Come the beginning of Turn Coat, book eleven of Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files, Harry Dresden, the only guy in the Chicago phonebook under the heading “Wizards,” has very little reason to love the Wardens of the White Council of Wizards. Over the span of his life, he has been the subject of unjust suspicions—and none have been more prone to suspicion than Morgan, an aged Warden who holds grudges against anyone who manages to bend the rules.
Like, y’know, Harry.
So when Morgan shows up at Harry’s front door, bleeding and asking to be hidden from the Wardens, Harry is less than inclined to help out. But Morgan has been accused of being a traitor against the White Council, and needs someone with a knack of being the underdog. So now, Harry must uncover a traitor to the Council, keep a less-than-cooperative Morgan hidden, and avoid excessive scrutiny. And a single mistake may cause someone fatal harm.
Someone like, y’know, Harry.
Follow the plot-twisty road
Turn Coat is one of the first installments in the series where a reader beings to see the things set up in earlier novels come back into play. It’s one of the first times you begin to actively realize the depth and complexity of the story Butcher has been creating for over ten years. It’s kind of awe-inspiring, honestly.
Beyond that, the story in Turn Coat has one of the most twisty plots yet in a Dresden Files novel. Butcher’s ability to create unexpected plot turns that blow your mind, and yet are completely logical, continues to grow and astound. They’re not always plot twists that are detrimental to Harry (though most of them are), which is something uncommon to see considering that Butcher admits that he makes his living by screwing up Harry Dresden’s life. Either way, though, Turn Coat is one heck of a fun and twisted story.
One of my favorite antagonists yet
The primary antagonist of Turn Coat isn’t readily apparent from the cover blurb. It’s not the White Council. It’s not the Wardens. It’s something that actually proceeded to scare the crap out of me when I was reading the novel for the first time. In Turn Coat, Harry Dresden has to work against a naagloshii: A certifiable skinwalker nightmare straight out of Navajo legend. Harry approaches him with his typical amount of insouciance, dubbing the naagloshii “Shagnasty”—and gets his ass handed to him. Multiple times. Not only that, but Shagnasty manages to succeed where so many other before him have failed: he actually brings harm to Harry’s loved ones—something that is worse for Harry than actually taking bodily harm himself. All in all, one of my favorite antagonists in the Dresdenverse to date.
Creating new facets of the world and characters
Butcher’s craft just continues to excel and improve with each novel, in my opinion, and Turn Coat is no exception to this. In terms of world building, Butcher continues to flesh out the supernatural world in and around Chicago—in particular, we get glimpses of the White Court of Vampires and the Wardens. Beyond that, remember the island that was introduced back in Small Favor? Yeah… that island gets a major mojo boost. I won’t spoiler things, but let’s just say that Harry gets himself into a situation that makes even the Gatekeeper—a member of the White Council’s Senior Council—take a step back in… well, one assumes awe, as well as a side dose of not-envying, because Butcher hints at the fact that the Gatekeeper knows a lot more than he’s telling.
Morgan, while an already well-fleshed-out character, also gets an overhaul in Turn Coat. Instead of the cold and hard Warden we’ve come to know throughout the series, Morgan is taken out of his position of authority and made vulnerable in Turn Coat. Which reveals a completely different and unexpected side of him. So, while before he came across as an entitled asshole with issues against anybody who evaded the rules, by the end of Turn Coat, I knew he was a good person. Still an entitled asshole, but a good person. Aka, human. Aka, I ended up really liking him.
Why should you read this book?
Turn Coat is a minor turning point in The Dresden Files as a whole—it begins to pull pieces from earlier books in the series together, and some of those realizations are simply dumbfounding. The world building continues on par with the previous novels in the series, with the understanding coming across that Harry is getting into some really big situations that he won’t fully realize for a while. But beyond all of that, the thing that really makes Turn Coat is the antagonist—an antagonist that is actually scary and worrisome. Filled with snark, plot twists, and high-octane action, Turn Coat is, in my opinion, one of the better novels in The Dresden Files to date.