Review: Skin Game (Dresden Files #15) by Jim Butcher
*early review copy received from publisher — thank you!*
5 stars/Grade A
Release Date: 5/27/14
This is one of the best books I have read this year. Skin Game is brilliant, it is amazing and so worth the long wait (18 months!). The main problem with reading Skin Game is the wait for the sequel (Peace Talks #16), which as of right now has an estimate of an August 2015 release. At this point, while Goodreads has August 2015 listed as the release date, late 2015 or early 2016 sounds more realistic given past release dates.
Harry Dresden returns in Skin Game. He is in the flesh, still has his silly musings but he is more confident and stronger. Skin Game brings back Michael, Molly, the Deanrians, Karen, and many others that I don’t want to spoil for readers because the scene of their appearance is somewhat of a surprise. Butcher draws on Dresden’s history and includes characters that mean a lot to Dresden and me as a reader. Every page was rewarding, reminiscent and new.
Not surprisingly, Skin Game involves moral questions. I say not surprisingly because readers should know that when the Denarians and Michael play a role in the book, Harry’s moral compass is pushed and questioned. I love Michael and the balance he brings. But I wonder what his belief system means for the Dresden Files world? Butcher has said that the final 3 books in this series will be an apocalyptic trilogy, following 20-24 books (the number has varied). I think Michael, the angels, the swords will play a role in the end of this series. No matter what is mixed in to the Dresden files, there is good and bad fighting each other. What Butcher does so well though, is that he has plenty of gray areas and so many of his characters believe they are the moral authority but their actions are so hurtful. Murky moral areas make the best stories. But at the same time, when Michael is present I do feel some hinting at an ultimate good and powerful being by Butcher. Anyone else?
So if Michael and Karen are in the story, I know readers are wondering — what happens with the swords? There are no spoilers in this review, but I will say the swords are back. The ultimate wielder is very unexpected (but Deathhollowish in resolution) and the result of the wieldings is surprising.
So Skin Game is number 15 in the Dresden Files. Think about that number 15. Every year to 18 months, Jim Butcher turns out a 400+ page novel on pretty much the same characters he has been writing about since 2000. Factor in that Butcher releases decent short stories every year in the Dresden world, writes a fantasy series (Codex Alera -6 books) and is starting a new series (The Cinder Spires — August 2014) Sounds like a recipe for disaster or boredom. Except, that it isn’t. Jim Butcher is somehow able to continuously write a book set in the same world, which advances the story line, progresses the characters, stays consistent with the world he constructed over a decade ago and is still brilliantly interesting. I need to say this at least once in this review: Jim Butcher you are amazing (and I think I love you?). How does an author do this? Thinking about series that have existed this length in time and in page count, there are few that maintain consistency, interest and growth.
Who would like this book? Harry Dresden fans will not be disappointed and should read this immediately. New readers who want to start the series (fans of fantasy books and urban fantasy books should read this series) should start at the beginningish, not here. Note: the television series will not prep readers for the series at all. There are very little consistent storyline cross overs. So don’t skip just because you watched the mediocre one season only series. This is hard. But I will just say it and most of know it is true, books 1 and 2 are not great. I am not sure what happened, author growth? A better editor? But books 1 and 2 in the Dresden Files do not represent the series at all. There are references to the events in these books throughout the series, but they are not important to read for the story arc. I worry that when readers start 1 and 2, they may never come back. It is easy for someone to say, keep with it! It gets better! But it is harder for the reader to accept that the writing and story doesn’t actually represent where the series goes. So this is what I recommend for readers who want to dive in to Harry Dresden: Start with Grave Peril #3. Books 3 and 4 represent a strong shift in how Butcher tells his stories. They stories are more complex, the overall story arc begins and there is character growth. Books 3 and 4 are decent; book 5 is where the brilliance begins and continues on for the next 10 books. Once you are hooked, you can go back and read 1 and 2; they are both shorter and quicker reads and if you are hooked, reading these won’t discourage you. Or listen to 1 and 2 in audio just to get through them.
That brings me to my last point. Dresden Files make excellent re-reads. I typically re-read by listening to the audio. I love the narration; my co-blogger DG is not a fan of the audio version, but if you are tempted I say give it a try. I am guessing you will enjoy the listen.
Jim Butcher is easily in at the top of my favorite fun reading list. I plan to use this long wait for Peace Talks (Dresden Files #16) to read his Codex Alera series. What else can an addict do for comfort? (Suggestions welcome ….)
Dresden File Series Reading Order:
1. Storm Front
2. Fool Moon
3. Grave Peril
4. Summer Knight
5. Death Masks
6. Blood Rites
7. Dead Beat
8. Proven Guilty
9. White Night
10. Small Favor
11. Turn Coat
13. Ghost Story
14. Cold Days
15. Skin Game (Release Date 5/27/14)
16. Peace Talks (anticipated release date 8/2015+)
* There are a number of short stories, do not miss out on these! See this list for a more comprehensive list of how the short stories interplay with the story arc.
Enter Giveaway for a Hard Cover Copy of Skin Game (Dresden Files #15) by Jim Butcher (warning, this is the copy that I read, but is still in great condition). I hate to do it, but this giveaway is limited to US addresses.
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