Because of how far along the The Dresden Files is, I’ve changed the format of this review. The Snapshot Review is first and contains no spoilers for previous books. The summary and full review come next, and while they contain no spoilers for Skin Game, they may discuss plot points that occurred in previous books.
Harry is back in fine form in Skin Game, the 15th installment of The Dresden Files. The novel steps back from the breakneck pace of previous installments; it feels lighter, with fewer world-changing consequences and more of a standalone story. The story is exciting and gripping, revisiting many old favorite characters, and Harry must finally face some demons and come to a resolution about what he believes about himself and what he’s fighting for. It’s a worthy installment for such a great series, and like all other fans, I can’t wait to see what happens to Harry next.
If you haven’t read The Dresden Files yet, there is only one reason why you should: this is, quite simply, the best series being written right now. In any genre. Period.
Harry’s being rented out and he doesn’t like it one bit. As the Winter Knight, serving Queen Mab, Harry knew he’d have to do many things he didn’t like. But helping Nicodemus Archleone, an old foe who’d like nothing better than to have Harry’s soul in one hand? It’s almost too much. Almost. But Harry knows he has no choice but to stick to the letter of Mab’s agreement with Nicodemus. As he tries to find a way to move within those restrictive terms, he brings in old friends and allies to help him best his nemesis.
The last few novels of The Dresden Files have been exhausting. Good, yes, but incredibly complex, with basically nonstop action, giving Harry (and the reader) no time to think or breathe before the next enemy comes calling. These novels have been heavily woven into the overarching story; every action that Harry takes has huge consequences, far larger than him. Butcher’s crafted an amazing overall narrative for this series, and the last few novels have been all about it. That’s why Skin Game comes as such a breath of fresh air. Yes, it’s still important for the bigger, wider story, but it also feels a little quieter, a return to the earlier books where Harry is just doing a job (albeit one he hates) and needling anyone and everyone who comes his way.
Harry has been through a lot in the last few novels: dying, becoming a ghost, failing to protect his friends, becoming Winter Knight, just to name a few. He really, really deserves a breather, some time to think about what he’s becoming. He finally gets that in Skin Game. There is a scene between Harry and Michael Carpenter in this novel, and while I won’t spoil it for anyone, let’s just say that Harry finally gets the talking-to he needs. Because Harry was on the verge of becoming emo, and that just wouldn’t have been great for anyone.
Skin Game is fun, in the adventure sort of way that Harry does best. Harry’s constantly outmatched and outgunned, but he’s smart and sharp. He does a great job trying to stay one step ahead of Nicodemus. It’s clear that what happens in this novel will have far-reaching repercussions, but all readers have to worry about with this book is that Harry and his friends get out in one piece. It’s a nice change.
So. Why did I love Skin Game? It was lighter, with lower stakes (which seems counterintuitive, unless you’ve read the last few Dresden Files novels). It gave Harry and his friends time to really spend time together, for us to see some of the faces we’ve been missing. It also gave Harry the chance to really think about his own circumstances and decisions, as well as the relationships in his life. I realize this novel was probably a breather for the onslaught that is to come in the next few books, but it was very much needed and welcome.
Okay, now I’m ready for action again. Where to next, Harry?
Other books by Jim Butcher: