Saturday, March 14, 2015

The Dresden Files: Turn Coat review

    One of the more controversial figures in the Dresden Files series is Morgan, Harry Dresden's equivalent to Inspector Javert. A ruthless Warden and mage-hunter, Morgan believed Harry was a warlock and practitioner of evil magic with no amount of evidence or good deeds able to convince him otherwise.

    This proves to be a deterrent to Morgan's career as Harry not only ends up joining the Wardens but saving the world on multiple occasions. As Harry's star has risen, so has Morgan's star waned, until it seems that he's nothing more than a pathetic has been tilting at windmills. The premise is Morgan ends up plopping himself on Harry's door begging for help, because it's now HE who is being hunted as a traitor.

    Oh, karma.

    Further troubling this situation is the most vicious, hateful, and dangerous monster Harry has ever faced. Given the number of monsters Harry has faced, it's a tall order to say, "this is the worst of the bunch" but the naagloshii or Skinwalker qualifies. He starts off the story by doing something unforgivable and then proceeds to keep doing unforgivable things until the very end. Unlike Nicodemus, I feel genuinely sacred for Harry when they fight.

    Good show.

    Much of the book is devoted to attempting to salvage Morgan's character from the somewhat cartoonish figure he'd been portrayed as before to someone who fit into the more mature depiction of the series ambiguities. Morgan is shown to be a long-time veteran of the often insane and paranoia-inducing world of wizard politics, struggling to do the right thing when mercy is often merely a gateway to getting played by evil-doers. The fact Morgan has given his life to fighting evil, sacrificing the chance for love and children, is surprisingly moving in the face of Harry's almost ridiculously-large surrogate family.

    Warden Commander Luccio also plays a big role in this story, continuing both her romance with Harry Dresden as well as illustrating the vast age differences with the two when she reveals she'd mentored the Sean Connery-looking Morgan. There's a revelation about the Warden Commander and her romance with Harry at the end of the book I didn't like. I felt it was needlessly tacked on and done primarily to protect the Harry/Murphy ship I think should be abandoned and left to sink.

    Turn Coat has some excellent moments spread throughout the story. Watching Harry struggle to deal with the naagloshi, his failed attempts to protect his friends, and the increasingly obvious Quislings within the White Council are all very well done. I also liked watching Harry deal with the fact his apprenticeship of Molly Carpenter may not have been his best work. Harry is a bit too permissive with his student, treating her like the daughter of his best friend versus someone in dire need of correction on magical ethics.

    This is a dark, moody, and surprisingly intrigue-ridden installment of the series. We get insights into how the White Council works, how the war is proceeding against the Red Court (answer: badly), and whether or not Harry can trust his fellow mages (answer: no). The Black Court, first introduced in Dead Beat, comes to prominence here and the paranoia its existence induces makes for some hair-raising moments. Harry's team doesn't emerged unscathed from this book and I'd argue this is the volume where he takes the most hits both emotional and physical.

    In conclusion, this is a good hard-edged volume but may not be for everyone. Harry gets raked over the coals and the book gets perhaps darker than it needs to be. Characters are raped and killed off-screen, violently murdered, plus longstanding heroes get summarily written out of the books. Still, it's very well-written. The book not only manages to redeem the Morgan character but make him one of my favorite in the franchise. That's impressive.


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