If you haven’t read the Dresden Files, this is not the place to start. Similarly, if you’re not familiar with the series, I’m not quite sure how best to describe it based on this book. The Dresden Files began as noir-inspired urban fantasy, focused on the straight white male wish-fulfillment protagonist Harry Dresden, everyone’s favorite (i.e. the only) wizard Private Investigator in Chicago. According to Jim Butcher, the first book was originally written to prove just how awful formulaic genre writing could be. Lo and behold, Butcher was actually very good at following genre formulae in generally gratifying ways, and the series has been quite successful.
Thankfully, though it’s still noir-inspired urban fantasy, the series has grown and changed. Harry Dresden isn’t the same character that he was 15 books ago, and I don’t believe Butcher is still writing to prove just how terrible his writing can be. The story’s background has grown in depth and complexity, and while not every book has been totally up to snuff (and some of them have their worse sections), I’m still quite thoroughly hooked. In fact, Skin Game is probably my favorite book in the series to date. I know, that whole bit about “written to prove how awful formulaic genre writing could be” isn’t exactly the best selling point. Nor does it put “my favorite book in the series to date” in a very good light.
But the Dresden Files offers up a very specific flavor of story, and it’s one that I have found well-nigh irresistible ever since I read the first book. It’s a little like guilty pleasure junk food, to be honest, and seeing the series get better over time just makes me feel better about my decision to keep consuming it. It helps that the legacy of semi-covert noir-inspired misogyny has been slowly leeching out of the books, and I’m glad that the series has reached a point where Harry will more or less listen when his friends call him on his shit.
Enough about the series, how about the book?