Book Review – Skin Game (Dresden Files #15) by Jim Butcher

Bloggos,

Excuse me for a moment.

 

STARS AND STONES, THANK GOODNESS FOR THIS BOOK!

 

Ahem.

Right. Now that’s out of the way, on to the actual review. Beware some spoilers ahead, but let’s be real, this book has been out for almost four years. If you’re like me and arriving late to the party, you’ve probably come across worse spoilers on the internet than these.

Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars

skin game.jpg

After two full books of Dresden moping over the events at Chichen Itza and the decisions that led him to be Mab’s Winter Knight, we finally see the Harry Dresden we know and love back in action!

Harry’s spent the last year-ish on Demonreach, keeping himself busy with homemade obstacle courses and shouting “parkour” at the top of his lungs. Let me tell you, hearing James Marsters yell that over the course of this book never got old. I laughed every single time.

Mab shows up and whisks Dresden off to a meeting with Nicodemus Archleone. Now, anytime Harry and good ol’ Nick are in scene together is damn good reading. Tension galore, and usually even more of sassy pants Harry than usual. You know how Dresden gets when faced with a “big bad”; snark-a-palooza.

So, turns out, Mab owed Nicodemus a favor? And as payment she’s loaning her Knight to him as he attempts to rob a supernatural vault filled to the brim with occult artifacts. Previous experience tells us that anything Nicodemus wants cannot possible be good, and Dresden does NOT want to help the Knight of the Blackened Denarius.

But we also know that Mab never reveals all her cards at once. And she’s always stacked the deck in her favor. So, off Harry goes to join a preternatural heist and he brings Murphy with him. Some old characters and new ones come in and out, including Michael, Uriel, Butters, Mouse, and Bob.

dresden-thomas
Who wouldn’t want more time with this guy?

This book felt like an old school Dresden book. There was adventure, forces of good and evil, sneaky faeries, and insane stakes and odds. Lots of sharp, humorous dialogue too. The only thing missing was some quality Thomas time, which I usually think is lacking because there’s always room for more time with Thomas Raith.

If you read my review of Cold Days, you’ll remember that I had a lot of doubts about Dresden and this series moving forward. Changes, Ghost Story, and Cold Days were all decent stories, but they were trying for me. I didn’t agree with Harry’s actions or motivations for most of those books and found my enjoyment of the series really depended on the side characters.

Skin Game does not suffer from that. This is the book where Harry gets his groove back, if you will. And I have to say, I am so glad he’s back! Of course, it remains to be seen what happens in the next book, since it still doesn’t have a release date, but for the first time in a few books, I have high hopes! This book really saved the series for me, I think, or at least revived it enough that I’ll be sure to come back for the next one.

I hesitate to say that this was my favorite of all the Dresden books, mainly because I loved Blood Rites and Dead Beat so much. But, I would lump it into a top three with those two in a heartbeat.

Here’s hoping that Peace Talks can keep that momentum going.

Yet again, James Marsters gave a stellar performance as Harry and company. I can’t even begin to imagine how much time and effort it must take to read and record these novels and keep the characters consistent across all of them. It really blows my mind if I think about it too much.

I’m moving on to the first Dresden short story collection, Side Jobs, just in time for the release of the second one on June 5th. Brief Cases appears to only be available in digital audio, which I am not okay with. I’ve got a hold on the hard copy book and suggested my digital library service purchase a copy of the audio, but have yet to hear back about it. either way, I’ll review it and share my thoughts with you all here.

You know, as per usual.

Honestly, I’m getting a little anxious about being all caught up on this series. I’ve had The Dresden Files as my back up read for so long that it became a sort of security blanket. If I ever found myself without a shiny new book, I could fall back on Dresden. Harry would always be there, waiting in the wings to whisk me off to Chicago for supernatural high jinks.

And now… now I’m done? I mean, yeah, there are a couple short story collections left, but that’s it! I’ve read all the books, I’ve read all the graphic novels. After these two collections, I’m stuck waiting for the next book like every body else!

Oh, God. That’s sounds terrible!

Quick! Someone give me a series recommendation!

 

BZ

 

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Book Review – Cold Days (Dresden Files #14) by Jim Butcher

Blogland,

Sorry this book review is so late. It’s been a while since I finished the audiobook, so there are only minor spoilers below. Beware that I am a bit Dresden critical in this review

Goodreads Rating: 4/5 Stars

cold days cover

Harry’s back in Chicago for less than six hours and he almost dies at least twice. The stakes are high in this book, as they always are whenever Mab is involved. There’s a lot of tension and fallout between Harry and his friends/family over what he did in the last couple books. It’s been a long year, and everyone in Chicago has felt Dresden’s absence.

So what’s he up to? Oh, you know, the usual stuff. Preventing a horde of spiritual inmates from escaping into the world and rending it asunder. All while coping with a power grab from Maeve and dodging the Summer Lady and her Knight. Oh, and it’s Halloween, so all kinds of weirdness is afoot.

Blessedly, this book is full of characters I want to spend time with. Thomas, Murphy, Butters, Molly, Mouse, and Bob all play major roles. Which is for the best, because Harry is on a slippery slope and it won’t take much for him to be on the fast track to unlikable.

I think that’s good tension, story-wise, but as a reader it is exhausting to read book after book of Harry internalizing all this supposed temptation. Dude. Molly has been your apprentice for years. You’ve known her for more than a decade. We get it, she’s hot. But you shouldn’t still be distracted by the fact. Move on.

The sexualization of every single female character is a big part of why I’ve stepped away from this series for a moment. I get that the White Court Vampires are inhumanly gorgeous. They are succubi, they are literally supposed to preternaturally sexy and tempting. And I have zero beef with Dresden spending a paragraph or two describing and coping with the Raith sisters’ insane sex appeal.

molly stupid stance
She’s looking at something slightly to her left. So of course she angles her body toward the right…

But Molly? Dresden has known her since she “was in a training bra” (which is his super cringe-y way to say he’s known her since she was a kid, btw), she’s the daughter of his BEST FRIEND, and yet every single book we get a paragraph or more to see just how incredibly hot she is and how Harry constantly has impure thoughts about her that he has to beat back with a mental baseball bat.

There’s a word for that…. Oh. Right. Gross.

And it’s not just Molly. Murphy is starting to get this treatment too. Now, she gets a lot more respect from Dresden’s narration, mainly because Karrin would kick his ass if it was ever otherwise, but now that they’re addressing the sexual tension between them and talking through the idea of the two of them dating, suddenly Murph is reduced to physical descriptions and lips that “taste like strawberries”.

Yep. Strawberries. After a crazy midnight ride through Chicago with the Wild Hunt and an even longer day coordinating movement against bad guys and helping Dresden, Murphy’s mouth tasted like strawberries.

I call bullshit. What did she do, pop an altoid right beforehand? Does she have a secret strawberry stash in her Harley’s saddlebags for just this exact reason? Please.

molly_wildcard
The most modestly dressed Molly is ever portrayed, but it’s all skintight. Because sitting criss-cross applesauce in jeans that tight is even possible.

This is a little bit of a tirade on my part, and I apologize, but this really took me out of the story. I was walking through a parking lot, listening to the audiobook in my headphones, and I went from cheering that they kissed to screeching at how preposterous that was. It made me so mad. It was a stupid little superfluous line and it ripped me from the book completely.

But, there are some really good elements in this book. Thomas is in peak form, giving Harry the patience, care, and good sense of humor he probably doesn’t fully deserve. Murphy is realistic and a total badass when it comes to standing up to Harry when he’s wrong and holding her own once she’s made a decision.  Molly has truly come into her own, and seems to have coped well from her time as the Rag Lady. And even Butters has grown into a character with some semblance of spine.

Queen Mab
She changes her appearance at will, but pale and icy blonde tend to be the favorite interpretations.

And, surprisingly, Mab was fantastic. I have never once liked Mab, in all fourteen books. I still can’t really say that I like her, even now. But by the end of this book I saw Mab as more than a force of cold devastating power, as more than just a mad, tyrannical queen. For the very first time, I saw Mab for what else she is; a mother, a woman, a person.

And man, that was a powerful moment.

Mab
Mab concept

I’ll be frank, this was my least favorite Dresden book. It dragged. It was fifteen discs, and only the last six were actually fun or enjoyable. Everything before that felt like needless preamble. Another big problem is that Harry isn’t as likable to me as he used to be. I struggle with him. He says, thinks, and does things that make me sigh and roll my eyes.

Increasingly, my enjoyment of this series is reliant on the side characters. And that is a dangerous thing for a series. I shouldn’t like the secondary characters more than I like the main character, especially in a first person narrative. I guess I just have very little patience for Harry right now.

Which is why I’ve taken a bit of a break from the series. I keep meaning to start Side Jobs, but I can’t seem to muster the will to do so. With Brief Cases coming out in less than a month, I really need to finish Skin Game so I can read the book when it comes in at the library. So, I’ll be changing my reading page once more to reflect my decision to listen to the fifteenth book in the series, and then the first short story collection.

I’ll be back this weekend with the review for Blackfish City. I’m excited to talk about it with you all!

Until then, Bloggos,

 

BZ

 

P.S. It should be noted that, once again, James Marsters narration was fantastic! I absolutely love his voice and his efforts to give each character something unique in their tone or cadence. I always know who’s speaking, even before the narration explains it to me. It’s the main reason I keep coming back to this books. So thanks for that, James.

 

 

The Recap – February 2018

Hello Everyone,

I can’t believe February is over already! I think I feel this way each year, because it’s difficult for me to understand how missing a couple days of the month makes such a big difference. Two or three days should not make February feel like a blip on the radar of the year.

But, it does, and it makes working toward my goals that much more frantic.

What were the goals?

  • Edit four chapters of The Steel Armada
  • Finish Sanctified
  • Get Lifelike submission ready
  • Keep Reading

How’d I do?

  • Edit four chapters of The Steel Armada
    • Yes! I worked really hard to get two chapters edited on Tuesday and Wednesday, which means I finished 4 chapters in February and one in January. I’m feeling good about it.
  • Finish Sanctified
    • Nope. But, I’m close. Only a chapter and half left.
  • Get Lifelike submission ready
    • Yes? I’m not sure. I did another edit of it last night. I switched the POV from third to first person and added a much needed tweak to the ending, but I’m not sure if it’s ready for submission just yet. I like it, it’s headed in the right direction, but it needs fine tuning. I’m still calling this a win.
  • Keep reading
    • Yep! I read something like seven books in February, boosting my Reading Challenge and giving me plenty of fodder for book reviews.

Total February Word Count: 6,623

Any icing on the cake?

  • I published 10 blog posts in February
    • 3 weekly summaries, 5 book reviews, 1 monthly recap, and 1 craft discussion
  • Applied for a scholarship to the Oregon Writers Colony 2018 Annual Conference
    • I’m trying not to think too much about this, because I’m nervous and excited, but it’s constantly in the back of my mind. They’ll announce award recipients sometime in mid-March. Prepare yourselves for that post when it comes.Audient Void issue 4
  • The Audient Void #5
    • I’ve taken on more duties with AV, helping the graphic designer look through the proofs before he finalizes and prints. This is always exciting, because it means another issue is about to drop!
  • Sharing revisions of The Steel Armada
    • As of 2/26, Madhu and I are back to swapping pages for feedback. She’s working on something new, while I’m sending her the reworks of my novel, per her feedback from our previous swap.

March Goals

  • Edit five chapters of The Steel Armada
  • Finish Sanctified
  • Submit The Seasons
  • Continue prepping Lifelike for submission
  • Keep reading!

Thoughts

I’ve got a lot of them. They’re bouncing around my brain and keeping my anxiety up. Mainly, I’m anxious about submitting The Seasons. I haven’t submitted a piece of short fiction for publication since… 2014? And I’ve never submitted a piece of genre fiction.

Caladria logo
RIP, Caladria

Okay, yes, there was that stint with Caladria where I wrote a handful of Fantasy short stories and they were published. But that was more like a volunteer effort. They asked for writers to pump out content, and though I got some great experience writing on a deadline and feedback from editors, those stories are no longer available for purchase. They just sit in my “Caladria” file folder, collecting virtual dust.

So, this feels much more real and scary. I like The Seasons a lot. I think it’s strong. I think it’s ready. But, I just don’t know if it’s pro status. And that’s the real issue. I’m only submitting to professional markets. I want paid for my work. I don’t want resume padding and feathers in my cap. I want monetary proof that what I’m doing is worthwhile.

And so, I’m terrified.

I’m also anxious because I really want to go to this writing conference in April, and I’ll find out in a couple of weeks if I’ll be able to attend or not. I know the time will fly by, but until I know for certain whether I’ll be going or not, I’m on eggshells.

Lifelike is coming along nicely. I did some quality reworking on it last night. I actually let my husband read it, which is something I almost never do. He’s not a big reader, so his feedback isn’t critical or experienced, but he’s smart and can give a good sense of what works and what doesn’t in a story. At least, from a reader’s point of view. I’ve also sent the story back to my friend Matt, who read a previous version of it, to see what he thinks of the rework. I’m going to let it stew for the next few days and come back to it next week and see what it needs.

Other than that, I’m just reading and editing. The Steel Armada is coming along well enough. It’s a big job, and there’s some major changes that take a considerable amount of time and rewriting. Characters are getting cut/absorbed into other characters, everyone is getting fleshed out more. Backstories and motivations are becoming clearer, to me and to the reader. And holy-moly there’s so much world building! I’m worried about pacing a little, but I figure that’ll get sorted in the next draft. Right now I just need to get everything out on the page and really nail down what’s happening and why. I can clean up the mess later.

The good news is that I’m editing about 2 chapters a week. If I keep the pace up, I’ll have this draft of The Steel Armada done by June. And that is some exciting shit. If that does happen, I’ll let it sit for a month or so, and really focus on writing. I’ll either return to writing From the Quorum, or write a new short story, depends on how I feel in June.Oathbringer

As for reading, I’m doing well. I’m currently two books ahead of my target, and I’ve got four more in the pipeline. Hopefully I can keep up the pace and pad that Goodreads Reading Challenge before I finally crack open Oathbringer. 1,233 pages is no joke, and it’s going to take considerable time to get through it all. I don’t want to fall behind because of it, so I’m reading smaller titles and graphic novels for the time being.

So, that’s my thoughts/feelings/concerns etc., etc.,  about March. There’s a lot going on, but so far my efforts to piecemeal everything out into Monthly and Weekly goals is working. I’m getting shit done. And that’s really all that matters.

I’m off to work on Sanctified. I’ll be back over the weekend to share my review of The Stone Sky, so make sure you stay tuned!

 

BZ

Book Review – Ghost Story (Dresden Files #13) by Jim Butcher

I almost forgot about this book review. I was so excited that I finished reading The Stone Sky and Dark Deeds that I was going to write both of those instead. Depending on how the week goes, I still might.

ghost story

Goodreads Rating: 4/5 Stars

This book was probably my least favorite Dresden book so far. That makes it sound like a bad book, which I don’t think is actually fair. It is not a bad book. In fact, as far as action, plot, and character development are concerned, it’s a really good book. But, by the end, I found myself asking, was it really necessary?

I mean, it was good to see Dresden finally realize the ramifications of his actions, to see how much his decisions (good or bad) affect the people around him. I did not like seeing Murph, Molly, and Thomas in their various states throughout this book, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t necessary for Dresden nor good for the story.

It was also nice to see Mort again, reunite with some old faves like Butters and the Alphas, and meet new folks like Sir Stewart and Daniel Carpenter. There were some interesting viewpoints explored and some good character development that might not have happened otherwise.

But overall this book just left me with a big old question mark over my head. Was this really necessary? Did anything in this book matter to what came before? Will it matter to what comes after? I’m unsure. I’ve started Cold Days, but just barely, so there’s nothing to report on that front.

I think what made this book so difficult for me is that, despite the Dresden first person POV, this book wasn’t really about Harry. It was about his friends and allies, all characters I love, but am unused to having such a priority in the narrative.

I should mention that I still thoroughly enjoyed my time reading this book. It was a good story, and I’m always happy to be in Dresden’s world, especially if James Marsters is narrating it. I had to join Audible to get the Marsters version, because the original recording was with a different voice actor. There was no way, after twelve books with Marsters’ fantastic readings, that I could listen to somebody else pretend to be Dresden. To me, it was worth the effort to sign up and get the 30-day trial.

By now you’ve probably noticed that I am avoiding any concrete details in this review. That’s because this book is one great big spoiler. I will do my best, going forward, to keep spoilers in my reviews from being too egregious. I don’t want to accidentally ruin anything for anyone, especially in a series this long. It’s a lot of time and dedication to read/listen to all of these books. I refuse to be the person that let’s the cat out of the proverbial bag.

Later this week I’ll post the review for The Stone Sky. If all goes well with my goals for the week, I might post the Dark Deeds review. If not, it’ll get slated for next week.

Until then, Blogland,

 

BZ

 

Book Review – Changes (Dresden Files #12) by Jim Butcher

Blogland,

This book was yet another wild ride with one Harry Dresden, Wizard. Probably the wildest installment yet, if I’m being honest. Harry is at his most desperate in this book, his back is up against the wall, and despite his better judgment he pulls his best friends and allies into the mix.

This was yet another wonderful narration by James Marsters. I’ve listened to a lot of audiobooks now, and it’s safe to say he’s my favorite narrator so far. I’m not sure all these Dresden books would keep getting five stars if it weren’t for his fantastic readings.

A point of warning: DO NOT read this book out of order. This book is very big on plot with a capital P. Now, thanks to the internet, I knew what happened ahead of time, which was at once disappointing and thrilling. I knew an event was coming, but couldn’t figure out how or when. I kept waiting for it to happen on every page. That definitely raised the stakes for me.

Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars

Now, because of the very… explosive nature of this ‘event’ this review is going to stay pretty vague for once. I really don’t want to spoil anything for anyone.

Without further ado, and only a tiny spoiler warning, let’s talk about Changes.

dresden changes
Notice that, unlike all the other titles in the series, this one is only one word.

As Chicago’s only wizard in the phone book, Harry is used to trouble showing up at his door. But when his ex-girlfriend, Susan Rodriguez, shows up, he knows it must be something really bad. Susan was attacked by a vampire of the Red Court way back in book three, leaving her partially turned. If she ever succumbs to her vampiric nature and kills someone, she will turn all the way, becoming a terrifying monster and shell of her former self.

Ya know, typical ex-girlfriend problems.

Well, Susan shows up, and her problem is a big one. The Red Court vamps have taken a child, killing the girl’s family, and are going to sacrifice her in a Bloodline Curse. The ritual will kill the girl’s entire family. You’d figure, so what? Her family’s all ready dead, per the vampire massacre.

But, of course, she’s Susan’s daughter. And if she’s Susan’s daughter… you guessed it. Congratulations, Harry! You’re a dad!

Eight years. That’s how old Maggie is. That’s how long Susan kept the secret of their daughter’s existence, and it is the final straw for Harry. He loves Susan, but this deception is the breaking point for him. He tells her that, no matter the outcome of their rescue attempt, there is no more hope for them to ever get back together.

Real talk here, I would have that this was the case ages ago. But, Harry is a stubborn fool, and it’s never more apparent than in this book. He goes to any and all lengths to rescue Maggie from the Red Court, consequences be damned.

Admittedly, the motivation of “that is my child and I will defend her with my life” did not work for me. That child may be his, but she was kept from you, secreted away without your knowledge. She doesn’t know you, and as calloused as it sounds, you don’t owe her anything. Especially not when Harry draws so many other people into the line of fire for her.

Dresden cast
Illustration from the Dresden Files Role-Playing Game by CharroArt

But of course, there’s the Bloodline Curse to tie up any lingering doubts in that regard, of which Harry has none. Thomas joins in willingly to save his own skin, seeing as his relation to Harry would equal his death should the Red Court succeed. But, Murphy, Sanya, and Molly? Yeah, they all want to help because they love Harry, but that’s a big ask, man.

Anywho, the gang is pretty much all on their own since the White Council is dealing with big problems of their own, as per usual, and even Ebeneezer’s plea that Harry let this be falls on deaf ears.

Harry’s immovable will is on full display in this book.

And really, that’s the bulk of the tale. Everything that happens to Harry in this book is directly related to his efforts to save Maggie. There are some past secrets that get revealed because of it, and (without going into too much detail) Harry sacrifices pretty much everything to try and save his little girl.

I’m already halfway through the next Dresden book, and will hopefully have it done by the time we leave for Arizona. I’m making slower progress on The Stone Sky than I’d like, but I still think I’ll finish it before we get on the plane. Dark Deeds, the third Keiko book, is next up after that, and it’s perfect travel reading, so I’m excited for that.

The Iron Gold book review will be up either Friday or Saturday, so keep a weather eye out for it.

Until then, Blogland.

 

BZ

 

Book Review – Turn Coat (Dresden Files #11) by Jim Butcher

Blogland!

Welcome to another book review, this time yet another Dresden book as I slowly get caught up with this series. Maybe I’ll actually be ready when Peace Talks comes out…

I wanted to make a note about my rating system, since I suddenly realized that I am quite kind in my estimation of fiction compared to other reviewers. I frequently give out four or five stars. If I give a title three stars, it means I was pretty unimpressed by it, and anything lower than that you can just assume I did not like it. Period.

I should also note that I rate based on my enjoyment of the story, how engaged I was throughout the book, and how I feel about characters. My Goodreads ratings are not critical responses to an author’s craft or technique. While those are things that I take into consideration while reading, if a book is enjoyable I tend to think less about those qualities because I’m enraptured by the story.Dresden Turn Coat

So if you’ve noticed that my ratings and reviews are generally positive, it’s because I’m reading with entertainment as the goal. That and, well, I’m a generally positive person to begin with.

 

Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars

Another audiobook narration from James Marsters that absolutely blew my mind. I’ve given up on ever reading this series in printed format ever again, and have stacked up my Dresden paperbacks for donation. No sense keeping them on the bookshelf, taking up precious space, when I know I’ll never touch them again.

 

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It’s main plot line was predictable (I guessed the main villain’s identity in the early chapters), but the side plots and the outcomes of the main conflict were well done and though grim, satisfactory. These books keep upping the ante in regards to intensity and consequences, leaving me more impressed with each book.

So, without further ado, prepare for spoilers!

turn coat audio alternate

Dresden is minding his own business for once, when Warden Morgan, the Warden that dogged Harry’s every move since he was a teen, who trusted him least and hated him most, shows up at his door. Bleeding. Harry, being the unwilling paladin that he is, takes Morgan in and sees to his wounds as he listens to the Warden’s tale of being hunted by the Wardens and betrayal from within the White Council.

Morgan was clever in going to Dresden. No one would expect Morgan to go to his least favorite person, and even if he did, no one would expect Harry to actually help him. And they’d be wrong on two fronts. The problem with that, however, is that helping Morgan makes Harry an accomplice. Morgan is suspected of murdering a member of the High Council. Dresden is aiding and abetting him, which makes not only himself a traitor, but Molly as well.

Which means Harry has to figure out what actually happened before anyone figures out where Morgan actually is. As usual for Dresden, that’s easier said than done. Especially since Morgan caught the eye of a Skinwalker while he passed through New Mexico.

Skinwalkers, aka Naagloshii, are supernatural creatures from Navajo legend. In Turn Coat it is a powerful sorcerer and shapeshifter, a semi-divine being that reeks of Evil intent. It thrives on fear, gaining strength as its prey becomes more frightened. Dresden senses the Naagloshii’s presence but was unable to see through its veil. So, he opened up his Wizard’s Sight, and very nearly crippled himself.

Turns out, seeing the psychic and spiritual representation of a Naagloshii is highly unpleasant and could drive you insane.

hells bells
Dresden’s preferred exasperated curse.

But, Shagnasty, as Dresden refers to the Naagloshii, isn’t the only thing he has to worry about. His investigation of the funds used to frame Morgan leads back to the White Court of Vampires. And while he’s on good terms with his half-brother Thomas, Lara Raith is less than pleased with him.

Harry involves her anyway, pulling her into his struggle against the Naagloshii after the Skinwalker takes Thomas. Shagnasty,  wants to trade Thomas for Morgan, so Harry sets a time and place.

Harry uses Lara’s testimony and presence to trick the Council into meeting with him on the uncharted island in Lake Michigan. Harry calls it Demonreach, after communing with the spirit that resides there, and now has a connection to the island. he can sense what the spirit senses and know what the spirit knows, as long as he is on the island.

Pretty cool, and totally useful if you ask me.

By bringing the White Council and the White Court together, Dresden hopes to flush out the traitor, who he now figures must be a member of the heretofore unconfirmed Black Council. If all goes to plan, he’ll reveal the true bad guy to the Council, proving both the Raith’s and Morgan’s innocence. And, with the added firepower of the strongest Wizards and the White Court, just maybe he can get his brother back.

Well, in short, all of that does happen.

turnCoat_1920x1200

The Naagloshii is defeated enough to turn tail and run, though there’s no guarantee the creature won’t make an appearance again someday. Thomas is much worse for wear, reverting back to his most base tendencies thanks to Shagnasty’s days of torture, and he almost eats Molly. Thomas is swept away by his family, and we’re left unsure of how he’ll recover from the incident.

It’s revealed that almost every member of the White Council in the Edinburgh headquarters has had their minds messed with, at least a little bit, and though the perpetrator gets what’s coming to him, Morgan dies in the process. Dresden figures out who really killed the High Council member, but promises to take Morgan’s secret to the grave.

And, remember how surprised I was at Luccio’s romantic interest in Dresden in the last book? Yeah. That was because her mind had been tainted by the Black Council. She wasn’t really herself. And now that she realizes that, she calls things off with Harry.

So, basically, Harry is more or less victorious, but left without his girlfriend or his brother. It was a grim ending to be sure, and it made me extra eager to get on to the next book.

I’ll have the Changes book review out sometime next week, and hopefully I’ll be caught up on my reading by then to have a new batch of reviews ready to write. I’ve got most of a Craft Discussion post written up, and will post it this weekend.

Until then, Blogland!

 

BZ

 

 

Book Review – Small Favor (Dresden Files #10) by Jim Butcher

Blogland!

I started to write the Turn Coat book review, and realized that I never wrote the Small Favor book review! So, this is my attempt to dig into the depths of my memory and discuss all the gritty details. Buckle up and get ready for a ride.

Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars

As usual, James Marsters’ narration was splendid. He really is synonymous with Harry Dresden for me now. I’ll never be able to hear him as anyone else. Now, tread with care, there are spoilers below.

Small Favor

Murphy calls in Harry to investigate an explosion one cold winter night, and that is just the beginning of his troubles. Turns out, Marcone owns the building, and the mafioso is missing. To make matters worse, Queen Mab (yes, that Mab) has enlisted Harry’s help to find the mob boss.

Whenever the Fae are involved, Harry knows he’s in for a bad time. As Winter’s Emissary, Dresden finds himself the target of the Summer Court’s assassins, known as gruffs. Yep, as in Billy Goat. Except, bigger, badder, and a whole lot scarier.

gruff dresden rpg
An example of Gruffs from the Dresden Files RPG manual.

So, with gruffs of varying sizes on his trail, Harry has to find Marcone’s. The hunt leads him to Union Station, where some of the mob boss’ blood samples have been secreted away in a locker.  Dresden can use the blood to track Marcone, but first, he and Michael Carpenter, of the Knights of the Cross, have to survive an onslaught from the Summer Court.

Sounds straightforward enough until, Luccio, Commander of the Grey Wardens, shows up with the Archive in tow. For those of us that don’t remember, the Archive is a little girl whose maternal bloodline carries all of human knowledge. If it has ever been written down, Ivy (as Dresden calls her) knows it. And the fact that her train was at the station was no coincidence.

Nicodemus, leader of the Order of the Blackened Denarius and all-around super villain, has requested her presence to act as a neutral third-party in negotiations between himself and Dresden for the release of Marcone.

So, you know, as if Fae squabbles and Marcone AWOL weren’t bad enough, now Harry finds out that the Denarians are at the root of it all. Dresden just can’t catch a break.

To no one’s surprise, Nicodemus is a liar. He was never going to negotiate anything. He just wanted to get to Ivy. Despite everyone’s Herculean efforts, six Denarians is just too much to handle. They get the girl.

If Nicodemus was unwilling to bargain before, he’ll be impossible to coerce now. He has all the power. Unless Dresden makes him an offer he simply can’t refuse. If Ivy were to take up one of the coins of the Blackened Denarius she would be an unstoppable force of evil. He can’t let that happen, so he offers the only thing he knows Nicodemus would want.

All the coins the Knights have recovered, as well as Fidelacchius, the Sword of Faith that he’s been entrusted with ever since Shiro’s death. It’s a ballsy bargain, but it’s one Nicodemus can’t turn away. So, they set a time and place, on an uncharted island in Lake Michigan. Dresden and company head to the island, unsure of what they’ll find, but determined to be prepared for it.

Was Harry wasn’t prepared for was a sense of familiarity with the island as he set foot on it. He had never been there before, and yet he knew where to step to avoid detection, knew that the Denarians were awaiting him at the dilapidated cottage at the base of the wrecked lighthouse.

dresden lighthouse
That looks about right. Creepy af.

Luccio explained the phenomenon, telling Harry that it meant that the island would be important to him sometime in his life. It was an ability some wizards got as they aged and gained experience. Not foresight exactly, but almost a stronger version on deja-vu.

Both Marcone and Ivy were on the island, both worse for wear. The Denarians were torturing the child in an effort to get her to accept one of the coins, to accept the Fallen Angel into her mind and soul. So far they had been unsuccessful, but it was only a matter of time before the child broke.

So, Dresden did what he does whenever he sees an innocent in trouble: Raised hell.

It’s an epic battle, in a really cool setting that’s just as creepy as the Denarians themselves. As planned, Marcone’s people fly in to extract Harry, Sanya, Murphy, Michael, and the two abductees. Of course, Dresden insists on going last, sending Michael up before him.

Except, the Denarians have no intent to let them go that easy. They shoot Michael as he’s being lifted up into the helicopter, and Marcone’s people are forced to leave, abandoning Dresden on the island. That’s about the time when the Eldest Gruff shows up.

Nothing can ever be simple for Dresden.

jelly in thy donutHe talks his way out of a duel with the gruff, and even gets a doughnut out of it (not even kidding), and then nearly kills Nicodemus, but the Denarians daughter interrupts just in tame for Harry to get rescued by Murphy and Thomas. Whether or not Nicodemus survived strangulation and unconsciousness in the lake remains to be seen.

The book ends with Harry checking in on Michael, who’s in surgery. He’ll live, but the prognosis isn’t good. Sanya, the only other Knight of the Cross, gives Harry Michael’s sword, Amoracchius, to keep with Shiro’s. Michael Carpenter, though alive, will never be able to wield it again.

As Harry wallows in guilt over the state of his friend, Annastasia Luccio comes to him and suggests that they get something to eat. It’s been a long day, and as the dinner goes well, it turns into a long night as well.

Now, I have to say something about that end scene. I was not happy. First of all, Luccio is his commander. You don’t sleep with your boss, Harry! Second of all, that seemed like a really weird thing for Luccio to do, in my opinion.  I mean, yeah, she’s in that young body now, and yadda yadda yadda, but still. This woman has been austere and severe the whole time we’ve known her. It rankles.

Also, one of your best friends is mortally wounded, because of something you dragged him into, and you’re getting laid? Harry. You’re better than this.

But, these tidbits aside, this book was quite wonderful. It did a lot of setting up for the future, which is typical of Dresden books. They’re always setting the stage for the next thing, always turning things up to eleven.

A lot of my favorite characters were in this one, and for the first time I found myself very emotionally invested in the series. I cried when Michael got hurt. I don’t even consider him one of my favorite characters, but dammit, he didn’t deserve that.

I felt like this book was probably one of the more intense installments. What I didn’t know was that it was really just the primer course for the next two.

I finished Changes today, and will have the review for both it and Turn Coat out sometime next week. Thanks for reading, Blogland!

 

BZ