Saturday, 20 September 2014

Skin Game, by Jim Butcher

4 stars

Not many series, especially those set in the paranormal realm, manage to get 15 books in without showing signs of bloat, slump, or the author no longer feeling any enthusiasm for their creation (as in the case of the terminal decline of the Sookie Stackhouse books). As tall as he is, Skin Game sees Harry Dresden still standing head and shoulders above his contemporaries as we tear through the latest breakneck instalment in the continued development of my favourite wizard-for-hire.

Following the events of Cold Days Harry has spent a long time recovering on his island with just Mab, Demonreach itself, and the parasite that's soon due to burst from his head to keep him company. But not for long, as Mab has loaned Harry out for a job - a particularly awkward one, seeing as Harry will be working for one of his nemeses, the bastardly Denarian Nicodemus Archleone. Archleone has assembled a motley crew of supernatural types (including a not very friendly Yeti) for the heist of the century - he doesn't want to break into any old vault but one belonging to Hades, down in the Underworld.

Butcher yet again does a great job in raising the stakes for Harry while at the same time avoiding one of the more common missteps in the supernatural; while Harry is no longer just a wizard-for-hire but also a Warden of the White Council and Winter Knight, that doesn't mean that he's now nigh invincible and possessing every power imaginable (*cough* Anita Blake *cough*). Instead each new job has brought a different set of responsibilities, a new set of restrictions, and a new set of challenges (especially in the case of negotiating the moral pitfalls of being the Winter Knight).

Keeping us in touch with the human world are the friends Harry calls in to help - good old Murphy who's always got his back, Michael Carpenter, getting a last hurrah as a Knight of the Cross while also raising Harry's cute-as-a-button daughter Maggie (whose moments, along with Mouse, made it a little hard to swallow past the lump in my throat) and, most effectively, Waldo Butters who proves that you don't have to be the smartest, the strongest, or the most fearless to be a total hero. 

While I may have missed not having Toot, Thomas or Bob (except in a small but great cameo), these were minor niggles easily cancelled out by my glee at Harry's new habit of shouting 'Parkour!' every time he moves (as someone who shouts similar at minor movements like getting off the sofa, I wholeheartedly approve) with my biggest niggle being that I'm now up to date with the series, and am going to have to actually wait for the next to be written. Dagnammit!

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