Years ago, Harry Dresden had a romantic relationship with Susan Rodriguez, but when she was attacked by Red Court vampires, she was left in a limbo state halfway between vampire and human. Trying not to completely lose her humanity, Susan went to South America where she joined a group who were fighting against the Red Court. While there, she gave birth to a baby that she gave up to foster parents, hoping to keep the child safe. But Arianna Ortega, Duchess of the Red Court, has discovered Susan's secret and plans to use it to exact revenge against Harry for killing her husband by forcing him into a battle on her turf with the might of the entire Red Court behind her. Harry couldn't be more shocked when Susan phones him with the news that their daughter, a little girl he didn't even know existed, has been kidnapped by the Reds, but he doesn't hesitate to leap into action to save her. However, when he has trouble drumming up much support for his cause, it seems like his mission may be doomed before it even begins. Will Harry's ragtag band of misfits be enough to take down the entire Red Court or will they all die in the attempt?
Changes is the twelfth full-length book in Jim Butcher's Dresden Files series, and boy, does it really shake things up. It starts off with a bang as Harry receives a phone call from Susan Rodriguez, his former girlfriend and now half-vampire. She informs him that their daughter-a child he didn't even know existed-has been kidnapped by the Red Court vampires and she needs his help getting the little girl back. Once Susan arrives in Chicago, they get to work, figuring out how to locate their child and rescue her. As is typical for these stories, things don't entirely go Harry's way. They spend a lot of time consulting various people and calling in favors in an attempt to accomplish their goal, while trying to evade the Red Court assassins sent to slow them down, as well as local law enforcement. When they finally figure out what the Red Court is really up to, it becomes even more imperative that they don't fail in their mission, but despite all the entities he's talked to, Harry can only come up with a small group of allies compared to the Red Court's massive army. In the end, he must make a Faustian bargain to have any chance of pulling it off, and even then, he's going to need a lot of luck on his side in order to save his daughter and bring everyone home safely.
In every book of the series, Harry grows and changes, but in this one that's ramped up to about a thousand. When he gets Susan's call, he's understandably caught off guard and shocked to discover that he's a father. Not only that, but his child is now in mortal danger. Being a half-vampire who's made many enemies as a member of the Fellowship of St. Giles, Susan knew she couldn't be the mother Maggie deserved, so she hid her away, even from Harry, who is now quite angry with her for not telling him sooner. But he puts that animosity aside for Maggie's sake and gets right to work on figuring out a way to save her. Almost everywhere he goes, though, he keeps running up against roadblocks, but eventually he figures out the girl's whereabouts and cobbles together a desperate rescue plan. In order to accomplish that, though, he has to do things he never thought he would, but he discovers that anything is worth it for the daughter he's never met. I have to admit that Harry went a bit dark in this one, but at his core, he's still the honorable man who cares about others and tries to do the right thing. It's just that sometimes life can get complicated, and in this case, reality forced him into some tight spots where he had to make tough decisions for the good of his child. It will be interesting to see where things go for Harry from here, because the one thing that's certain is that nothing will ever be the same for him again.
I think nearly every supporting character that's ever been a part of the series returns in this one in some form or another. As always, Karrin Murphy is one of Harry's staunchest allies. She's always been tough, but in this one she's a literal bad-ass who impressed the hell out of me. After the way things were left with Thomas in the previous book, I was worried about him, but I was happy to see that even though he's returned to the White Court, he's still fighting by Harry's side, especially when it mattered the most. Molly has definitely been honing her wizarding skills and puts them on display in this one. Mouse is still the toughest, most loyal dog ever and in one very humorous scene we actually get to "hear" what he's thinking. Bob gets to show off his impressive powers, which was, if memory serves, a first. Harry's fairy godmother, Lea, has her meatiest role yet, actually helping Harry in his mission this time. Sanya, the last remaining Knight of the Cross, shows up just when Harry needs more allies. Ebenezar is trying to hold together the shadow group known as the Grey Council. We also get to see his magnificent power as the Blackstaff in action and learn a surprising secret about him that explains a lot. While I was initially upset with Susan on Harry's behalf for not telling him about Maggie, I did understand her reasoning, and she more than proved her mother's love in the end. Her long-time, fellow half-vampire ally, Martin, comes along for the ride and ended up having some shocking tricks up his sleeve. Harry briefly meets with Marcone, seeking information, which leads to an even more interesting meeting with Gard's mysterious boss, who turns out to be a man of myth and legend. And then there's a certain dark entity with whom Harry must make his bargain, which I can't mention without giving away spoilers and which will certainly have repercussions in the books to come.
Changes was definitely one of those massively pivotal books in a series that alters the course of the greater story arc. In fact, Jim Butcher blows up so much stuff in this book that "changes" is really an understatement. I don't think anything will ever be the same moving forward. As with most of the books in this series, the story begins a little slowly with Harry investigating and figuring things out, while planning his next move. There are several smaller battles along the way to keep things interesting, but upon reaching the climax, all hell broke loose. I think this was the biggest, most epic, climactic battle of any book in the series so far, and it all played out like the best action movie ever in my mind's eye. Every time it seemed like all was lost, some awesome twist would occur to help turn the tide. But even still, the ending was pretty bittersweet for several different reasons. A great deal was gained, but there were heartbreaking losses as well. Not only that, but the final page turned out to be a freaking cliffhanger, which has never happened in this series before. I'll also say that Mr. Butcher is the biggest tease when it comes to Harry and Murphy getting together. That ending just killed me for more reasons than one. I'm extremely happy I have the next book on my TBR pile to pick up at any time and don't have to wait a year or more to continue the story, which at this point, I'm extremely eager to do.
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