|Series||The Dresden Files|
|Genre||Fantasy, Mystery novel|
|Media type||Print (Hardcover)|
|Preceded by||Ghost Story|
|Followed by||Skin Game (novel)|
As the story begins, Harry is in Arctis Tor where he is nursed back to health by Sarissa, a member of the Winter Court and a servant of Mab. His recovery culminates in a Winter Court party, serving both as an introduction of the new Winter Knight and as Harry's surprise birthday party. During the party he is set up by Maeve, who sets a number of events in motion in an attempt to kill him, but with some unexpected assistance from Sarissa and advice from Kris Kringle, he defeats Maeve's minions and asserts himself as the Winter Knight before the entire Winter Court. Mab, quite satisfied at this outcome, gives Harry his first mission as the new Winter Knight: Kill Maeve.
Harry returns to Chicago and consults Bob to find out how to go about killing an immortal. Bob is initially reluctant to give out such dangerous information, but eventually tells Harry that immortals can be killed on Earth on Halloween night. Harry meets up with Molly, who informs him that energy is growing on Demonreach and she thinks it might explode. He travels to the island and speaks to the spirit of Demonreach, learning that the island is a prison which was created by Merlin himself to contain various unspeakable supernatural horrors. Because of his connection to the island, he is now the prison's warden. The island is under attack, and if the attack is not stopped the prison's fail-safe will trigger, releasing enough magical energy to destroy the prison as well as level a significant portion of the Midwest.
In trying to figure out how to proceed, Harry consults with many magical powers, including Donar Vadderung, Lily, Titania, the Faerie Mothers, and Rashid. Harry learns that Outsiders are constantly attempting to get past the Outer Gates, which are defended by the Winter Fae. He discovers that Outsiders are behind his present troubles, and that an Outsider infiltrator named Nemesis has been behind many challenges faced by Harry and by the world in general for many years. He also figures out that the ritual that will be used to destroy Demonreach will be performed at the island itself.
While preparing for the assault against the hundreds of Outsiders attacking Demonreach, Harry is chased and attacked by the Wild Hunt. With Murphy's assistance he is able to evade the Hunt temporarily, and after shooting the Erlking he takes command of the Hunt and leads it against the Outsiders. With the reinforcement of the Hunt, Harry is able to disrupt the ritual and repulse the Outsider attack.
Harry and his friends head for the top of the island, where they find Lily and Maeve magically assaulting Demonreach. Harry, having determined that Maeve has been corrupted by the Nemesis, attacks Maeve. She defeats him soundly but he is rescued by his friends. Harry is out of options and summons Mab, who appears and confronts Maeve. Maeve refuses to yield to her mother and shoots and kills Lily, resulting in the mantle of the Summer Lady passing to Sarissa. Murphy then shoots Maeve, resulting in the mantle of the Winter Lady passing to Molly. Mab explains to Harry that she had known about Maeve's corruption for years and intended for Sarissa to replace her as Winter Lady, but Molly's presence on the island forced her to alter the plan so that the Outsiders' strategy would fail.
Harry decides to remain on the island for the time being so that he can learn more about it and establish a new base of operations, and takes a branch from its oldest oak tree to use in making a new staff.
Summary of changes in Harry's life
Harry has (more or less) adapted to the mantle of the Winter Knight and the responsibilities thereof.
Harry has healed from the injuries inflicted during the assassination attempt at the climax of Changes and his extended recuperation during the events of Ghost Story. However, the spinal injury he incurred during Changes has not permanently healed and he continues to have use of his legs only as long as he possesses the mantle of the Winter Knight.
As of this point, Harry has assumed the guardianship of Demonreach Island and has been made fully aware of the prison under it, its inmates and the importance of maintaining it.
Harry now has an unknown parasite in his brain that causes random headaches and will shortly kill him if not stopped. Demonreach is able to stop the headaches, but only when Harry is on the island.
Dresden now knows of the Adversary and the threat it represents to the world as a whole.
As per Mab's orders, her daughter Maeve is killed, and Harry's former apprentice, Molly Carpenter, has assumed the mantle of Winter Lady.
Plot points introduced
- Fae Mantles: It has become clear that the positions of Winter and Summer Knights and Queens are mantles showing a personality of their own, independent from that of their wearers. In the long run, the mantles take charge. However, Kringle states that on occasion mantles can be removed; it is not clear whether on the wearer's volition or on external circumstances.
- Karrin Murphy: She forces Harry to engage in a deeper relationship with her; not yet a love bond, but more than a friendship. They both acknowledge the possibility of romance between them, but Karrin is still hesitant, because of their disparate rates of aging, because of his darker side being tempted by the Winter mantle, and because she sees him being drawn ever closer to Molly, who she thinks may be a better match for him in the long run.
- Molly Carpenter: With her becoming the new Winter Lady, and one of Harry's bosses, it may be supposed that Harry will engage in a deeper and more nuanced relationship with her than they've had thus far.
- Maggie: She will likely assume a greater significance in Harry's life, now that he believes he may escape the corrupting influence of the mantle.
- Nemesis: Also known as The Adversary, a sort of mind virus from The Outside, that can infect individuals, mortals or immortals alike, and convert them to the Outsiders' sinister cause. It keeps its existence secret, infecting or killing those known to be aware of it. Harry now thinks that Nemesis is a larger, more general case of the corruption he'd previously called the Black Council. The Adversary can entirely corrupt its victims' own nature, including allowing the Sidhe to speak outright lies.
- Home life: Harry's former home and job are destroyed, as are most of his possessions. He has more or less taken up residence in Demonreach, though Molly has kept a guest room open for him in her new apartment. He will have an income from his Warden status on the White Council, assuming the Gatekeeper can make good on his promise to fix the paperwork.
- Harry's elevation in status: Harry is no longer exactly leading an ordinary mortal existence, having within the space of a year returned from the dead, been made Winter Knight (on a level with Sidhe nobles), and Warden of Demonreach. He has bested two high-ranking Outsiders and lived, led the Wild Hunt, bested the Summer Knight in single combat, and been granted personal favors by Archangel Uriel. According to Maeve and the Erlking, he is a "starborn", a term probably related to his unusual ability to affect Outsiders with magic. He's been warned that his new status will attract the attention of greater powers. At the same time, as Winter Knight, Harry feels the constant and increasing pressure to give in to his darker nature.
- Sarissa: Dresden's physical therapist and someone indebted to Winter.
- He Who Walks Before: Another one of the Walkers akin to He Who Walks Behind. Harry usually refers to the Outsider as Sharkface.
- Cat Sith: A cat-like creature. He is King of the malks.
- Lacuna: A fairy of the little folk. She is as tall as Toot-Toot.
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