Dresden Files presents latest book ‘Skin Game’

Steele Giles, Staff Writer

Every time I think I’ve found the weirdest plot synopsis for a book, I’m proven wrong.


Jim Butcher’s “Skin Game” is the mutant fusion of urban fantasy and “Ocean’s Eleven.”


The quick version of the plot is that Harry has to pay back a favor owed by his boss, Queen Mab of the Winter Court of the Fae. To that end, he’s got to help Nicodemus Archelone, leader of the Knights of the Blackened Denarius and longtime foe, rob one of the most secure vaults in the Greek Underworld.


Several things are immediately clear to him upon thinking about the situation: the first is that he is expected to fulfill his queen’s promise to the letter, the second is that she expects him to betray Nicodemus the moment the promise is no longer binding and the third is that Nicodemus will be expecting it and planning his own.


I’m just going to say that there’s a twist in here that will most likely send you thumbing back through the book just to see how long Butcher has been setting it up.


Nicodemus is a cool villain, and I could wash my hands of the description there, but it wouldn’t do him justice. This man has been partners with a Fallen angel for 2,000 years and has wrought such misery and destruction in that time as to make Hitler look like a hobbyist. He probably considered the man an inspired amateur.


There’s a subtle malevolence to the man that’s hard to put into words, and the dancing shadow that the Fallen inhabits doesn’t help things.


Everything he does oozes manipulation and there’s a feeling that everything is going according to plan, even when it’s going pear-shaped. I suppose that’s what makes things going as far off the rails as they do at the end of the book so satisfying.


One section where the book really shines is when Dresden visits his daughter, Maggie.


Without going into too much detail, Butcher manages to capture the spirit of a girl who knows her dad is doing important things but wants to know why he never visits.


When I read this, it was bordering on emotionless. This section took me longer than normal to read because I had to keep clearing my eyes.


Perhaps the book’s biggest issue is on a meta level. By this point, readers of the Dresden Files are used to more or less knowing what’s going on in Harry’s head. It quickly becomes obvious in “Skin Game” that we do not know everything Harry knows. This isn’t the first time it’s happened, but it’s the first time (technically the second, but “Small Favor” was more significant by exclusion) Butcher has held it over the reader for an entire book.


There’s a plan at work, and we as readers aren’t told what it is until Harry plays his trump card at the first climax over two-thirds of the way into the book. Granted, it’s a doozy of a card, and it completely redefines some interactions leading up to that point, but I think we’re left waiting for it a little too long.


As a fan of the Dresden Files, I’d recommend “Skin Game” in a heartbeat.


More neutrally, if you’re going to read a Dresden Files book, start at the beginning of the series. At this point there’s enough continuity to choke a boa constrictor, and the significance of a lot of things will be completely lost if you don’t know what’s going on.


That said, “Skin Game” manages to be tense, entertaining and fun to read.