Review of Skin Game by Jim Butcher

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I’m going to make this as spoiler free for this books and the rest of the series as I can, but no promises.

skingame_lgThis is the third Dresden files book I’ve had to wait on like everyone else. I came to the series late in the game and a couple summers ago burned through them starting with Storm Front and going pretty much straight through to Changes. Then the waiting set in, and let me tell you, having to start that waiting after the end of changes sucked more than having Mab’s undivided attention. (Read the series, you’ll get it.) While Ghost Story was okay, it wasn’t really in the same league as Changes, and a year and a half later, I’m still trying to figure out how I feel about Cold Days. I liked it, but it was so drastically different than Harry’s usual escapades that I’m still getting used to it. So, when I saw Skin Game download onto my Kindle, I eyed it with some trepidation.

First off, I enjoyed the hell out of the story. Harry spent much of it being a badass. BUT… Not just a badass by slinging spells and smashing baddies when shit hits he fan. No, now Harry is really starting to engage his brain and take steps to mess with the badguys’ plans before getting boxed into a corner. Sometimes it works out, and sometimes it doesn’t. While the story is essentially different from any of Harry’s previous adventures, we’re back mostly in familiar territory with Harry and Murphy being center stage together, doing there best to thwart the big bads from mucking up the supernatural world too much. This is a caper story, with a huge twist. Harry has to work with some folks that he’s been at odds with most of the series. This mix of old and new territory left me very, very satisfied at the end. I think it even makes me appreciate Cold Days a little more.

The central themes running though this book seem to be choice and trust. People are the products of their choices, and choices have consequences. Man oh man, do they have consequences. Both the good guys and bad guys make choices that will have lasting ramifications throughout the Dresden universe. Heck, Harry is still recovering and living with choices he made in previous books. The trust part comes in when some of Harry’s old friends wonder if they can trust Harry, considering Harry’s new boss. This even gives Harry an interesting internal conflict as even he’s not sure his friends should trust him, which is an interesting change from when he’d picked up a certain thing and had a certain voice in his head trying to get him to do bad things. Harry had just assumed that his friends would trust him, despite certain changes to his magic and his ever-growing-shorter temper.

My one issue with this book: I felt like Butcher’s writing took a bit of a dive at the sentence-structure level. In previous, say from about Summer Knight on, I felt like Butcher had a firm command of his sentences. Now, it might just be that it’s been a while since I read them, but I don’t recall being kicked out of the story so many times due to a sentence jarring me and trying to think about how it might be reworded to make it flow better with the rest of the narrative. But, hey, that’s just me. I’m sure most readers won’t even notice those things.

Final score: Four Stars. Fun and entertaining with some interesting questions about trust and personal accountability. The awkward sentences kept it from being five stars for me.

Have you read Skin Game? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below.