Posted on April 17, 2009 by Matt-M-McElroy
The Warden Morgan has been accused of treason against the Wizards of the White Council—and there’s only one, final punishment for that crime. He’s on the run, wants his name cleared, and needs someone with a knack for backing the underdog. Someone like Harry Dresden…
Now, Harry must uncover a traitor within the Council, keep a less-than-agreeable Morgan under wraps, and avoid coming under scrutiny himself. And a single mistake may cost someone his head—someone like Harry.
Turn Coat is the latest chapter in the ongoing adventures of Harry Dresden, Wizard for Hire. The book description above sets up some interesting possibilities and hints at some deeper character development (not to mention more exploration into the White Council).
We do get some of those things in this book. For example, find out a lot more about Morgan’s past and the things that drive him to act the way he does regarding Dresden. Morgan has always been an interesting character for me. He is one of those guys you love to hate because of the way he treats our favorite wizard. There was always something about him that made me wonder just why he was so untrusting, so ready to kill in the name of the White Council. I never thought he was stupid or rash, the writing always hinted at a fierce loyalty and strong determination. Of course, for this series we readers are only getting Harry’s view on things and that rarely, if ever, painted Morgan in a favorable light (not that you could really blame Harry for that, I’d be less than charitable regarding a guy who wanted to behead me too).
So, to read the above teaser text and find out that Morgan of all people has been accused of treason against the White Council and he runs to Harry of all people for help sets up the potential for one hell of an interesting story. There are several chapters of the book available as a free previews on Jim-Butcher.com.
In this review I’m going to try to avoid spoilers for most of the book, but I may comment on material already available in those free chapters on the author’s website.
We find out right away the why and how Morgan is accused of treason (but not until after Harry calls in Waldo Butters to patch up the wounded Warden). It seems Morgan is being framed for murder and the highly placed traitor to the White Council did an excellent job setting Morgan up to take the fall. Reluctantly Harry agrees to both hide Morgan and look for the traitor/killer.
The opening chapters of the book offer up some great conversations between Harry and the supporting cast. Butters, being an outsider to the world of magic has some great questions about why Harry would bother helping the guy who has been out to kill him for years. Butters is one of my favorite supporting characters in the series. He is just a regular geek with good intentions and human limitations. He has no powers, he is not a warrior or anything like that, but he does his part in the ongoing good vs. evil conflict.
There is a pretty big cast of supporting characters in this book. Morgan, Luccio, Butters, the Alphas, Thomas, quite a few members of the White Council and plenty of others. There is a new “bad guy” that is one of the toughest creeps Harry has faced down yet. The scene where Harry gets a good look at the Skinwalker with his magical Sight is really well-written and one of my favorite descriptions of magical power in the entire series.
While I don’t want to spoil too much about the book I will say Harry does get to “save the day” or at least have a small victory or two. He faces off against opponents both physical and political. The bureaucracy within the White Council is working against them and Harry has to fight his way through it just to get some answers.
We get to learn a lot more about how the White Council works and a little bit more about the White Court of vampires too. Lara Raith is a cold-blooded monster that may work with Harry out of common interests for now, but the day is coming when the two of them will face off as enemies. She just is not as big a threat as the Black Council (or the Red Court for that matter) quite yet.
One thing I enjoyed about this book was that Butcher was finally ready to pull the trigger on some of the cast. Sure, characters have died or been side-lined before, but many of them were single-book characters (introduced and then written off in the same volume). Not so much anymore. I’m not going to reveal the specifics today, but some major changes were made to overall character map in Turn Coat. Some of them were surprising, others not-so-much. The good thing about these events is we as readers are now aware that not everyone is safe. The stakes go up from here and Harry can’t save everyone. War is hell, so-to-speak. There will be more casualties as this conflict escalates.
There were plenty of things I did not like about the book, but most of them are pretty minor when taken individually. One of the big reveals in the ongoing plot seemed pretty weak to me. I had hoped the Black Council was a bit more clever than this particular plot thread. Overall there is a good story here, but it seemed a little rushed and incomplete. Obviously not everything can be revealed or nor can Butcher wrap up a dozen minor plots in a single volume (cause we wouldn’t need to buy the next book) so I’ll take what I can get in this story.
Overall, fans of the series will not be disappointed. It is well worth picking up and sets up some excellent potential plots for the next volume.
One suggestion for folks interested in the fate of Michael Carpenter, go read Mean Streets. It pretty much takes place between Small Favor and Turn Coat. It reveals what the former Holy Warrior is up to these days and Harry has an interesting conversation with a being from on high.
Review by Matt M McElroy