Harry Dresden has long been viewed as a black sheep by the members of the White Council of wizards, and Donald Morgan, the council's executioner, quite literally has an axe to grind with Harry. Morgan disdains anyone who breaks the rules and Harry is well-known for that. However, when Morgan is accused of the cold-blooded murder of a White Council member, a crime which carries the death penalty, he can think of no one else to turn to for assistance but the man who is also known for aiding the underdog. Given Morgan's treatment of him over the years, Harry has little reason to help the guy, except that the one thing he knows beyond a shadow of a doubt is that Morgan is incapable of betraying the council in such a heinous manner. So Harry puts his superior investigative skills to work to clear Morgan's name, while trying his best to keep the other warden hidden from those who are hunting him down, including a vicious skinwalker that just can't seem to be killed, all while attempting to avoid any mistakes that could lead to him losing his own head for assisting a traitor.
Turn Coat is the eleventh full-length installment of the Dresden Files series and like all the others, it keeps the series story arc churning along. In this book, Warden Donald Morgan, Harry's nemesis of sorts, who's had it in for Harry since he was caught breaking the laws of magic years ago, shows up on Harry's doorstep, wounded and on the run from the White Council. Morgan has been charged with a murder he didn't commit, and with few options left, he reluctantly asks for Harry's help with clearing his name. Even though there's no love lost between the two, Harry knows in his heart that Morgan couldn't possibly have done such a heinous thing, so he agrees to offer his assistance as an investigator. Unfortunately the trail of evidence starts leading to a possible conspiracy between the White Council and the White Court vampires. Add in an evil skinwalker who just won't quit, a mercenary wizard who knows just enough about spells to conjure up some trouble, and an abundance of friends and foes alike, and you have the makings of a rollicking story full of action, adventure, and just the right dose of magical intervention that was a pleasure to read.
Harry is definitely one of the best male characters of any series that I've read and he keeps me coming back for more each time I finish one of his stories. He's a complex hero, in that he doesn't always play by the rules, but he tries to stay on the side of good and in the White Council's graces. When Morgan shows up at his door, he has no real reason to help the guy. After all, Morgan, the council's executioner, has been jonesing for years to catch Harry in a mistake so that he can take him down. But Harry knows how loyal Morgan has always been to the White Council, which makes him certain that Morgan could never murder a White Council member in cold blood. He's also a strong fighter for the underdog and when he realizes that, for political reasons, the White Council may let Morgan take the fall no matter what, it makes him want to fight that much harder to clear Morgan's name. He just simply won't quit even when the villain sends a powerful, nearly unbeatable skinwalker to take them all out. In fact, he's prepared to die if necessary for the greater good, because it's just that important to him. I love Harry for his honorable nature and his desire to help those who, for whatever reason, can't help themselves. He inspires steadfast loyalty in his friends and a healthy dose of caution and even fear in his foes. Time and time again, he's proven himself to be a powerful wizard, not quite White Council powerful, but he definitely has plenty of raw talent that promises to grow to the level of a council member given time. I really can't wait to see what he might do next.
As always, there are plenty of great supporting characters to round out the cast. Morgan is a crusty old coot who's not easy to like, because of the way he's had it out for Harry since the beginning, and now Molly as well, believing them to be irredeemable warlocks. However, he proves to have some hidden depths and given that he spends most of the story in a very vulnerable state, I couldn't help but muster some sympathy for him, especially when he keeps fighting despite his weakened state. I also respected his loyalty to the council and to a certain other warden. Karrin Murphy is perhaps Harry's closest friend and the one he trusts the most, and I'm still rooting for them to hopefully get together at some point in the future. Molly keeps growing as an apprentice and learning more about her powers, which are pretty impressive in their own right. She, too, proves her loyalty by putting her life on the line for Morgan. Mouse is the smartest, bravest, and best dog a wizard could ever hope to have. Mister and Bob also put in brief appearances. A lot happens for Thomas in this installment, as he finds himself used as leverage against Harry, something that damages his psyche and possibly more. I'm hoping that these changes won't be permanent, while still trying to be optimistic about a real future for him and Justine, who also appears in this story. Thomas's sister, Lara, once again shows off her brilliant, but ruthless and deadly power as a frenemy, helping Harry and the council fight a common enemy. The wolf pack puts their lives on the line to lend an assist as well. Anastasia Luccio, captain of the Wardens and Harry's latest lover, can't help getting involved for multiple reasons, but we learn something surprising about her along the way. Brave little Toot-toot, my favorite pixie, really gets into the action in this one, showing off his fortitude against a formidable foe. All the White Council members are present, but it's Ebenezer McCoy and Listens-to-Wind who still seem to be Harry's most likely allies in the conflicts still to come.
As I mentioned, there's a lot going on in Turn Coat that makes it not only a great stand-alone story but one that adds intrigue to the overall series arc. I very much enjoyed trying to guess the mystery of who the real killer was. It all suggests that there's definitely some hinky stuff going on in high places, adding credence to Harry's theory of a Black Council that's operating in the shadows in opposition to the White Council. I love Harry's commitment to figuring it all out and I also love how that even when he's outnumbered and outgunned, so to speak, he manages to work smarter not harder. There are some humorous moments when Harry leaves home a couple of times, only to come back to a bizarre tableau involving Morgan, Molly, Luccio, and Mouse, in which Mouse appears to be the only one of the bunch with a cool head who's using his superior doggie brain. In counterpoint, there's also some grief as we say a sad goodbye to two long-time characters who've been a part of the series since the beginning. Everything taken together, Turn Coat was another excellent read in the Dresden Files series that I had a hard time putting down. I very much look forward to seeing what comes next for our intrepid wizard PI.
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