Book Review- Skin Game (#15 of The Dresden Files) by Jim Butcher

Parkour!

I’m a good girl. I practically live at church. Why am I reading an urban fantasy with demons, fairies, magic, evil, violence, and microbrew?

Because The Dresden Files is more.

There are scenes like this-

“I’m sorry,” he said. “I know you were expecting me to share words of wisdom with you, maybe say something to you about God and your soul and forgiveness and redemption. Ans all those things are good things that need to be said in the right time, but . . . honestly, Harry. I wouldn’t be your friend if I didn’t point out to you that you are behaving like an amazingly pigheaded idiot.”

– From Chapter Twenty of Skin Game by Jim Butcher

Besides, have you read the Bible? Okay, enough with the personal justification . . .

Here’s my review of the latest installment (#15) of The Dresden Files, Skin Game-

The basic premise– Harry, a wizard, is now the Winter Knight. His boss is a crazy Fairy lady named Mab. In order for Mab to repay a debt (fairies have their own laws on such things), she sends her Knight, Harry Dresden, to lend his expertise to a gang of baddies planning to break into the most secure vault in Chicago. This vault gets them into an even more dangerous place- the Nevernever. That’s where the job really begins. The baddies’ aim to steal the Holy Grail from the greek god, Hades. Easy, peasy.

The inner conflict in this novel is just as dark and stormy as the outer conflict. Skin Game has a ton of bad guys. Harry’s not so sure he isn’t one of them.  He’s experiencing a major identity crisis. Now under the control of Winter, the mantle could smash his moral compass into tiny pieces. He is being pushed to the edge physically and emotionally. To add to Harry’s stress, he also has a gestating evil parasite growing inside him. It could kill him and then destroy everyone he loves next.  Harry is also haunted by his past. His guilt (and pigheaded idiocy) are beating him up inside.

Side characters in Skin Game also face compelling difficulties. Harry’s old friend, Butters, is risking his life as a crime (demon) fighting superhero because of Harry’s year-long absence. His daughter is under the protection of his best friend, a former Knight of the Cross, putting her and his best friend’s family in danger.  His protege, Grasshopper (Molly), is in over her head in her new role and cannot help him. He and Karrin are more than friends, but the time is never right. Things are complicated.

Other stuff I liked:

Butcher’s writing. It’s detailed and interesting. The action scenes (my least favorite type of scenes) make sense. I actually read most of them. Also, Skin Game is #15 in a series, but can be read alone without being lost.  And lastly, Butcher does not fear adverbs. He uses them properly. As a writer, I admire that.

The bad guys. From a giant hairy monster to a wily shape-shifting gentleman, Butcher has filled the bill. Harry is forced to work with his best friend’s arch nemesis, aptly named Nicodemus Archelone. He’s that slippery, intelligent kind of bad guy who pushes the reader to have reasonable doubt as to whether Harry will even survive, much less win. The evil lurking inside Harry is the most insipid and is cause for alarm.

The good guys. As the quote above exemplifies, The Dresden Files isn’t all demons all the time. This isn’t one guy against the world. Michael Carpenter (another great character name) is back and gooder than ever. (I see images of Michael Landon in my mind when I picture this character, but that’s okay. They were both angels, after all.) Butters, the former mortician turned E.M.T., kicks butt with Bob the skull’s supernatural help. Karrin Murphy is the ever faithful best friend/ love interest. Courage is her middle name. She tries her darnedest, and pays the price. Harry and Karrin have a breakthrough in this book and though Butcher takes the reader for a hot and heavy ride, there’s more than one reason for that steamy scene. The last few pages are more meaningful. And a surprising twist comes in the form of a good guy in disguise.

The faith. It seeps through two thirds of the cracks in this book.  Pure unadulterated evil fills the other third up. But the good shines brighter. Fidelacchius, the Sword of Faith, teaches a few good lessons. Themes of faithfulness, brotherhood, and loyalty permeate the text, whether directly spiritual or not.

The ending. When I finished reading #15 of The Dresden Files, I didn’t hit inanimate objects and wish all kinds of peril on Jim Butcher for sentencing me to another torturous yearlong wait on a cliff. I suspect there will be another sequel, but this time, I was sufficiently satiated.  Life may indeed go on.

If you are a fan of the urban fantasy, you’ve probably already read this book. But. if you don’t read urban fantasy and you enjoy a story that is more, I recommend Skin Game.

She looked at my face searchingly for a moment and then said, in a tiny voice, “Do you want to be my dad?”

I went blind for a few seconds, until I blinked the tears away.

“Sure,” I said. It came out in a tight croak, but when I said it she smiled at me.

I met Jim Butcher while in line to hear Jim Butcher speak about how to write a great story. He shocked us all. Read about it on a previous blog post- “Rubbing Shoulders with Jim Butcher”

Jim Butcher’s website is here.

Find the book Skin Game on Amazon.

Jim Butcher’s Goodreads page is here.

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9 thoughts on “Book Review- Skin Game (#15 of The Dresden Files) by Jim Butcher

  1. I thought this was one of Butcher’s best yet in the series. He’s 15 books in, and he continues to grow the series and grow as a writer. He keeps besting himself, without making the villains/quests bigger/badder to the point of being ridiculous. Which is hard to do after (spoiler alert to those who haven’t read this series) killing off a…ahem, major character and bringing said character back from the dead.

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    • No kidding! You know, he wrote the first book after his teacher challenged him to write according to all the rules she taught them in her course. He wrote it to prove her wrong, but the joke was on him, he said. Thanks for your comment!

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  2. On the one hand, I really do enjoy the Dresden Files books, but as they go on, the various criticisms that have been brought up to me about the series become more and more apparent.

    Case in point, Murphy getting sidelined (mostly through Authorial fiat) in favor of Butters. Butters, who by the end of the novel, has a magic skateboard, a hot redheaded werewolf girlfriend, and a holy lightsaber. It’s just piling one thing on top of the other to the point of ridiculousness.

    I’ll probably pick up the next book (and review it on my blog, natch), but I’m afraid Butcher may be getting to the ‘I don’t need an editor, I’m a bestselling author!’ stage of popularity.

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    • C’mon! Butters rocked it out! =) It was so fun to read those scenes. (I often skim action scenes like those.) And to be fair, Butters has had a hot redheaded girlfriend for a few books now…but I see your point.
      If I didn’t know how fan and beta-reader driven Jim Butcher is, I would agree more- but he is fastidious about making his novels appealing to his diehard fans and on being edited well.
      Personally, I was fine with Murphy getting “sidelined.” She has absolutely no superpowers and it’s not appropriate to expect her to fight supernatural beings without being harmed beyond where other characters would be. She’s not Buffy. Murphy and Maggie’s humanity (fragility?) is the thing keeping Dresden sane and good in the present- and the future. Murphy couldn’t be a sword bearer because then she wouldn’t be a perfect match for Harry. He already has one spiritual, “conscience” friend- Michael. Anyway, I could go on and on…but you have the right to think as you do.
      P.S. Thanks for using the word “fiat” in a sentence. I drive one, and actually know the definition. =)

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      • See, there’s the thing that took me tons of books to finally realize as a problem. Defining Murphy just as “Harry’s girlfriend” and someone to be protected really cheapens her character.

        Besides, who cares if she doesn’t have powers? Batman doesn’t either, but he still hangs out with the JLA.

        Alternately, one could note Murphy -did- get powers but then got them taken away because she’s outright declared unworthy, despite it not really it being her fault. Leaves a bad taste in my mouth, really.

        But it at least makes for interesting discussion! I’m an optimist like that.

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