download (1)I keep getting side-tracked when it comes to making blog posts. The new job, plus finishing contracts on the old one, is taking up a lot of time. However, I had to write up a review of Skin Game by Jim Butcher, the latest Dresden Files novel.

If you don’t know what The Dresden Files is (or if you only know it from the failed TV show that bares little in common with the books), here it is in a nutshell. Harry Dresden is a wizard. A professional wizard. The only professional wizard in Chicago, to be exact. He’s even in the phone book. He’s a card-carrying member of the White Council, the semi-secret (mainly because normal people don’t believe they exist rather than because they try to hide) semi-government of mortal magic users. They also, to some degree, protect mortals from supernatural threats: vampires, demons, warlocks, werewolves, faeries, and other things that go bump in the night. And, in Harry’s case, they try to pay the rent while doing it. 

A cosplayer at AwesomeCon, with Harry Dresden's actual business card as described in the books.

A cosplayer at AwesomeCon, with Harry Dresden’s actual business card as described in the books.

Even one of these supernatural threats would be enough to fuel a series. Heck, just telling stories with the wizards would be a series right there (but don’t get him confused for another wizard named Harry, please). Jim Butcher juggles these masterfully. Each one is richly detailed. You want werewolves? There are three types. You want vampires? You’ve got four for them (though we still haven’t met the Jade Court vampires). Demons? Take your pick between regular and extra-Hellish. Faeries? Um . . . well, let’s just say that if you don’t like stories that show all sides of the fey, this is not your series. But really, who doesn’t like fey stories? Particularly ones that use so many real-world myths as fuel.

All of this is against a backdrop formed by a series arc that hits its stride early on and kicks into full gear by halfway through the series. The current series, I mean. And we’re just over halfway through what Butcher says will be the total. Skin Game just released yesterday, and it’s the fifteenth book. You want a series with enough mass in it to keep you interested for a while, and perhaps prop a door open for you? Here you go. Thank me later.

Skin Game has a pull-quote on the cover which makes the claim that The Dresden Files is the standard for urban fantasy. This is true. In fact, one publisher I know referred to it in that way two years ago when we were talking about one of her company’s upcoming series, and she’s never read it. In fact, she’s not a fantasy fan at all. She still knew that this was the gold standard.

Now, I have a bunch of kids reading this blog. I think about a quarter of my readership, if not more, is under the age of 22. Because of that, I’ll add a disclaimer. This is not a kids’ series. This series is written in a noir style, which means heavy on the innuendo and sexual references. Being a product of its time, it also has occasional sex scenes. Not nearly as much as many other urban fantasy series, but I’d still say this is something parents should use discretion on.

So what about the actual book? Well, I don’t want to give away spoilers, and since it’s the fifteenth in a series it would be hard not to give away spoilers. Still, I can describe some.

The individual books are written as mysteries, even though they’re action-adventure style. That means the plot structure is mystery format. (If you want to know what that is, I’m not planning on making a blog post on the subject. I can’t top this page so I won’t try.) Butcher — apparently by accident, if the story of his first installment is to be believed — is a master of this format, and it never feels formulaic even if you follow along as you read. Skin Game, however, eases off of the mystery format because it is, fundamentally, a heist story.

So, spoiler-free: Dresden owes someone, and it’s not the best of relationships. When she decides to loan his services to someone she owes, he’s even less happy about it — particularly since the last two times he met this guy, they tried to kill each other. This guy intends to break into the toughest vault of them all, for the score of the . . . what’s next up from millennium? Epoch? Anyway, they’re going to steal from the certified keeper of all things buried: Hades himself.

Wait, why am I trying to describe this, anyway? Just watch the official Skin Game book trailer, courtesy of Dresden Files Fan Filming:

(They so need to get decent backing and make a new TV show. *grumbles about the original show*)

Butcher weaves the story with a rollercoaster ride that will leave you wanting to go again. On top of that, there are setups and payoffs all over the place, more and better than in any book he’s done before. Some of them I spotted; some I didn’t. One in particular makes me want to re-read it immediately to catch the clues, just for the sheer fun of it. On top of that, there were so many laugh-out-loud and stand-up-and-cheer moments that I lost track — and one moment in particular that made me gasp in horror. If you’ve read it, you can probably guess which one that was.

I may or may not do a spoileriffic post later. I’ll have to see how the Facebook discussions go, not to mention how much time I’ll have. But I wanted to get this in and share it while it’s still fresh.

Have you read it? What did you think? Leave a comment below!