which will be interesting to explore.
The problem is, I read the Dresden Files for non-stop action, goofy banter and generally the wild ride the books provide. Sure I'm invested in Harry and many of his allies as characters and I enjoy the occasional more serious and emotional scene. This book however dials the emo meter up to eleventy billion and my tolerance for that was particularly low while reading. There was a lot of eye-rolling. Mileage will most certainly vary regarding this complaint so it may not bother you at all.
I also felt like, probably because the stakes were dialed up so high in this one (at least for Dresden personally), that for the first time Harry came across as a Gary Stu. It dials down later in the book and I haven't really been too bothered in the subsequent books but for the first part of this book it really grated on my nerves. Every female in the book seems to be into him while he is all chivalrous and ridiculous...I will not sleep with you because you kept things from me, and I will not sleep with you because I met you when you were 8 and I will not sleep with you because...well I haven't really bothered to consider that possibility and your the only female I don't think about boobs first.
Finally, I felt like the pacing was off in this one. There was a big bad time deadline, as there always is in Dresden Files' books, but there seemed to be a lot of time for hanging around being dramatically emo about things. It finally picks up and evens out in the second half of the book but the first part dragged for me along with the other problems mentioned above.
The audio was read by James Marsters and he is really perfect for reading these books. He does a fantastic job and completely captures Dresden's voice and character. I highly recommend the audio version of the book!
FINAL VERDICT: A very up and down read for me. I appreciate what Butcher was doing in this book and there are really some spectacular moments but the overall reading experience was just okay.
I have just a one thing to say that is pretty spoilery so if you don't want to know, look away!
I'm a fan of the idea of a Murphy and Dresden romance mostly because I adore Murphy and think Harry should too. I like her more than Dresden in fact. At the end of this book we get some movement towards the happy idea of Harry and Karrin together and then Harry promptly gets shot and killed. It's a very convenient and certainly the most unusual way I've seen an author employ to draw things out. And man does Butcher keep the drawing out going - I'm two books further along and things are still very unresolved and look to even be in massive doubt. But more ranting about that in later reviews:)