Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Review of Small Favor

This is the 10th book in an ongoing series about Harry Dresden, wizard and Chicago resident. It also spawned a short-lived SciFi Channel series, but they didn't get it right and didn't have the money to spend on the effects (or the scripts, apparently), so I wasn't too sad to see it go (How BSG could be so good and every other thing on that channel so cheesy is beyond me. I guess we can tell where all the money goes...).

Anyway, I can't remember why I first picked up this series, but I was instantly drawn in and got a bunch of my friends (including Mr. T, naturally) to read it. It's set in modern-day Chicago, and the protagonist is a crime-fighting wizard (although the crimes he fights are in the magical and supernatural communities only). When the series started, Dresden was a wizard for hire, and the series really had a hard-boiled detective novel-feel. The first novels were a little clunky writing-wise, but refreshingly, the author seems to be improving at his craft. This latest novel was no exception--the plot was fast-paced but not too tangled, and the repartee between Dresden and his police-officer pal Murphy was snappy and funny. Not all of the pop culture references went over so well, as you might expect from a man who looks like this:

"I play D&D."

but, I loved him for making them anyway, and since I am a total geek myself, I stand united with other geeks. Geeks rule!

This book's plot centered around Harry and his friends facing down the Denarians, or a set of Fallen Angels. Harry's team includes two Knights of the Cross, or men who wield swords that have nails from the cross (THE cross) worked into the hilt, giving them power to fight the Fallen (during this book Harry also discovers that all of the Knights are descended from kings). Harry is also assisted by a few other wizards, his cop friend Karrin Murphy, and his half-brother, who also happens to be an incubus. Oh, and he's also working off a debt to Queen Mab in the process.

Butcher's concepts are well-realized, and the plot moves along to an exciting final confrontation. It's hard not to cheer for such an wiseass hero.

My complaints? Butcher is still writing Dresden as though he has a dark side that could take over at any moment. That may have been true at one point in Harry's troubled past, but all we really see from Harry's actions now, particularly as the series progresses, is that he is ridiculously chivalrous and always always always does the right thing. So I think Butcher should let Dresden let go. I don't think that dark side is very believable, any more.

I also had an issue with what happened to one of the characters at the end, but only because I'm invested in that person. I suppose it would be a boring author that gave every book a fairy-tale happily ever after ending, but I didn't see that one coming!

Anyway, I highly recommend Butcher to fantasy/mystery fans, and I can't wait for the next installment.

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