Tag: Jim Butcher

Skin Game (The Dresden Files #15)

Cover image for Skin Game by Jim Butcherby Jim Butcher

ISBN 978-0-698-15789-7

“You think your power is what shapes the world you walk in. But that is an illusion. Your choices shape your world. You think your power will protect you from the consequences of those choices. But you are wrong. You create your own rewards. There is a Judge. There is Justice in this world. And one day you will receive what you have earned. Choose carefully.”

Ever since he became the Winter Knight, Harry Dresden’s friends and allies have been watching him with a wary eye, afraid that he might go dark-side. Now, Mab is compounding their fears by loaning out Dresden’s services to pay off a debt, forcing him to work hand-in-hand with his old foe Nicodemus Archleone, Knight of the Blackened Denarius. Nicodemus is planning an unprecedented supernatural heist, involving not one, but two, highly secure vaults. If they succeed, they will have pissed off both the Baron of Chicago, and a Greek god. If they fail, the entire team will be worse than dead. But even if they can pull off the heist, Dresden can’t trust that Nicodemus won’t betray them all once he has acquired his target. To make matters worse, Dresden is operating on a tight deadline; he only has three days to help Nicodemus complete the job before the parasite that has been growing in his head utterly incapacitates him.

From Changes to Cold Days, Harry Dresden’s world as we came to know in Storm Front has been turned upside down. Dresden has been stripped of his basement home and its laboratory, his wheezing car, the Blue Beetle, and forced to send Bob, Maggie, Mouse and Mister to new homes as he lives in isolation on Demonreach. Where Cold Days revealed the cosmic battle with the Outsiders and the true role of the Winter Court, setting up the universe for Butcher’s end game, Skin Game is much more about important turning points for Dresden’s character. Variously deprived of his magical abilities, and the power of the Winter Knight’s mantle, Dresden must rely on his friends, even as they face a crisis of faith about his intentions. That said Skin Game is still, in Butcher’s own words, “a major league slugfest,” featuring powerful supernatural villains and important plot developments that will have repercussions for the rest of the series.

This generally excellent adventure comes with what I have come to think of as the usual caveats for this series. This volume in particular focuses on heavily on the more theological aspects of the Dresden universe, which have become more pronounced as the series has gone on. Butcher handles these ideas well but, they are unappealing to many fans. Similarly, there are the usual off-putting passages about Dresden as a manly-man with manly urges, and some tiresome over-sexualization of the female characters. That said, if you are still reading this series at volume fifteen, you have probably come to terms with these aspects of the story, even if, like me, they aren’t your favourite part.

Caveats aside, Skin Game comes with all of Jim Butcher’s usual witty banter, pop culture referential humour, frantic action, and extra twisty plot turns. Book sixteen, Peace Talks, will focus on a supernatural power summit intending to redress the imbalance of power created by the collapse of the Red Court. Undoubtedly this will fix everything and the series will end early.

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Cover image for Dark Currents by Jacqueline CareyYou might also like Dark Currents by Jacqueline Carey.

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Vacation Reads

While I was away on holidays, I needed a little bit of light reading to unwind at the end of a hard day’s sightseeing. That being the case, I decided to get caught up on the latest volumes in a few of my favourite urban fantasy series.

Cover image for Cold Days by Jim ButcherCold Days (9780451464408)

The last novel in the Dresden Files, Ghost Story, was an interesting lull in Harry’s story line, as he found himself trapped between worlds following his self-planned assassination/suicide at the end of Changes. Harry’s return to life means a follow up on a plot point that has been a long time coming; if he isn’t dead, then he is bound to fulfill his promise to serve Mab as the Winter Knight. Although the ostensible purpose of the Winter Knight is to kill mortals that Mab cannot touch, Mab instead demands that Harry kill an immortal, and provides a powerful incentive to do it. With an impossible task set before him, Harry will need every ally and resource at his disposal, but will his friends be able to trust him now that he is the Winter Knight? And does he really want to involve them in faerie business? This novel gives the strong sense that Jim Butcher is opening a new chapter in the Dresden Files universe. Newly immersed in the politics and intrigues of the faerie courts, Harry finds that there may be more to the balance between Earth and the NeverNever than he ever suspected.

Categories: Urban Fantasy, Mystery

 

Cover image for Frost Burned by Patricia BriggsFrost Burned (9780441020010)

Out Christmas shopping with her step-daughter, Jesse, Mercy gets into a fender bender, and is alarmed when she finds that she has a mysterious voicemail from Bran, and that she cannot reach any of the pack by phone. All of the Columbia Basin werewolves have simply disappeared, and the pack bonds tell Mercy this isn’t a game. Only Ben has managed to escape the kidnappers, who are still after him, and Mercy and Jesse, to boot. Those who preferred Mercy before she and Adam got together will be happy to see her flying solo once more, though the plot relies heavily on their mating bond. Those who enjoy the Columbia Basin Pack will miss their presence. The trade off for the separation is that Patricia Briggs gives us two chapters from Adam’s point of view in a series that has always been from Mercy’s perspective. However, the absence of the pack did make room for some of the other secondary characters to shine, particularly Kyle. The book gets off to a slow start, but makes up for it with a rapid fire conclusion.

Categories:  Urban Fantasy, Mystery

 

Cover image for Dead Ever After by Charlaine HarrisDead Ever After (9781937007881)

Things aren’t going well for Sookie with the men in her life. Sam has been cold and distant since she used the cluviel dor to raise him from the dead, and Eric is furious that Sookie used it to save Sam rather than extricate him from his dilemma with Freyda, Queen of Oklahoma. With Sam keeping his distance, Sookie is left to run Merlotte’s alone, so it is she who has the unenviable task of refusing her old friend Arlene a job when she is granted an early release from prison. Then things go pear-shaped, and Sookie is accused of murder in an all-too-neat frame up job.  Although this is the final book in the Sookie Stackhouse series, much is left open, as if the story will continue on beyond the pages of the books. Charlaine Harris answers a lot of the important questions, but fans who dislike open-ended conclusions will definitely be left wanting. And of course, there have been rage-filled reactions to Harris’ decision about how to conclude the romantic storyline. I assiduously avoided all those spoilers, so imagine my surprise when Sookie ended up with the guy I thought she was going to be with all along.

Categories:  Urban Fantasy, Mystery

 

Cover image for The Cuckoos Calling by Robert GalbraithThe Cuckoo’s Calling (9781408703991)

News about the true identity of Robert Galbraith broke while I was in England, and when I found out J.K. Rowling had written a detective novel, I knew I was going to have to read it, even as I sympathized with her desire for anonymity. Down-on-his-luck detective Cormoran Strike is living in the office which he is on the verge of losing when a new case and new secretary land in his lap, all on the same day. A barely remembered childhood acquaintance shows up on Strike’s doorstep, asking him to investigate the supposed suicide of his sister, international super model Lula Landry. The new secretary, Robin, has always secretly dreamed of being a PI, and her knowledge of celebrity gossip turns into a surprisingly useful resource as she and Strike delve into the world of fame and fashion that Landry inhabited. In addition to being a bang-up detective novel, The Cuckoo’s Calling is an introspective look at our fascination with celebrities, and the rabid power of the British paparazzi. While the ending will probably not come as a terrible surprise, what Rowling has written here is classic hard-boiled detective fiction, and I will definitely be looking forward to the next Cormoran Strike novel.

Categories: Mystery

Your regularly scheduled, full-length book reviews will resume on Thursday, beginning with If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan. Thanks for sticking around!