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skin game

Written by: Jim Butcher
Cover art by: Christian McGrath
Published by: Tor Books

We were first introduced to Harry Dresden fifteen books ago in Storm Front. In the beginning, well not really the beginning but when we first meet him he’s a struggling wizard trying to make a living as the only openly operating wizard in the country, he’s even in the Yellow Pages under wizard. Did I mention that Harry is a wizard? In Harry’s world magic is real, there are wizards, vampires, werewolves, ghouls, fairies and a myriad of other supernatural goodies and baddies. Harry alternately allies and battles them all along with a handful of non-supernatural friends and enemies through fourteen excellent novels to bring us to the beginning of Skin Game. Harry has loved and lost and been knocked down and gotten back up more times than I can count but most importantly Harry has learned and grown which is good cause he keeps finding himself in deeper and deeper trouble.

Skin Game opens up with Harry on the haunted island Demonreach, a remote abandoned island on Lake Michigan, recovering from the after effects of the last couple of novels but his recovery is interrupted by a visit from his current employer, Mab the Queen of the Winter Court of Fairy. Harry’s relationship with Mab has always been a little rocky mostly because Mab is slightly evil but a deal is a deal and Harry is the Winter Knight, basically Mab’s number one henchman (for that story see Changes the 12th book in the series), and since it is really, really bad to welch on a deal with a fairy Harry finds himself leaving the island with Mab. The task Mab has set for Harry is even more distasteful than he feared as it is revealed he is to assist Nicodemus Archleone with a heist. Nicodemus is planning to lift a few select objects from Hades the Greek god of the underworld. Harry has done crazier things than literally going to hell, but working with Nicodemus is another matter. Nicodemus is the leader of the Denarians an order of individuals possessed by fallen angels. See Harry and Nicodemus have a bit of history, having been at each others throats more than once. Harry only agrees to the situation when Mab reminds Harry that when the heist is complete all bets will be off and he will be close to Nicodemus, of course the flip side is just as true, but Harry deems it worth the risk for another shot at Nicodemus.

One of the things I love about a heist story is the assembly of the team. And here we get a supernatural one though in typical Harry style there is a bit more destruction involved than in the typical team assembly. After the team assembly comes the planning phase and again in typical Harry fashion the planning is interrupted when an old friend of Harry’s is discovered spying on the group and it’s all Harry can do to keep his friend from getting killed and not cross Nicodemus, that has to wait until the job is finished. At this point I was certain the story had ran completely off the rails, but Butcher manages to bring it all back together while ratcheting up the stakes another couple of notches. Butcher may have been following the tropes of a heist story up until this point but from now on it’s pure Butcher and the story rolls on to it’s conclusion.

Of course this couldn’t be a Dresden files novel without the involvement of some of Harry’s crew and while not everyone puts in an appearance I found myself whooping out loud when certain individuals show up to save the day. If there is one common theme through all of the Dresden Files novels it is that you can’t do it all alone and once again Harry is only able to overcome with a little help from his friends. Of course that brings up a good point when we are talking about the fifteenth novel in a series. If you haven’t read the others should you dive in right now or go back and read all of the other fourteen first. I won’t lie you are going to appreciate Skin Game much more if you’ve read the other stories but I imagine it would be entertaining even if it’s your first introduction to Harry Dresden. I’ll warn you though once you’ve read one of them either Skin Game or the first novel Storm Front you are going to be reading the rest of them sooner than later.