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Book Review- “Skin Game”

 

 

skingame_lg I discovered Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files series right around the release of the fifth book, “Death Masks,” in 2003. So I’ve been reading the series for over a decade now and while some entries have been better than others I’ve always been entertained. There hasn’t been an adventure of Chicago’s only Wizard for hire, Harry Dresden that I’ve not had fun with and that’s a big feat for a series that’s been around so long.

The usual plot recipe of a Dresden Files book is a blend of private detective fiction and fantasy that reads like an episode of Joss Whedon’s “Angel” series meets Harry Potter. So more often than not Harry Dresden is out investigating some strange mystery in Chicago that leads to an apocalyptic threat, but what makes the books so interesting is the character of Harry and the complex cast of enemies and allies that Butcher has built up around him over the years. So sure the weird and action packed mysteries are fun frosting, but the cake of the series and what keeps me coming back are the characters and the long term plot threads that Butcher has weaved around them.

From time to time those plots will pay off in big ways, but perhaps the biggest pay out was 2010’s “Changes,” which remains the high point of the series for me. Since then, there has been great moments that have added to the series and moved it along in new and interesting directions like 2012’s “Cold Days,” but I’m happy to report that the latest Dresden Files novel, “Skin Game” has some fantastic moments of character pay out   for long term fans of the series that add to the ongoing narratives and push the long term plot forward in interesting ways  (I’m not going to say what, but there are events in this book that I’ve been hoping to see for almost a decade) and a different and interesting plot that I’ don’t believe we’ve seen in this series. So for my money “Skin Game” is the best Dresden Files novel since “Changes.”

Like the other books in the series “Skin Game” is about the intersection between crime and the weird modern day fantasy world of2014.pm.jim.butcher Chicago, but instead of playing detective this time Harry is cast in a very different role, law breaker. That’s because in addition to being a wizard Harry also serves as the Winter Knight for Mab, the Faerie Queen of Winter, and at the beginning of the book she tasks Harry with assisting his old enemy the demonic Knight of Blackened Denarius, Nicodemus Archelone, in a heist. So “Skin Game” is part caper novel. We get to watch a heist crew come together and plot a robbery of a vault located in the mythical Greek underworld.  Also because Mab has forced Harry into working with Nicodemus “Skin Game” is  a con novel.  You get to watch Nicodemus and Harry plot and carry out subtle moves against each other as they work for an opportunity to destroy each other.

So “Skin Game” is an exciting and action packed novel, but as expected it’s also full of great characters. You get to spend time with some old favorites like former police detective Karrin Murphy, who Harry enlists to watch his back as the planning for the heist goes down. There’s also fun stuff with a group of other established characters, but I’m not going to spoil who they are. Their entry into “Skin Game” is a pretty fun reveal.

Nicodemus’ heist crew is also full of interesting characters both new and returning. I especially liked the team’s resident shape shifter Goodmen Grey, who makes his debut in this novel. And of course Nicodemus himself is also an interesting character. I hate his guts, but that’s the point. He’s a fantastic villain and I want to see him taken down.

On top of great characters, exciting action, and twisting double crosses you also get the pay off I mentioned earlier and it involves several occurring characters. I don’t want to say too much more about those moments except they come at the perfect time. The way Butcher set up and delivered those moments of payout had me cheering.

So if you’re a long time fan of the Dresden Files series you’ll love “Skin Game.” It’s a different kind of Harry Dresden story, which makes it fresh and exciting and it’s full of payoff moments that will leave you excited for the characters and their adventures to come.

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