In Small Favor, book 10 of the Dresden Files series, Winter Queen Mab decides to cash in on one of the favors Harry owes her, the Knights of the Cross and their foes the Denarians are back, and the Three Billy Goats Gruff of nursery rhyme fame are trying to assassinate Harry for apparently no good reason (Sidhe court politics is offered up as a weak explanation). As usual, the odds against Harry are so long they have to be measured “in astronomical units” (pg. 250). As usual for Jim Butcher, this book is a hell of a good read.
Over time, Harry Dresden has grown as a character without losing the essential Harryness he had at the beginning. As a reader, I wish other authors could do this with their characters as well as Jim Butcher does. Harry has learned from (some of) his mistakes in previous books and references them, providing a nice feeling of continuity. When Harry has a new toy or skill, there is often an explanation as to how he developed it during the down time between adventures, e.g. “The coil of steel chain in my coat pocket came out smoothly as I drew it, because I’d practiced the draw thousands of times . . .” (pg. 103)
This is a nice nod to realism in an otherwise unreal setting, but hundreds of references like this over 10 books have caused me to create a humorous picture of Harry’s incredibly busy life between books: he runs daily, trains his apprentice, crafts his own weapons and practices using them “thousands of times,” forms alliances with the little folk through weekly pizza donations, creates a meticulous miniature model of the entire city of Chicago and patiently imbues it with magical energy, studies, helps other Wardens, solves minor cases, shovels the walk for his neighbors in the winter, and presumably also sleeps, eats and bathes. He’s the hardest working Wizard in showbiz, and it pays off.
While Mab and the Billy Goats Gruff play a role, most of the action in this book comes from Harry working with the Knights of the Cross to thwart the Denarians and save two recurring minor characters (and through them, The World). The Fallen Angel/Denarian storyline is fascinating and I enjoyed revisiting it. It is a tribute to Butcher’s rich characterization that, on the way to work this morning, I saw a sign saying “Experienced Carpenters Needed” and first thought of Knight of the Cross Michael Carpenter and his family.
In every Harry Dresden book there is a moment of sheer audacity that causes the reader in me to say, “I can’t believe Harry (or rarely, another character) did that!” while simultaneously the writer in me says, “I can’t believe Butcher wrote that!” My favorite, which Butcher may never top, takes place at Chicago’s Field Museum in Dead Beat. Small Favor has its moment too (hint: there’s a helicopter). Like its predecessors, Small Favor is complicated, fun, action-packed, true to its characters, and full of difficult moral choices. This is a book that will cause you to stay up until 2 AM finishing it and will then stay with you for a long time.
Note: Readers who are new to Harry Dresden could read Small Favor and enjoy it, but it is well worth starting with Storm Front and reading the series in order.
- Hardcover: 432 pages
- Publisher: Roc Hardcover (April 1, 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0451461894
- ISBN-13: 978-0451461896
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Books in the Dresden Files series in the order they should be read:
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