Small Favour: Book Ten of the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher
Published April 2008 (UK), by Orbit UK, US 2008.
437 pages plus extras.
Review by Mark Yon
So, we reach Book Ten of the Dresden Files series.
(Which reminds me, for the record, as there are spoilers here, please read the ever-lengthening list of other reviews first:
(Book One (Storm Front) review here; http://www.sffworld.com/brevoff/219.html ; Book Two (Fool Moon) review here: http://www.sffworld.com/brevoff/232.html ) Book Three (Grave Peril) (link here: http://www.sffworld.com/brevoff/243.html ), Book Four, Summer Knight (link here: http://www.sffworld.com/brevoff/281.html), Book Five, Death Masks (here: http://www.sffworld.com/brevoff/416.html );
Book Six, Blood Rites (here: http://www.sffworld.com/brevoff/419.html );
Book Seven, Dead Beat (here: http://www.sffworld.com/brevoff/473.html ); and
Book Eight, Proven Guilty (here: http://www.sffworld.com/brevoff/560.html );
I last reviewed Harry Dresden in October 2009 with White Night here: http://www.sffworld.com/brevoff/588.html .)
It is wintertime in Chicago and, as snow falls, we begin the next tale of Harry’s increasingly complicated life. Molly’s training continues, in this case by being pelted with snowballs by her family, the Carpenters.
However, a sudden attack on Harry and the family leads him to think that the events at Arctis Tor (back in Proven Guilty) have not been forgotten by the faerie Winter Queen. To his surprise, the attack appears to have been made by ‘gruffs’ from the Summer Queen Titania, whose daughter Harry outwitted earlier.
Combined with another case with Karrin for the Chicago PD, we are again off to a flying start.
This book is all about promises, made and broken. The small favour in this case relates to the deal that Harry made back in Book Four to Mab, the Winter Queen and the Queen of Air and Darkness. Owing her two favours it is here that Mab decides to call on one of them. Whilst snow piles up all over Chicago, the task she sets Harry is a formidable one – to get gangster Johnny Marone, now a Baron, following the events of Proven Guilty. Johnny has been kidnapped for reasons unknown, though as time progresses Harry finds that Johnny’s kidnapping is no more than a prelude to much bigger deals in motion.
This book shows Jim cleverly plotting and leading the reader a merry dance as we relentlessly move from one situation to another. The number of characters now involved in the series is now quite lengthy and the links to earlier books more complex, though I guess most readers will not be starting here in the series. For those of us who’ve been here a while, its good fun to see how they all fit into the plotline.
The Big Bad Protagonist of this tale is a reappearance of an old villain from an earlier novel. In fact, this villain and his group of evil cronies have been here before. That, combined with the huge group of supporting acts on Dresden’s side, give this one the feel of an almighty tag team contest. But the battle scenes are well done and there are some unexpected surprises along the way.
As we get deeper into some of the issues that make Harry’s life and background so complex, the pages continued to turn rapidly. This is one of the fastest moving Dresdens to date, starting quickly and then moving up gears rapidly. The set scenes at Chicago’s Union Station and the Shedd Aquarium are very well done, as too the grand finale.
By the end……not everything is sorted out neatly here, so those expecting it all to wrap up tidily will be disappointed. There are still wider issues, such as that of the Black Council, to be resolved. However, at long, long last, Harry’s complicated relationships with women might be going somewhere. There is a major life-changing event for one of our crew of supporting characters, some interesting revelations and a finale of sorts, yet with some key points left open for the next tale.
Whatever the tale’s future resolution, it is clear that things in later tales will be forever different. Once again we realise that the NeverNever is a strange and unearthly place, where the usual rules do not apply and that any dealings with them are complicated. More importantly, the tale shows us that neither side can be trusted, by Harry or anyone else.
A shorter novel than last time, yet just as deliciously complicated. Still very much recommended.
In homage to my reviews of the previous books, here are the key themes in short: generally more continued goodness this time around. Lots of Carpenters, especially Molly and Michael, a little Bob, quite a lot of Mouse, a little Mister, quite a lot of Thomas, but no other vampires, quite an amount of Karrin and yet more complicated personal life for Harry, the Paranet, the Archive, a mention of Butters and the dinosaur, no polka, weregoats, and some really BIG duels.
Onto Book Eleven (Turn Coat!)
Mark Yon, April 2010