Since I still haven’t gotten my hands on Cold Days, I thought I would read the short story anthology, since it was published before hand anyway. A collection of various short stories, most were written under the theme of a different anthology that Butcher participated in. Most were through the traditional point of view of Harry, but some strayed into some welcome new POVs, including Thomas and Murphy.
The stories were wildly different from each other. Some were rather humorous, such as Harry struggling with all the petty concerns of his day off which ended up being a normal day. Others were very serious, such as the novella about Murphy handling the loss of Dresden. And some hit my nerves, such as the Night of the Living Brews. But it was quite a collection, and there some good parts to it and some bad to it.
When it comes to plots, some were better and more complete than others. You could tell where Butcher was just throwing things at the wall and seeing what stuck, and when he had something actually planned out. Really, of all of them, I only liked two for their plots. One was the one that hit my nerve, the Night of the Living Brews, surprisingly. While I didn’t like Harry making light of what was going to happen to the kidnapped bride, I did think structurally, it was well thought out and equally well executed. It also did what an anthology short story was supposed to do, which is give us glimpses of the characters and world going on behind the scenes, rather than throwing a ton of information at us. My other favorite was actually the one that Butcher wrote for our shared teacher, Professor Deborah Chester. It was also very well structured and I loved the message that was in it. And oh my gee, bet cop Murphy!
The rest were sort of eh. Some I felt like were beating dead horses, such as the one centered around Michael. Others were just far too busy for my tastes, with just too much going on. I get that he was trying to do that to poor Harry and Anastasia, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. And while Aftermath was great… It was too much. I could tell it was a novella, not a short story, and combined with the short blips, it just… It felt too long and too clunky. I thought it had a good point to it, I thought it was fairly well written. I just don’t think it belonged in this anthology. I think it needed either published separately or expanded upon or something. It was just awkward.
I love the depth these short stories helped add to characters. From grown Will and Georgia, to Thomas, to Murphy, to even Uriel. All of them really got a chance to shine in these books. Even Harry got a different take, since we got to see him how Thomas and Murphy saw him rather than just how he sees himself. Considering how important she becomes, I’m surprised we don’t get anything from Molly, or hell, even something from Mouse. (God, Mouse’s point of view, that would be humor.) As I said, I had a few of my old issues with female character portrayals again, but whether because he didn’t have the length or he realized it, it wasn’t so bad that I threw the book.
Some elements in the stories were very obviously from previous books. Things such as the vampire Courts, the Valkyries, even the crime scene in Chicago. He merely expanded upon them, which is awesome to see. I love all the little bits that never make it into books but the author does think about. But all that being said, I think there were issues when he was introducing new things. I don’t remember the Oblivion Wars even being mentioned, and while seeing Thomas do things on his own was cool, I just had issues connecting because I’m going, “What the heck were these and why can’t I remember them? Irony!” It eventually came up again (sort of) with the psychic link via beer goddess, but it was still clunky in my head. But that’s my opinion.
Overall, I liked these a lot. I loved the little glimpses into the relationships between characters that they offered, and how easy they were to read and track through. Butcher didn’t get tangled up in his own ideas nearly as much, and for me, it made a drastic improvement. Some spots were a little prickly, and I feel like the tone gave whiplash with the way the stories were arranged, but that can easily be placed on when they were published in the writing process and just not thinking about how one story will ready after having followed another. I kinda hope he does some more of these!