Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Review: Small Favor

My latest Dresden Files read is the recent novel Small Favor. This one finds Harry unwillingly called upon to pay off one of his debts to the Winter Queen Mab, acting as her Emissary to retrieve the kidnapped gangster Marcone--one of the longest running characters in the series and someone for whom Harry has grudging respect but no real love.

But, in what has become increasingly common in the later novels of the series, the supposed premise isn't really what the novel ends up being about. It's much more about the Knights of the Cross, the demonic Denarians, and the Archive, as well as Harry's relationships with all three. Sure, an unnatural winter hangs over Chicago during the course of the story, and Marcone's henchmen and his special Valkyrie-like bodyguard play a role. But we're mainly dealing with recurring themes of faith, temptation, and the personal challenges of trying to maintain friendships and especially trust when all around you are powers that can warp human minds to their will.

In particular, there are some interesting twists with relationships. There's a hint of a sort of pseudo-family composed of certain characters being a possibility for the future, and it's surprising. There's also a new love interest for Harry--not a new character, actually, but a new (and to me unexpected) perspective on an old one.

As usual, there are a few elements to the plot that are a bit convenient. Not unbelievable, per se, but the bad guys could not have realistically anticipated that certain actions of theirs would lead to the outcomes that they do when they set their plans in motion, yet some of their plans seem predicated on these unpredictable outcomes taking place. But as usual the pacing of the action is fast enough, the humor reliable enough, and the sense of concern for interesting and likable characters palpable enough to keep you reading until late in the night without worrying too much over occasional dramatic conveniences.

Now I think I'm going to take a break before reading the latest book in the series, as this is the third or fourth Dresden novel I've devoured in the last month.

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