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Theft is Serious Business: A Review of “Skin Game”

Image Credit: Jim-Butcher.com

Dresden fans, it’s that time of year again!

A year and a half after the pulse-pounding thrill ride that was Cold Days. Jim Butcher is back with Skin Game, released May 27th. Everyone’s favorite wizard and Winter Knight, Harry Dresden, is forced to work with an old adversary, Nicodemus Archelone, to steal a valuable artifact from none other than Hades himself! Harry knows there’s more to this job than meets the eye. He knows he can’t trust Nicodemus for even a moment. Worst of all, Harry knows that he can’t say no. The only way to get out of this trap is to risk not only his life but the lives of his friends. Harry’s got to play the game better than the thieves around him or he’s a dead man.

After fifteen novels one might think that Butcher can’t raise the stakes any higher or put Harry’s back further to the wall but the hits just keep coming. Many series decline in quality after a few books; the protagonist becomes unlikeable or they become so powerful that they can’t be challenged. Butcher avoids these pitfalls by keeping Harry’s focus on retaining his humanity in a world of monsters. Harry has deep ties to his supporting cast and feels remorse over his past choices. He struggles with the idea of being corrupted by the new power he possesses. Better still, he struggles with the fatherhood suddenly thrust upon him in Changes. There’s a scene between Harry and his daughter, Maggie, that brought a tear to my eyes.

Harry’s values are ironclad and he struggles with bending or even breaking them. When he’s forced to he owns it and doesn’t rationalize it away to save face. His supporting cast is great at calling him out on his hypocrisy and he tries to make up for it even if it costs him an advantage that his enemies will exploit later on.

Furthermore, Butcher never introduces throwaway characters or plot points. The reader, and Harry himself, might forget about someone or something introduced back in book three but the author doesn’t. Butcher’s world moves around the characters even as they act. Former enemies and friends hide in the shadows until the time is right and then return to gut-punch Harry and push the story in a new direction. A minor subplot from a long-ago novel suddenly explains actions taken in more recent books. Each book is a large piece in a larger puzzle. The audience sees certain parts of the puzzle but we spend more time trying to figure out where each piece goes. Just when we think Harry’s made enough enemies for a lifetime we learn that he hasn’t even hit the tip of the iceberg.

This book hits the ground running (literally) and doesn’t let you catch your breath until the end. Butcher’s stated previously that he’s looking at a twenty book case-file series before capping it off with an apocalyptic trilogy to close the story out. Whether he sticks with this plan or alters it, his fans eagerly await the next chapter in Harry’s struggle to be an decent man in indecent times. Game of Thrones has more main characters, a TV show, and ten times the moving plots but The Dresden Files is accessible to everyone and brings new readers into the fold with  pop-culture references and inside jokes. Plus, Butcher’s books show up at least once a year while Game of Thrones fans wait to see if George R.R. Martin will finish his next book in this decade.

This series is not for the faint of heart. If you’re looking for a protagonist that doesn’t suffer or make mistakes as often as he learns from them, The Dresden Files isn’t for you. If you’re looking for an easy read that’s fun and full of great characters, head to your local bookshop and pick up all of the novels right now!

For more information on Jim Butcher, visit his official website and follow him on TwitterSkin Game is now available in-store and through digital retailers.

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One Comment on “Theft is Serious Business: A Review of “Skin Game””

  1. Minecraft Books June 27, 2014 at 2:59 pm #

    Just finished reading it. Thanks for your review!

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