"Thomas eyed me.
I tried to look wounded. 'It could happen.'"
~~Moved from GR~~
Turn Coat (Dresden Files #11)
by Jim Butcher
Harry is just trying to get a little peace and quiet to nurse a migraine when Morgan, warden of the White Council of Wizards and the Darth Vader of Harry's childhood, appears at his door, injured, panicked, and on the lam from the same organization he serves. He tells Harry he's been framed for a murder, and if Harry can't solve it within the next few days, Morgan will be caught and executed, and the real culprit will be one step closer to tearing apart the White Council from the inside. And if life weren't complicated enough, there's a skinwalker--a Native American nightmare--in town after Harry and his friends. Harry's half-brother, Thomas, is in danger. And if things weren't complicated enough, Harry's wizarding boss/warden captain/girlfriend is in town to hunt for Morgan. Harry's just about to find out how bad a headache can get.
This book was incredibly intense and violent, but I really enjoyed it, mainly because Morgan is one of my favorite characters. I've loved him since his entrance in Storm Front, and although my fondness for him faltered during Summer Knight, it was back to full strength by Dead Beat and Proven Guilty. He is the embodiment of Javert of Les Mis, especially the musical version.
"I am the law, and the law is not mocked!"
Heck, when he first pops up in Storm Front, he and Dresden basically have the "I stole a piece of bread" conversation. It's great. Swap the baton for a sword and he's the spitting image of Philip Quast as Javert--he even keeps his brown-grey hair in a ponytail.
Morgan has the same reverence for the law, the same tendency to see the world through monochromatic lenses, and the same inability to see someone who broke the Law as anything other than inherently evil. I cracked up every time Morgan walked onstage during Storm Front and Morgan and Harry's dialogue became a close parallel to The Confrontation song:
"You must think me mad! I've hunted you across the years! Men like you can never change--a man such as you! Men like me can never change. Men like you can never change... my duty's to the law!" Replace "bread" with "burning down your mentor" and "kidnapping girl" with "summoning demons" and you've got a Dresden-Morgan duet.
Look! It's Morgan with Scruffy-Dandelion-Haired Harry in Summer Knight!
I love Javert characters. Love'em. Give me an unbending instrument of law and order and I'll line up to join the fanclub. So it's not too surprising that most of my favourite characters in the Dresden Files-- Karrin Murphy, Michael Carpenter, and of course the inimitable Donald Morgan--fit neatly into this mold, and my favourite books are the ones where they make their star appearances. This book is basically a Dresdenized version of Javert's last song, where he struggles to reconcile guilt and redemption. The entire time I read the book, I had Les Mis stuck in my head.
But since this is a Dresden novel, there are of course plot threads and subplots to spare. The White Council's traitor has made his/her machinations so obvious that it has become critical to find and stop him/her. I was thrilled that this plot thread, which has lain dormant since the first clear indication in Dead Beat, has finally erupted into the open. Since there is intrigue and plotting, the White Court Vampires must of course have a hand in it, and Lara Raith is probably my favourite villain/semi-villain in the series. In addition, we see Molly continually conflicted between her troubling past and her desire to reform herself. The Skinwalker makes an effectively horrifying villain, dropping in at random to rampage and destroy. We also get a few standard Dresden moments, including another of my favourite quotes:
She looked up at me with a polite smile, her dark hair long and appealing...I liked the smile. Maybe I didn't look like a beaten-up bum. Maybe on me it just looked ruggedly determined.
"I'm sorry, sir," she said, "but the addiction counseling center is on twenty-six."
Also, the title. So many puns, so little time.
As is standard in TDF for me, there are a few impressively cringe-worthy moments; in this case, "Injun Joe" (ohgawdno) is back with some (to me) horrifically stereotyped back-to-nature-raindancing-Native-American tribal magic. Don't get me wrong: Butcher clearly means well; it's the 1950s style romanticization plus lack of research into Native American cultures that makes me flinch. The tone of the book is much more serious and desperate than previous stories, and the pain and pathos is at times wrenching. In this book, I really got the sense that the magical world is teetering on the brink of Armageddon, and that the smallest incident--such as the fall of one rogue Warden--can throw the world into chaos. Despite the darker themes, Turn Coat is a fantastic read.