on 27 May 2014
After reading the previous 14 books in the Dresden series there was no doubt that I would love Skin Game. I have been waiting for this ever since the brilliant and slightly cruel twist ending of Cold Days.
Harry Dresden’s latest case is a difficult one. Harry is under orders from his boss The Winter Queen to work with Nicodemus Archleone, a returning master villain, who wants him to help break into the (nether-)worlds highest security vault. So begins a heist book with an urban fantasy twist.
If you are a Dresden fan, like me, then you will adore Skin Game. In many ways the storytelling is more of a return to early Dresden with a little less high fantasy and lot more noir.
For a Dresden book this entry is practically perfect. It has magic, epic battles, surprising twists, snarky humour, horrific events, pop culture references plus an emotional roller coaster that brought me close to tears on more than one occasion. Also I will never look at freerunning the same way again.
I can not wait to read what happens to everybody next year.
The word epic is overused but it is the only word that I can use to describe Skin Game.
on 21 July 2014
Firstly if you are looking at the face of Harry for the first time - skip back a few books to Storm Front and start there.
I fell in love with Harry Dresden when I first read Storm Front. I love his personality (witty, sarcastic and sometimes laugh out loud funny) his life (a magical skull, a fairy godmother, Murphy!) and his adventures (primarily in Chicago - but who else could bribe tiny fairies with Pizza?). Not forgetting he is the only Wizard PI in Chicago (found in the yellow pages under 'W').
This is not your typical fantasy book. The characters and situations that Jim Butcher creates are hilarious and shine above any other book that I have read. Over the 15 books we have seen Harry, his friends and his relationships develop and change. Jim Butcher always manages to keep Harry's adventures fresh and exciting even if they are ridiculous!
It is so easy to connect with Harry as a reader and I can really see life through his eyes. I read these books cover to cover as soon as they come out and I can never get enough.
This latest installment takes us through Harry's struggles with Winter, the parasite and also his personal relationships! We see some old friends come back in action to help Harry and some old foes to stand against him! I loved the mythology to this book and there was a particular dream that definitely had me disappointed when it was only that. Jim knows what we want and he won't give it to us :(
Give Harry Dresden a try - you not regret it. I am sad I didn't find him sooner!
on 1 June 2014
So worth the wait! I've been frantically re-reading the entire series ready for this book. I totally loved it. The story is full of plots, twists, turns, surprises, humour, love, family, friendship and everything that makes a Dresden book. Oh and Butters is awesome! If you've read the rest you simply must read this. Only problem is I now have a long wait for the next book!
on 5 June 2014
How the heck does Jim Butcher do it? Every chapter in the latest saga of Harry Dresden is full of action, characters and sub-plots - how can he keep track of it all? This is one of the better Harry Dresden books and the plot itself is full of eye opening twists. You have to sit up until three in the morning reading just to make sure the good guys win in the end. One slight observation - what's up with Harry? Is he going soft? Settling down? There seems less wizardry and more human interaction, both spiritual and - er - sexual. Hey, come on, Harry! Don't turn vanilla on us!
on 21 December 2015
I’d heard a lot about Jim Butcher but never read him before his Hugo nomination nudged me to pick up two earlier titles in the Dresden Files going cheap at a library sell-off. I thought both were extremely well written, and you could immediately tell why Butcher was nominated for a top award. I’m glad I picked them up, because I wouldn’t otherwise have gone straight in with book#15 in a series. Surely by the 15th book, the author would be bored with the characters, out of ideas, and the book would be weighed down with backstory? So when I picked up a copy of Skin Game, even though this was the third Dresden book I’d read, I was not convinced I’d enjoy it.
I don’t know how he does it. Each of three books I’ve read was better than the last. Well, I do know how he does it: Butcher is a writer who is learning and growing on the job, maturing from a merely top-notch author into one who is truly exceptional. It’s obvious having read Skin Game that this is a book that will still be read by legions of fans in fifty years’ time. Part of his skill is to weave the backstory in effortlessly. There were no points when backstory weighed down or confused the narrative but I could see how the earlier books I’d read linked and were built upon by Skin Game.
As for the plot of Skin Game, I get the feeling that Jim Butcher could take the worst plot imaginable and breathe vivid life into it. But that doesn’t apply here because Skin Game had a great plot and intriguing characters. It’s essentially a heist, a job that Harry Dresden doesn’t want to do, is impossible to pull off, and has betrayal baked in from the start. And if that weren’t enough, Butcher throws rocks at his characters all the way through, and yet most of them, at least, get through to the other end. They aren’t the same people at the end, though.
Although I have enjoyed every one of Jim Butcher's 14 previous 'Dresden Files' novels, my one significant criticism of the more recent entries in the series is that the big finales have sometimes gone somewhat OTT. The trend started with Harry Dresden riding a zombie dinosaur though downtown Chicago, but it reached its peak with the massive island assault at the end of vol. 14, Cold Front, which became an all-out supernatural battle in the middle of lake Michigan.
I have nothing against big set pieces per se, but for me the Dresden Files' increasing over reliance on them robbed the series of some of it original appeal. After all, as the 'Dresden Files' sub-title suggests, this was originally an urban fantasy take on the film-noir Detective series; Philip Marlowe with magic if you like. However, over time and as Jim Butcher expanded the alternative universe in which the stories are set, the books have become less mysteries with a magical spin and more grand fantasy epics. They were still enjoyable, but some of what made the early novels such as Storm Front so great for me had been lost.
I am happy to report therefore, that with Skin Game Jim Butcher seems to have rediscovered some of the old magic, if you will pardon the expression, by returning Harry back to a smaller scale adventure. The ever expanding universe is still there and there are still moments that make me wonder how the general public could still possibly be in denial about the existence of magic (bronze lion statue coming to life in downtown Chicago anyone?), but there are no massed battles between supernatural armies, the stakes aren't world-changing and the central cast is kept to a reasonably tight number of players.
Moreover Skin Game is very much a 'crime novel' with a robbery, albeit a supernatural one, central to the plot. Its also plays homage to the series' noir-ish origins and inspirations by having more crosses and double crosses than the Maltese Falcon and featuring all the staples of a good pulp Detective novel, including femme-fatales, hulking henchmen (or hench-monsters in this case) and mob-bosses.
It also features an ending that for once feels like a proper, satisfying ending, with minimal loose ends left hanging. No, Jim Butcher doesn't wrap up every sub-plot in the wider Dresden-verse and I wouldn't expect him to in the course of one novel, but the novel's central plot is brought to a pretty definitive conclusion, there are no cliff-hangers, and many of the series heroes and their interpersonal relationships are left in far better places than when the book began.
All of which serves to make Skin Game the most enjoyable Dresden File for a long time and has restored my slightly waning faith in the series. Next time I will not wait nearly a year to pick up the latest volume in the series, and I will hope that Jim Butcher manages to maintain Harry and his Friends' return to form.
on 5 February 2015
Let me tell you a little story. Going back a few years, 2009 to be precise, I read what I believe to be my first Urban Fantasy novel: Black Magic Woman by Justin Gustainis. I enjoyed it and it got me interested in the genre, and while looking around I discovered that the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher were highly rated by many. Based on recommendations by those I trust I picked up Storm Front, and I rather enjoyed it. I planned on reading the series at the time, but it just wasn’t meant to be and the series became another one that hovered at the back of mind, never quite making it onto my reading list.
Fast forward to August 2013. While digging around for something a little different to read I stumbled across the Dresden Files again, and decided that the time was about right to give the series a proper go. It had been a few years so I re-read Storm Front, and then planned to alternate the Dresden Files novels with some sci-fi. That quickly got brushed aside and I ended up making my way through the series novel by novel, finishing with Cold Days before the end of that year. Four months, fifteen books, and what a ride!
This year Skin Game was released, the fifteenth book in the series, and one that had so much promise and many unanswered questions to deal with. I read the book the moment it dropped through my letterbox back in May. I loved it, completely and totally. My favourite of the series to date? Quite likely, but then I was eagerly awaiting my next Dresden Files fix. I had planned on writing a nicely detailed and in-depth review back then, but I came away with such a high that I just didn’t think I could write a constructive one. Still, I told anyone who would listen how good it was.
Time moved on, and as we got to the end of September this year I started to look at 2014 releases that I had read, and what I was considering my favourites so far. I started to look at other releases that I had overlooked, planning on reading as many as I could before year end. But the more I thought about it all, the more I kept on coming back to Skin Game, and the Dresden Files as a whole. Sometimes, as a reader you just need to have fun. To let go. To satisfy your needs. And that’s what I did. I re-read the series again, Storm Front to Skin Game – fifteen novels and a short story collection – in five weeks. I was dreaming of Dresden by the time I put down Skin Game again. And do you know what? I enjoyed them more the second time around, and came away with such a great feeling. You know, that feeling when you know you’ve been reading something special. It was bliss.
And then I realised that despite wanting to review Skin Game and all its glorious content – from an arch nemesis and his vault-breaking plans, to an archangel giving up his powers – there was no way I could do so objectively. Skin Game reads like a love letter to his fans, giving them pretty much everything they could want in a Dresden Files novel. And that brings me to here and now.
If you’re already familiar with the Dresden Files then I have little doubt that Skin Game is on your radar or to-be-read pile. If you haven’t read Skin Game, then don’t. Seriously, just don’t. Go out, pick up Storm Front, and enjoy the series from the start, I doubt you’ll be disappointed.
on 2 June 2014
First of all I doubt anyone reading this isn’t already a Harry Dresden fan, but if by chance you aren’t yet I strongly suggest you read the earlier books first. There is a story arc over the series and it helps to know what went before.
So Harry is the Winter Knight in service to Mab the sidhe (faerie) Winter Queen, not something he ever wanted to be. He’s bound to obey her commands though he has a tendency to do it in his own time and in his own way. Since the events related in Cold Days Mab has been conspicuous by her absence, but inevitably she eventually turns up and just as inevitably she wants something. It seems she owes a favour to Nicodemus, a nasty vicious individual, with whom Harry has considerable issues. The favour has been called in and the sidhe always repay their debts. Mab is going to loan Harry to Nicodemus to assist him in his latest venture, to raid a vault belonging to Hades, Lord of the Underworld. On top of that time is not on Harry’s side, because the parasite in his head will kill him in three days time. This is something Mab can help with, but she’ll do so only if and when he completes the mission. No pressure then! In true Jim Butcher style the story moves along at a cracking pace with plenty of action, twists and turns not to mention some laugh out loud bits (which I did) and moving moments (lump in the throat a couple of times). It was good to see the return of two or three regular characters from earlier novels who only made brief appearances or were completely absent in the last couple of stories. Some regulars were missing though, so I hope they pop up in future Dresden outings. It was also nice to see a bit more of the wise-cracking, smart ass side of Harry’s persona that I have to admit I missed a little in the last trio of books, as much as I enjoyed them. All in all a really good read and worth the wait; Dresden fans will love it. Well done Mr Butcher. Hopefully the wait for the next book in the series won’t be quite as long.
on 19 June 2014
Harry Dresden and I almost had a parting of the ways after the previous book. After following his adventures in one massive binge, book after book, I was sure the law of diminishing returns had firmly kicked in. My ennui for the series wasn't aided by the fact that the author had effectively dropped a bomb into Harry's world, blowing all the familiar elements of his life to the winds in an explosive cataclysm. Without those elements, I felt, the books lost too much of their heart. This series isn't just about a character, but a fantastical community that had been irreparably damaged.
Part of the joy of Skin Game is watching that community reform around H in new ways, familiar faces making their own adjustments to the upheaval, and suddenly it all makes sense again. Jim Butcher hasn't swept the board clean at all. Instead he's given himself breathing space from the structures he had been forced to revisit continually, and is now building something new. Dresden's world has evolved.
As you can probably sense, I enjoyed this book a great deal. Harry's dry angst is still present, but the heist structure of the plot allows for more fun than I've had with the series for a while. It's not a pure reboot - Harry back-references his own adventures constantly, and several have a definite impact on this story, so this isn't a book for new readers - but it's a definite new lease of life for Dresden. I'm suddenly looking forward to the next book a great deal.
on 6 August 2014
I have read every book and short story with Harry Dresden in it up to this point, so i came into Skin Game with certain Expectations, and as a fan of the series all of these expectations were met.
This is the continuation of the arc from the last few books where Harry is the Winter Knight and warden to the island of Demonsreach.
Everything you would expect from a Harry Dresden adventure is here, the action, the ineptitude, the physical beatings and the dark humour. So what is there to distinguish this from the rest of the books?
The return of the Black Denarians is welcome, and some further developments in this storyline are very interesting.
The addition of the greek Pantheon of Gods to the universe is interesting, it is not overused in this book but does leave many potentially great options for the future.
The angels are again woking behind the scenes (and this is one of my favourite aspects of the whole universe)
I love this book and think it is another very gripping read to follow on 3 magnificent entries.
If you have no idea what the above is talking about then i suggest that you are not a reader of this series, and whilst the book can be read independant of the rest, by this stage (this is the 15th book) there is so much history and world building referenced that it is difficult to grasp everything. Also the series is brilliant entertainment, so why not?