Skin Game is the latest installment in Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files.
If you aren’t familiar with the series this might not be the best place to start as this is book number 15. That being said if you don’t mind being spoiled on some *minor* things it wouldn’t be a bad book to read by itself.
So some background on the Dresden Files: The Dresden Files follow Harry Dresden a modern-day Wizard in Chicago as he fights various supernatural entities while being fate’s punching bag. The last few books he’s been even more of a punching bag then usual. At this point we’re used to seeing Dresden get by by a combination of guts and luck and being able to take a punch, which makes this book refreshing. Dresden still gets punched alot, but this time he also did alot of punching back and manges to succeed on planning not dumb luck.
I found this to be one of Butcher’s best works, easily the equal of anything else he’s released. The book gave us all of Dresden’s characteristic wit, actual character growth (Harry’s almost matured to the point of being able to pass as an adult), fast paced action albeit with a bit of a slow start, a start that was necessitated by the set-up.
So the set-up, Butcher has given us a true gem; Harry’s services are being lent by his boss Mab, Queen of the Winter Fae, to repay a debt to longtime series villain Nicodemus. Nicodemus needs Harry’s skills for a job. The job, break into the most heavily guarded vault in the underworld, Hades’s personal vault. Yes Butcher has combined the Dresden files with a great Heist Story complete with conflicting goals, participants that if allowed would actively murder each other, new comers with uncertain loyalties, and of course the final and inevitable double and triple crosses just as they reach their goal (What with this cast how is that a spoiler?). While at first glance it might seem odd for Dresden to even consider aiding Nicodemus Mab isn’t giving him much of a choice. The mysterious parasite that has been causing him increasingly worsening headaches over the last several books is about to burst out of his head and kill him if he doesn’t get help, help Mab won’t allow him to seek unless he does her bidding.
One of the stronger points of this novel were all supporting characters, be it the villains including returning evil-overlord list reading Nicodemus, Queen Mab who is simultaneously coercing, to Murphy, who also shows character growth but not all growth is good, to Butters, Harry’s Polka-playing Coroner friend who has gone from a sidekick to a hero in his own right. This novel also sees the long awaited return of everyone’s favorite jerk, Harry’s own subconscious.
One thing potential readers should be aware of is that In the course of the novel Butcher uses one “cheat.” Even though the Dresden Files are told in first person there is a major piece of information that is hidden from the reader to near the end that normally given the style of the narrative would have been known to the reader. The author manages to handle the reveal effortlessly and even though it is a cheat it doesn’t feel like one, it feels more like a crowning moment of awesome. The fact that the reveal happens during a fast-paced action scene probably helped. Indeed if your response is like mine instead of feeling cheated you’ll want to go back and re-read sections in light of the revelation.
Overall I found this to be an enjoyable easy read that kept me engaged to the very end. Dresden as always was a lovable wiseass, certain long-term questions got answered, and we got to see a possibly unique spin of Hades, god of the underworld.