Big. Fat. Spoiler. Alert. Don’t read any more until you’ve read the book.
If I may speak of this from a personal perspective, I have done the same thing with the Kate Shugak series that Jim Butcher has now done in Changes. I took her job away, albeit off stage, I killed her lover, I burned down her house. But in Changes Butcher does it all in one book, in 438 pages he strips Harry to the bone, divesting him of every possession, including his own soul. And then on the last page, he kills him.
Except the oncoming train tells me he hasn’t. And also because I went hotfoot to his website to be reassured that Butcher is still saying there are twenty books in the series and this is only number 12.
My heart failed me too many times to mention, in steadily increasing palpitations. When Harry’s office exploded, not so much, he hadn’t been there in a while. When the Blue Beetle got squished beyond all hope of resurrection. When his house burned down and took his lab with it. When he broke his back. When he slaughtered the Winter Knight, I actually cried out “No, Harry, no!” What will Mab do to him? It’s all very well for Ebenezer (Harry’s grandfather! It all makes so much more sense now! Jesus, how far ahead does Butcher plot out these novels?) to say that Harry will always be able to choose, but Harry sold himself to Mab in exchange for healing and power, and he killed, deliberately, to get them. That’s a bill I’m not sure he can pay.
When Butters got shot.
And then Harry kills Susan, the one woman he has ever loved, to save their daughter and put an end to the Red Court.
He gives Harry a daughter, and then he takes her away.
And then that horrible, wonderful bait-and-switch with Karrin at the end.
There are so many great, great scenes, but let me just single out a few.
The Grey Council arriving in the nick of time, when we finally get to see Blackstaff at work. “I got another one.”
Karrin with Fidelacchius.
The great rif on the Fellowship of the Ring. (I will say I knew Martin was the rift within the lute, he was too impervious to injury. I did not see coming what the soul gaze he exchanges with Harry at the end reveals. But of course it fits, perfectly.)
The best part of this book is that Butcher waited this long to write it, to give us 11 previous chapters in Harry’s life, giving us that much lead time to become completely invested in his character. We feel every hit Harry takes like it’s aimed at us personally.
Incredibly well done, and leaving the reader wondering how the hell Harry’s going to come back from this, and if he’ll still be our Harry when he does. What a great place to leave us. Bravo!!
Author and founder of Storyknife.org.