“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.
You might also like Dark Currents by Jacqueline Carey.