Harry Dresden is Chicago's supreme wizard. In point of fact, its only wizard, and he's also one of the strongest in terms of pure power, but a bit of a thug in how he uses it. His specialties are fire and force magic, and he also happens to be a Warden of the White Council of Wizards, as well as a member of the Grey Council, a subset of the White Council that face reality and actually manage to get things done, as opposed to the rest of the White Council, who will talk a situation to death without actually doing much of anything about it.
Harry has gone through a lot of changes since his earlier days- he's survived an encounter with a shadow of one of the Denarians, demons contained in the 30 pieces of silver that Judas gained as a result of betraying Jesus. Lasciel, whose presence in Harry's body gave him with power of literal Hellfire- amping up the power of his destructive spells. With her construct dying to save his life, Harry received the power of Soulfire from the Angel Uriel- whose power draws on his soul, increasing the power of his constructive spells such as illusions, but it can also amplify his fire spells as well. And he began training an apprentice, Molly Carpenter, the daughter of his friend Michael, who formerly held one of the swords constructed from the nails used to crucify Jesus.
In this book, Harry gets a call from his former girlfriend, Susan Rodriguez. They broke up when Susan was partially turned into a Red Court Vampire, and she left Harry to try and deal with the fallout from that. As long as she doesn't take anyone's lifeblood, she will remain a half-vampire, but if she does, she will immediately become a Red Court Vampire. The Red Court and the White Council were at war, although currently, there is a truce. Susan has been working with the Order of St. Giles, a group of Half-Vampires dedicated to destroying the Red Court. But Harry is shocked to discover that Susan tells him that the Red Court have stolen their daughter.
Needless to say, he's quite surprised to even hear he *has* a daughter, and he isn't able to get nearly anything that requires thinking done until Susan shows up. She does so with her longtime companion, Martin, who Harry locks out of his house to talk with Susan. There, she shares with him the truth: the last time they made love, (this was after she was already a half-vampire), she got pregnant, but she never told him. Thanks to her position in the Order of St. Giles, and her activities, she couldn't risk raising the child herself, so instead she gave it to some friends of her to raise.
Harry is quite cutting when he says, "Oh, if only there was another stable parent who could raise her... oh wait!" and Susan says that Harry's life is on the line as much as hers is, and that a life with him wouldn't be safe for their daughter, either. After all, how many of his friends have gotten either seriously hurt or dead because of the things that have been happening around him? He reluctantly concedes that, and learns that she named their daughter Maggie, or Margaret Angelica, after Harry's mother.
But she thinks there is a leak in the Order of St. Giles, because only their members knew about Maggie and where she was, and Red Vampires were behind the disappearance of Maggie. One, in specific, Duchess Arianna Ortega, the wife of the man that Harry fought at the start of the war between the White Council and the Red Vampires. Ortega had been about to cheat against the Code Duello when one of Harry's allies did the same, shot and killed him. In fact, it was Ebeneezer McCoy. And now his widow has a grudge against Harry, and has swiped his daughter.
But the Red Court has people everywhere, even in the office building where Harry's Office is located, and Harry, Susan and Martin go to burgle their offices and perhaps find out where they are holding Maggie. But Red Court Vampires are waiting for them, and while they do get a little information, they find out that the Red Court, who owns the building, has planted bombs all around Harry's office, and they blow up the building, thankfully, after Harry, Susan and Martin have escaped- only for Harry to reveal he already sent in this month's rent payment.
After this,Harry goes to see his friend Murph at the police station. She tells him that the FBi is going to want to talk to him, and he tells her about his daughter. She immediately promises to help him. She's got his back, no matter what, even if it costs her her job. He doesn't want her to promise that, but she does so anyway. The next day, Harry and his apprentice, Molly, head to the HQ of the White Council in Edinburgh, only to find out that they are hosting a special guest- none other than the Red Court Duchess Ariana Ortega!
One of the members of the White Council, a man named Christos, has been talking with the Red Court, and wants to turn their cease-fire into an actual peace. Of course, Harry wants to rip off Ortega's head and urinate down her spinal column- he wants his daughter, but the White Council can't afford to have Harry kill her when she's bringing a message of peace to their side. Warden Luccio asks Harry to calm down, and takes him to the Chaos room for a drink. She reveals that the Council doesn't believe in the message of peace. They think the Red Court is asking for Peace to regroup for a counter-attack and plan to hit them when they are down.
But as a consequence of that, they can't help Harry in the matter of his daughter. Harry is extremely disappointed about that, not to mention angry, and takes himself back home. At his house, Susan and Martin show the pictures they have found of items shipped from a secure holding facility in Nevada to... somewhere. Harry identifies the items as ritual gear, and they are listed as megacapacitors. In discussing it with Bob. Bob says the items are meant for a single use- human sacrifice.
Then, the FBI shows up at Harry's Home, and he has to get rid of most of the stuff in his lab and store it in the Nevernever. He hasn't explored the Nevernever around his apartment before, because some parts of it can be deadly, but now he has no choice. Throwing all the items that would be illegal or make him seem like a bomber into a sack, he drags it all into the Nevernever- to find himself into some kind of strange flower garden, part of which turns into a giant centipede to attack him. He manages to overccome it temporarily, and leaves the bag there, hidden, but is forced to return to his house when the centipede comes after him again. He pops right into the hands of the FBI, who take him in, and yet they cannot explain where he appeared from.
He's questioned by agent Tilly, who has an edge in determining who is speaking a lie or truth, and eventually is let go. But when he gets out of the building, he's shot at again, but spells on his duster stop the bullet. Molly pulls up to rescue him in her car, and says maybe they should go to her Dad for help. But as Michael was partially crippled the last time Harry worked with him, Harry isn't willing to do that. Back at his apartment, he has a surprise visitor- Lea, better known as Leanansidhe, his literal Faerie Godmother.
After some verbal sparring, Harry discovers that his mother gave her something for him, when he was old enough. Harry asks for it, and she asks if he is willing to pay the price. His mother had it, and she never slept well- who knows what Price it will demand of Harry. He wants it, though, and she hands over a star-shaped red crystal- full of his mother's knowledge of the ways of the Nevernever.
She also leaves behind Susan and Martin, spelled into sleep by her spells. When they wake, Harry offers to guide them through the Nevernever to Las Vegas, where they will find the company that shipped the ritual items. There, they discover yet more items going to the same place. More ritual gear, but this time for the practitioners to wear. They are attacked again, but win free quite easily, and this time have a general area to go on- Mexico. At home, Harry gets two letters, one from Anastasia Luccio and the other from another Warden he calls "Steed", reiterating that the White Council can't help him get his daughter back.
With the White Council firmly out of the picture, Harry tries calling on the Gray, but they also can't help him, although Ebeneezer McCoy would like to. But Harry hasn't been telling anyone that the girl he wants to rescue is his own daughter. He turns to summoning spirits, trying to find out where Maggie is, but has no real luck. He writes a letter to Ivy, the little girl wo is the archive, and she tells him (through her bodyguard) that she must remain neutral. But she does give him a clue- ask the last man he would go to for information.
Dresden buckles down, and calls "Gentleman" Johnny Marcone, who is willing to do him this favor, since Dresden's elimination of his enemies have helped him in the past. But through him, Harry is contacted by Donar Vadderung, CEO of Monoc Securities. Donor is Odin, and while, again, he can't help Harry in Mexico (because that is the seat of the Red Court's power and his power would be almost useless there), he does give him two piece of information. First is that if the Red Court are planning a working, they will be doing it at Chichen Itza, and second, the working they are preparing is a bloodline curse. Anyone in the bloodline of the sacrifice will die, which includes Harry and Susan, and anyone in their families. He also tells Harry that Harry has no chance against the Red Court in their place of power. No chance at all. He'd be like a fly versus a sledgehammer. To stand against them, Harry is going to need a serious power-up.
But even as Harry contemplates that, two more things are taken from him by the Red Court. First, the Blue Beetle, and second, his very home, which is burned down around him. And then he takes a bad hit that paralyzes him from the waist down. He might recover in 40 or 50 years, but that's time he doesn't have. So, with few choices remaining to him, he accepts Queen Mab's offer to make him the Winter Knight. But he adds a few conditions, first, that he rescue his daughter before taking up any missions for Mab, and that he have some help. This she grants him, and Harry, to get the Winter Knight's powers, kills the Old Winter Knight, who was a murderer and rapist, and who has been undergoing unending torture in the Winter Court. To help Harry, Mab will send his godmother, Leanansidhe, to help him. But first, to consecrate his new position, she has sex with him.
Harry now knows where he is going, and he gives out the two swords he's held on to for so long, Amoriacchus, the sword of Love, to Susan, who will be fighting for love of her daughter. Fidelacchius, the sword of faith, to Murph, who has faith in both God and Harry to come through it all right. Along with Martin, Harry's dog, Mouse, and Harry's brother Thomas Wraith, they will have to carve their way through the Red Court to rescue Harry's daughter. But a betrayal from within will jeopardize their mission. Can Harry rescue his daughter and save his friends without losing it all?
Wow, what a book. Not only the story in this one is shocking, but the ending made me run to Jim Butcher's website to see if this book was truly the last in the series. It was so bitter and poignant and heartfelt, and the story just hammers not only Harry, but the reader as well. In eleven books, we've come to know him so well, and care for the things and the people that he cares for, that when they are taken away so suddenly and finally, it actually hurts to read it.
By the end of the book, Harry has lost just about everything he once had relied on. The Blue Beetle is crushed against Thomas's car, and along with it goes Harry's staff. He loses his office, his home, his lab, and even his blasting rod when it gets overloaded. By the end, even Harry's duster has taken so much damage that it is falling apart in his hands.
And then, the book ends on a real cliffhanger, where you look at it and go "Did I just read what I thought I read?!" I won't give it away (even though you can find it on plenty of other sites), but the pain of reading it was even greater than the rest of the book. Plenty of stuff is hinted at- some kind of romantic relationship between Murph and Harry, the abilities of Mouse, who can speak perfectly well if you understand Dog, and even the possibility of Murph becoming Fidelacchius' wielder.
This book blew me away, almost literally. The things that Harry does to save his daughter, well, we finally get to see what Harry is really made of and the kind of person he is inside. And to be honest, if you are going to harm one of his, he should very rightly terrify you. it's a somewhat disturbing, and yet very reassuring look at our favorite Wizard-detective. Highly recommended, but don't read this one first- it will take a fair amount of reading the rest of the series for this book to have its full impact.