I have to admit, I’ve been a bit worried about the Dresden Files. It started with Turn Coat, which was one of my least favorite in the series. I don’t know what it was, it just never scratched that itch I have for the Dresden Files. Then there was Changes, which was good, but the whole point of that book was to be purposely out of sync with the tropes, tone, and style of the rest of the series (hence the name, Changes). Ghost Story was a mix of really bad and really good. I thought Corpsetaker was an odd villain to revisit, but she/he/it really just seemed to serve as a backdrop for Harry’s out of body experience and flashbacks, where the story really shined. Cold Nights was good, but it had a few problems for me, I could take it or leave it.
So, yeah, I’ve been a bit worried…
Skin Game is fantastic, easily one of my favorite in the series. Maybe it’s because the Denarians (always one of my favorite villains) play such a big role, or because it leans so heavily on my favorite supporting characters (Murphy, Michael, Butters), I don’t know, but it works. Unlike any of the other stories, Harry finds himself surrounded by, and even aiding, the villains he has fought so hard against in the past. In any of the other books, he would be investigating the very events he’s involved with. I won’t go into too much detail, just to say that it gives a perspective we’ve never seen before, and provides some character interaction that is really, really well done.
As usual, the Denarians are sociopaths of the best possible flavor. Nicodemus is equal parts suave and lethal, but we get a more intimate look at him. The other Denarians, utilized as monster fodder in the other books, don’t don’t play as big a role (I’m thinking back to Small Favor when they all fought it out with Kincaid, one of my favorite scenes in the series), but that’s because it focuses deeper on those that do show up. Part of the reasoning too is because there are a number of other, non-Denarian villians, each unique and interesting in their own way. Goodman Gray in particular went a surprising direction, but all the rest have interesting and unique parts in the story.
As far as allies go, you can’t really do better than Murphy or Michael and they both get some fantastic moments. This isn’t really a story for them to show their dangerous side, Michael especially, but they do things for Harry on an emotional level that I think will bring him back from the turmoil he’s been experiencing since Changes.
And actually, that’s one of the things that I enjoyed so much about Skin Game.
You can watch throughout the series as Harry has his ups and downs. The period between Blood Rights and White Night, leading into Small Favor, is pretty rough on him. He’s fighting Lasciel, his hand’s all messed up, people around him are getting into trouble or getting hurt, and until Small Favor things don’t really move in a more positive direction. The last few books, Changes, Ghost Story, Cold Days, have been downers, with Harry struggling with what all this is meaning for him. Finally, in Skin Game, we get a bit of a break, with things looking a bit more up. Sure, they’re still plenty of danger and Consequences, but I’m very interested in seeing where things go, not just with his situation, but with the relationships he’s nurtured and given new life in this story.
I’ll leave it with this.
Hades, man, Hades.
This isn’t a spoiler, he’s mentioned in the freaking jacket cover, so it’s safe to assume he shows up. I was really interested in how Butcher was going to portray him, partly because I’ve been working on my pantheons for my world (I won’t be introducing Virgil to Hades anytime soon, so this doesn’t matter as much, but he does meet a few other gods briefly in FayTown Calling) and been thinking about how I would portray Hades. I know how I’m going to portray the rest of the Greek gods in my world, they gambled on Rome and lost, but I’ve also been keeping Hades (and coincidentally Hecate, the goddess of witchcraft, hint, hint) separate from that.
Anyway, Hades is probably my favorite portrayal yet of ancient beings in his stories, better than even Odin, Kringle, or the Erlking. It’s subtle, and short, but very well done. I wouldn’t be surprised it he continues to show up, but at the same time is was done so well that if we never see him again that would be fine too.
Now, I’ve been completely ignoring my writing to do this, so I’m going to go take care of that. Happy reading.