My observant readers, which is of course all of you, will note I’m starting this post with the exact same 12 words as my last one and that after talking about fantasy series occasionally getting so long as to be intimidating to new readers I’m reviewing book number 15 in a fantasy series. Look, you’ve got a point, but no one likes a wiseass. I do promise to review some non fiction next(and do some politics which I may even post tonight!), but these last two release dates(for Quespin and Skin Game) had been circled on my calendar for a while.
I simply review things as I read them, but simply inserting a review of the 15th book in a series seems somewhat awkward, so I’m going to focus this piece on the series as a whole and whether it is worth your time to read enough to care about the 15th book. I’ll admit I may seem a little bias since I obviously thought it was worth getting to book 15, but that’s why my star rating system is set up the way it is.
The Dresden Files falls under the increasingly popular heading of urban fantasy. A broad definition of that would be fantasy elements brought into a modern day setting. The main character is a wizard who fights trolls and deals with faeries, but does so in the modern day city of Chicago. Harry Potter would be another example of an urban fantasy series. It is a genre I enjoy greatly and I’m happy to see it getting more attention as its own subset.
If you decide you might want to give this particular series a chance, I should warn you that first two books are probably the weakest in the series. It’s clear the author didn’t really have a solid focus yet and they were just kind of stumbling through plot points that someday might get woven into a much more coherent arc. They’re fun beach read type books, but the series doesn’t really hit it’s stride until book 5(Death Masks) which is one of my favorites of the whole series.
By that time, and especially by book 15, the world is fleshed out and there are multiple organizations running around each with their own agenda. Even better is that I can only think of one organization that is 100% malevolent. All of the organizations seem plausible because you can see most of their motivations and understand why they’re working in one direction or another. The main character has to work together with pretty much everyone at some point, and those sorts of shades of gray in characterization always make the world feel a little more real.
The other fun character in these books is the city of Chicago itself. If you know the city you will recognize locations. There is a large battle in the Shed Aquarium in one book and in another the giant skeletal T-Rex nicknamed Sue who lives in the Chicago Field Museum is brought back to life. It’s subtle, but it’s another one of those things that the author has used to make this fantasy novel seem that much more relatable for the reader.
Focusing on book number 15, it brings back my favorite of the more villainous groups and plots and schemes start running rampant from the start. The good guys, or at least the side we’re more sympathetic with, plays its side much more intelligently than good guys are normally allowed to when we have intrigue. Everyone knows there is going to be betrayal from the start, and it’s nice to see ample preparation taken.
I was warned ahead of time that I would likely shed some tears reading this book. Patrick Rothfuss, author of the Kingkiller chronicles, and James Marsters, reader of the Dresden Files for the audiobooks, both posted tweets about crying. I won’t lie, I cried. Telling you why would be a spoiler, but suffice to say there aren’t a lot of books I’ve cried during, and none of them could be classified as fantasy. I mention it as part of the review of the series as a whole. I am invested in these characters and I really do care about them. There isn’t much higher praise I can give a book.
I don’t think Skin Game is the best in the series, but it is certainly proof that the series isn’t slowing down and I will remain an avid reader. As for the series as a whole, I would recommend it to people who don’t normally read fantasy because there are plenty of modern elements abounding as well. This isn’t Tolkein’s world of elves and dwarves, but it’s a magical experience never the less.
★★★★☆ – My biggest problem is that I have to wait another year for the next one. A reminder of my rating system