The Skin Game is the 15th book in Jim Butcher’s very popular Dresden Files series of urban fantasy novels.
To some extent writing a review of the 15th in a series of 23 books is a bit pointless. I mean really.… at this point you know if you like the style of these books and nothing I say is going to influence you at all. But I’m going to do it anyway, because my opinion is all that really matters. Or something.
A few books back Butcher basically obliterated the status quo for his protagonist Harry Dresden and then spent the next couple of books establishing a new one. This book seems to largely complete that process, but also moves forward several of the other long-running subplots from the series.
As such, and not surprising for something labeled book 15, this is not a good starting point. Any of the first four or so books work as a hop on point but this is far too late into things. There are so many supporting characters and subplots, some of which are only referenced here and don’t actually get face time, that you would just feel like you were missing things all the time if you started now.
For those of you who have read and enjoyed the previous books (if you haven’t…seriously what are you doing?) dipping in to this one is going to feel like putting on a familiar pair of shoes.We know these characters pretty thoroughly at this point. We know how they talk and we know how they behave. You are not going to be surprised very often. But then again that’s probably not what people reading this sort of series are looking for anyway.
There’s a certain rythm to a Dresden Files novel and this one follows that template pretty closely. But it’s just so fun to spend time with the characters and listen to them. Sure you know that Harry is going to get beaten up repeatedly, but eventually win the day. But you don’t know exactly how he’s going to do it
The heist setup is a nice twist on things since we’re used to Harry going on a case rather than participating in a robbery. It’s also nice to see more of the lighthearted side of Dresden again. I guess he’s coming out the other side from this latest round of suffering.
The humor and gratuitous pop culture references (it’s pretty much in character but it’s going to date these books pretty fast) probably won’t suit everyone’s tastes, but I’ve always enjoyed them. This is not heavy duty literature. But it is a fast paced page turner. You won’t find too much in the way of insight into the human condition or society, but there’s plenty of emotional thrills and action. Jim Butcher has a knack for making you feel what his characters are going through. The frustration, the desperation and finally the elation.
There’s also a couple of really strong emotional scenes in here. Over the years Butcher has shown himself ruthless enough with his characters that there is real jeopardy for many of them and some of them have earned (in my mind at least) peace… but they won’t get it.