Author: Jim Butcher
Date of Publication: March 2010
Reviewed by: Steve Aryan
Available from: Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.com
Harry Dresden, professional wizard, has done his best to keep his nose clean where the White Council of Wizards is concerned. Even so, his past misdeeds have cast a constant shadow of suspicion over him in the eyes of the Wardens, those wizards responsible for enforcing the Laws of Magic. Now Dresden finds himself faced with a nightmarish dilemma: Morgan, formerly his chief persecutor among the Wardens, has been wrongly accused of treason against the White Council - and has come to Harry for help. Dresden faces a daunting task: clear Morgan's name while simultaneously hiding him from the Wardens and the supernatural bounty hunters sent to find him, discovering the identity of the true turncoat and, of course, avoiding accusations of treachery of his own. A single mistake may mean that heads - quite literally - will roll. And one of them could be his own ...
This is the 11th book in the series so there will be some spoilers for previous books and minor ones about this book. Given that the next novel in the series is called Changes, I thought it would be the one that shakes everything up, but in Turn Coat there are some serious, and perhaps irreparable, changes.
Morgan, hardcore warden and one of the biggest pains in Harry’s life, turns up on his doorstep half dead and asks Harry for help. He claims he’s been framed for a murder and he needs Harry to hide him and find out who is really responsible. As a much younger man Harry was almost executed by the White Council because of some issues with dark magic. Morgan was the one who would have wielded the sword and despite Harry being put on probation Morgan never believed Harry’s innocence. He’s hounded Harry for years and has been waiting for him to slip up so that he can lop off his head.
So for him to come to Harry for help shows how serious the situation is and how desperate he must be. Morgan is like one of those hardcore marines or grey haired drill sergeants you see in the movies. A veteran who always obeys orders and has become this implacable force who you would bet on if he were pitted against a much younger man. He’s just that scary and dangerous. Straight away alarm bells started going off for me and not just because of Harry’s quandary about whether or not he should help Morgan. Harry’s not yet 40 years old, but Morgan is well over a century and that means whoever did this to him has some serious magical mojo. Then there’s the actual murder victim, one of the White Council itself, who are the top wizards in the world.
In previous books the stakes have always been high, but in Turn Coat the dial has been turned up all the way. The repercussions of proving Morgan’s innocence, or guilt, will have serious and long-lasting effects on the White Council, their war with the Red Court and their standing as a major power to be reckoned with. At the moment the White Council looks weak and ineffective and it makes the wizard community look divided as one of their most trusted is apparently the killer. Civil war is exactly what someone wants but all of this manoeuvring also points to something Harry has been talking about for a while. A Black Council. To accomplish the murder of a senior member of the White Council requires an awful lot of power, connections and patience. Other events in the past have pointed at someone behind the curtain pulling strings and manipulating some major players and this is the strongest proof that it’s not just a wild theory. I won’t say any more, but this time the topic is discussed and not just mentioned in passing.
Harry is up to his neck and almost immediately at the start of his investigation he comes up against some dark forces that are just too powerful for him. He’s getting stronger all the time, adding new skills to his toolkit and is on track to becoming one of the most powerful and versatile wizards of all time. I also think he will eventually take his place on the White Council (which would probably give the Merlin a heart attack!), but he’s still decades away from that, maybe a century, and right now he’s outclassed.
Thankfully Harry is also smart enough to realise his limits and he calls on his friends, allies and even a few enemies to help him. What unfolds is a twisted and dark tale where it’s not just Harry and Morgan’s lives on the line. I think in every single Dresden book, Harry gets beat up, physically and quite often by magic whilst investigating. In this book he takes a real emotional beating as well, just as he did in Small Favour.
I hate the phrase, nothing will be the same again. It’s overused and has become a cliché, but I think some changes in Turn Coat cannot be undone. The biggest and most surprising of these actually comes towards the very end of the book after the dust has already settled on the main story. There’s so much going on this book, it’s hard to talk about it without spoilers, but in short Butcher has apparently done the impossible yet again. This is the 11th book in the series and he’s produced something fantastic. That’s not easy to do twice in a row, never mind eleven times. In fact, Turn Coat is a contender for my favourite Dresden book to date.
I can’t wait to see what happens in Changes and I’m very glad that the series was picked up for a few more books because the story is far from over.