Wednesday, May 6

Review: Turn Coat by Jim Butcher

It’s funny how I’ve been buddy reviewing a lot of fantasy/urban fantasy books for Breezing Through lately. I have no idea how it happened, but it seems like it’s easier for me to find buddy reviewers for fantasy/urban fantasy... Hmmm, something to think about.

Anyway, today, I am going to review Turn Coat along with Renee from Renee’s Book Addiction. I’d like to thank her patience because it took forever for me to put the review together, but I did! :) So without any more delays, here we go... the newest installment of Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files.

Turn Coat by Jim Butcher
published by ROC in April 2009

The Warden Morgan has been accused of treason against the Wizards of the White Council--and there's only one, final punishment for that crime. He's on the run, wants his name cleared, and needs someone with a knack for backing the underdog. Someone like Harry Dresden.

Now, Harry must uncover a traitor within the Council, keep a less-than-agreeable Morgan under wraps, and avoid coming under scrutiny himself. And a single mistake may cost someone his head--someone like Harry.

Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Dresden Files, (full-length) book #11

***Before you go any further, warning: lot's of spoilers!!!***

Nath: So Renee, what did you think of Turn Coat?

Renee: Another solid installment of the Dresden Files. I love Harry, and by this book in the series, the characters and setting are pretty complex, but it's always easy to pick the story back up again.

Jim Butcher writes some of the best openings of books, up there with Charlaine Harris and Kelly Armstrong, and with Turn Coat, I was immediately thrust into the action. Morgan showing up on Harry's doorstep for help was unexpected, but made sense: they've always hated each other, but over the years know one another well enough that Morgan knows that Harry is always ready to fight for the underdog/lost cause, and Harry knows that Morgan would never betray the Council.

Nath: You think so? I think it’s very easy to slip back into Harry’s world; however, all the books are so detailed, there are so many plot lines going on that it’s not that easy to pick up the story again. There’s just so much that can be forgotten. I know I did...

I do agree though that Turn Coat is another solid installment and that the opening of this book is great. Personally, I think Jim Butcher is on a roll here, but then, it's easy when your plot is so convoluted and when you have so many great characters :) As for the opening, well LOL, Morgan showing up at Harry’s doorstep when he’s in trouble... that’s just the cherry on the sundae!! So ironic... I believe that all Harry can think of is: "Are you serious?!?" LOL.

Renee: It's funny, though, because it sort of started off with a bang: Morgan showing up, the skinwalker attacking, but then there was a bit of a lag in the pacing. It didn't pick up again for me until Thomas disappears. Then, everything seemed to flow more smoothly.

Nath: It's true that there was some lull in the middle of the book; however, readers were kept entertained by the characters and dialogues. There were so many great conversations, especially every time Harry walked in to see the people in his apartment facing each other and only stopped by Mouse! LOL :) Speaking of Mouse!! I want a dog like that! Seriously, the scene with the bullet in his shoulder? Awwwww, but at the same time, it was hilarious. That dog is soooooo clever!! :) I really want to find out more about Foo dogs :)

Renee: Yes! I loved it when there'd be this scene every time Harry came back to his apartment. The sad part was that Mouse always seemed the most mature out of the whole group!

Actually, Mouse and Toot-toot are 2 of my favorite characters in the series. I've always loved large dogs (my lab is over 100lbs) and it cracks me up how he totally understands what Harry says, and helps Harry out at least as much as any of the humans. Toot-toot, the pixie, is another great Butcher character, with his Pepto-Bismol breast plate and the hollowed out piece of a golf ball he uses as a helmet. And, how Harry pays him with pizza, and Toot-toot calls Harry Lord 'Za totally cracks me up. I agree, those little in-between scenes with their dialog are just great.

Nath: That's why Mouse is so cute, because he's sooo wise!! :) He's such a great dog and presence in Harry's life :) I'm glad we saw Toot-toot :) He always provides some comedy relief :) It’s also fun to see how small his presence is, him and the other pixies, but the great impact they have in the storyline. They’ve really played a major role and saved Harry’s life a few times :) I think it’s cute that they are addicted to pizza!! I guess that's one advantage of Harry being a warden -a steady paycheck. Although I have to say that lately, we've seen Harry more as a warden and wizard than P.I.

Hmmm, speaking of characters, there was a lot of character development in this one!

Renee: Some Dresden Files books seem to have more character development, others more plot development. For me, Turn Coat was mostly about the character and emotional development of a lot of the characters. Molly and Billy are coming into their own, Murphy and Harry seemed to have some great moments of emotional honesty, Lucio and Harry clarified things, and Thomas, well, Thomas just makes me sigh...

It wasn't until the very end that the plot (of the big story arc-the war with the Red Court and White Council politics) was moved forward. I loved how things are falling into place with the White/Black Council.

Nath: I’m all for character development, but what annoys me and what makes character development so difficult to keep track in my opinion is the timeline. I mean, almost a year passes by between books, right? As a result, I find it difficult to keep track with everyone’s age. I mean, how old is Molly now, 21 or 22? I think that in that sense, Morgan is right and Harry has to stop baby-ing her, taking small steps, and start working harder on her. I like that Billy is affirming himself – finally - too bad it came at such a high price.

Renee: I agree about Molly. I was really glad that he made her take responsibility for Mouse and "do the hard thing" rather than do it for her. But, it is sort of consistent with his character that he would baby her a bit (he's always had a weakness for the damsel in distress!)

Speaking of the timeline, I was sort of surprised that the last book ended with Michael and the knights sort of up in the air --how well he was going to recover, what about the other sword, but there was only a cursory mention of it in
Turn Coat. I guess Harry had his hands full enough with Morgan and the Council, but I was hoping for a little bit more about this in Turn Coat.

Nath: Oh, about Michael, well the reason he wasn't mentioned in this book is because there was a novella, Warrior, in the anthology Mean Streets. In that novella, you see how Michael is doing and to what extent he has recovered. Basically, he's okay :) and still quite strong... but yeah, wasn't an easy recovery :(

Back to character development and well, relationships :P I'm actually glad about the turn in relationship between Luccio and Harry. I have to say, I never really liked Luccio. I was happy that Harry was getting some romance and action, but I never thought Luccio was the right person. I mean, she is still a very hard woman, despite being put in a younger body and as a result, I side with Molly. Luccio had to know how Morgan treated Harry during all those years. Anyway, let just say I found the chemistry so-so. I think in a sense, the age difference plays a big role… It doesn’t really matter that wizards live a long life, but Luccio and Harry are from two different eras – literally. They were raised differently, the way of thinking is different, the world is different. I think that Murphy and Harry connected much better; just too bad that she won't take a chance - although I do understand her reason.

Renee: I liked that he had the relationship with Luccio (I mean, poor guy, he hardly ever gets any!). However, it never seemed like she was the one for him. It was more circumstances and loneliness that brought them together.

Yes, Murphy . . . I'm so happy they were so open with each other in this book! I'm keeping my fingers crossed that in the next one, a little something more might develop!

Nath: Well now we know that there was something more than made Luccio reach for Harry :P However, you’re right. I think that Harry was lonely – also crushed that Murphy wouldn’t take a chance… and when a woman came along who was willing, he jumped in ^_^; Like you say, he hardly ever gets any, poor guy! LOL.

The other relationship that’s taken a turn in this book is Harry and Thomas. I love, love, love Thomas. I think he's a great character and he adds a lot to Harry emotionally. My opinion though is that the author thought that Thomas’ development was stagnant. The guy found a way to satisfy his need without sleeping with a bunch of women, then his relationship with Harry was going on too smoothly. The two brothers had each other's back, helped each other, was there for each other... and Mr Butcher didn't know what else to do, so he took it back to square one where Thomas needs to find himself again. Grrrr. Personally, I think this really sucks.

Renee: Thomas is one of my favorite vampires! Yes, something had to give with Thomas. I just wish it wasn't what happened to him in this book. In a lot of ways he reminds me of Ivy from the Hollows series: fighting against his nature, looking for a different way to live with his demon. It just seems like there's got to be a middle way between rejecting what he is, and being a killer. I hope that it's more of a post-traumatic stress issue that has Thomas the way he is now, and time will help him deal with what he experienced at the hands of the skinwalker.

Also, in regards to his relationship with Harry, I LOVE that brotherly bond they have. Harry is so passionate about Thomas, and how he'll do anything to save him. In Turn Coat he just really laid it on the line for Thomas, and their relationship can't remain a secret for much longer.

Nath: I'm so glad that Thomas is so important to Harry. He really needed this kind of relationship. I wonder if he can confide to McCoy in the future. Perhaps that McCoy will be able to help. Sigh.

Do you think that Harry will accept to apprentice under Listens to Wind?

Renee: I like McCoy, but the prospect of Harry apprenticing with Listens to Wind is what excites me. The battle scene between him and Shagnasty was great! Can you imagine Harry having some of Listens to Wind's skills?

Nath: LOL, Harry is going to get in more troubles! Oh my God, it was kind of funny when Harry reflected on all his accomplishments and then he realized that the other wizards and wardens really had reasons to fear him! LOL :)

My other favorite parts in this book were getting more information on Harry’s mother and the final battle with the council scene at the end. Is it me or she doesn't sound as bad as in the previous books. Reading the previous books, I thought she'd be a warlock or something... someone's that used magic to evil ends... but then, it just seems she was avant-guard and an idealist... which is a very big difference. LOL, now I know who Harry gets it from LOL!

As for the whole battle scene on the island and the council meeting, they were just so exciting!! The ending was also unexpected in my opinion. Seriously, I never thought the book would end as it did ^_^; However, I'm so glad that McCoy and Harry will work more together in the future. I really like McCoy and I'm glad their relationship is back on track… and LOL, the Grey Council… Go guys, go!

Renee: I'm glad we're getting more about the mom. Actually, my favorite book in the series is Blood Rites, where we learn about Thomas and their mother. Again (not to sound like a broken record!) I'm hoping the next book in the series will give us a little more on her.

The island scene was great, but you know, while Jim Butcher does such great climax scenes, I think the thing he is best at is the lead up to to the climax: bringing together all the elements and characters, ratcheting up the suspense, setting the stage for the battle. Some of the passages that takes place on the island before the battle are so awesome. Consummate writing. You know, over the course of the series, you can really read Jim Butcher's skills as a storyteller develop, and I think with Turn Coat, he's totally at the top of his game!

OK, can I say, I love how Harry called the skinwalker "Shagnasty"? He's so irreverent. And, even with regards to the magic. He respects the magic, but does things like using silly string to work an eavesdropping spell, and the dry erase marker to make a casting circle. Totally cracks me up!

Nath: LOL, that’s one of the most endearing trait in Harry – his irreverence and how he can easily make fun of a situation, but still keeping his cool.

I’m going to give Turn Coat a B++. While Mr Butcher did explore some plot lines, there are still so many that are untouched – the swords, the demons, it’s kind of crazy! In addition, the set back with Thomas prevents me from giving it an A ^_^;

Renee: Ooh, I'm not too good with grades, but I guess I'd say strong B to B+. I really liked it, but there are books in the series I thought were better, especially my favorite, Blood Rites. And, the pacing in the beginning was a little uneven. But, that's a small complaint. I really think Jim Butcher has put out another excellent installment! :-)

Nath: Agree with you. Seriously, I heard that the author is planning 20-something books in the series. I say he better start writing two books per year! LOL :)


SciFiGuy said...

Really enjoyed this buddy review. What a great way to review. An interesting thing I didn't notice until later is that Bob his familiar doesn't make an appearance.

Renee said...

Doug: Wow, you are so right! While I was reading the story, I remember expecting him to show up (esp. when Molly went downstairs) but then forgot about it after I read it. That's really unusual.

nath said...

SciFiGuy - Hi there :) I'm glad you enjoyed the review :) If I remember correctly, Bob did make a very brief appearance - when Harry was trying to locate Thomas and the Shagnasty no?

However, it made sense that Bob's presence was kept at a minimum. Bob still hasn't been introduced to Molly and if Morgan had found out about Bob... can you imagine his reaction? LOL, I bet he would have leaped out of bed and kill Harry cos then, he would really have believed Harry was a warlock :P

Li said...

Love this discussion!

I agree with Nath that the Mean Streets story brings some closure to the Michael storyline, but I can see how someone who hadn't read it would be wondering where things are left. And the sword! What is happening to that??

I have never been that sympathetic to Molly for some reason, not sure why. Maybe it is the "damsel in distress" thing.

The Luccio plotline was an interesting twist - I def didn't see that coming.

And Thomas! I *adore* Thomas (must be that vampire thing. Ummm I agree with Nath, his situation was probably too good to be true. I do like angst, so bring it on :-)

Oh, there was a point when I wondered if Harry was becoming too all-powerful (when he ummm became one with the island and knew exactly what was happening where?). I'm glad he was limited to just the island.

Renee said...

nath: That's true. Bob's such an important character, I forget his existence is a secret.

Li: Yep, I gotta track Mean Streets down, I guess!
That's something that Jim Butcher is good at --always keeping Harry the underdog, and never being the most powerful guy in the room. lol

nath said...

Li - LOL, we'll never know what happens to the swords. It's a plotline that M Butcher doesn't seem in a hurry to explore!

I like Molly, but was I sympathetic with her? You know, I feel like Molly doesn't really know who she is... She's easily impressed and she seems to channel other ppl identity. Like the time she tried to seduce Harry - she was repeating her parents' relationship, and this time when Morgan talked about Harry and she reacted so strongly. Oh well, she still has a lot of room to grow.

Definitively didn't see the twist with Luccio, but it's a nice way to take her out of the pic.

Thing with Thomas is I like how he was!! I don't want him to change :(

Renee - I think the reason is that he played such a big role in the first few books - and we didn't know at that time that he needed to be "secret" LOL :P

Monroe Dawson said...

I've never seen anyone review like this! How original of you to review using basically a conversation! Like a few friends getting together talking about books! lol :O) Cool!

nath said...

Monroe - Glad you enjoy it :) Some other blogs get together to do buddy reviews, but I think ours is the first blog where it's exclusively buddy reviews :)