Review: Skin Game

Posted: July 11, 2014 by in Books We Love (5/5 single_star) Meta: Jim Butcher, Urban Fantasy

I’ve often wondered how long Jim Butcher can keep it up. After all, how often have we all seen just how difficult it is for an author to be good for two books in a row. I’m not saying Butcher is perfect–I personally feel that he has two pretty weak novels in the Dresden Files–but that’s two weak novels out of FIFTEEN. Good heavens.

And let me be clear. SKIN GAME (Amazon) is not a weak novel. In my opinion, it is among the best of the series. It has a lot of what made books five, six and seven incredible.

First off, there are gonna be some light spoilers here for the previous novel, COLD DAYS. There’s no helping it. So if you haven’t read COLD DAYS (EBR Review), stop here, read that novel, then read SKIN GAME. You’ll be all set, and will have had a ton of fun.

SKIN GAME is a heist novel. With Harry in the service of Queen Mab as the Winter Knight, he often has to do the dirty work. This time that dirty work involves working for Nicodemus Archleone and the Order of the Blackened Denarius. If you recall, the last time Harry dealt with Nicodemus, well, things didn’t go well for our heroes. Especially Michael Carpenter.

Mab lends Harry out to Nicodemus in order to fulfill a bargain she made. What follows is quite simply your typical heist novel. Except for the item being stolen is the Holy Grail. And they are stealing it from Hades. So yeah, other than that, totally what you’d expect.

SKIN GAME is easily my favorite Dresden Files novel since PROVEN GUILTY (Amazon). I think it has to do with Butcher finally getting back around to some of the best stuff in the world he has created. The Order of the Blackened Denarius. The Knights of the Cross. Michael freaking Carpenter. Butters. Karrin.

SKIN GAME is one of the best in the DRESDEN series. Harry goes to work for Mab, and his first job is to help out Nicodemus. This one is so brilliant.

Think about it. Most of these parts? We haven’t sen them since book ten, SMALL FAVOR (Amazon). I know there are reasons, but geez. I was going into withdrawals. Michael and Harry have always had the best kind of rapport, and to see it in full swing again, was completely awesome. I was also happy to see how Karrin reacted to Harry. Look, the “will they, won’t they” thing has toed the line for a LONG time. It’s addressed directly in SKIN GAME (not gonna say which way).

Say it with me, folks. Character growth. All the messing up that TURN COAT (EBR Review) did has been more than made up for (I’ll just pretend that novel never happened). Michael, Karrin, Butters (holy crap, Butters!), and most importantly, Harry. There is significant growth in this novel. Significant.

Humor is back and in full form. Nearly every joke is timed perfectly. Only one felt forced (and unfortunately it was used over and over). The action is fast and hard-hitting. One of my new favorite characters makes his debut–Goodman Grey. The pacing in flawless. Yeah. This novel is completely awesome.

SKIN GAME is Jim Butcher at his best. I loved it. I loved what it accomplished, and I loved what it set into motion. With the fifteenth novel in his series, Butcher manages to keep the fire alive. More than that, he stokes it to a white-hot blaze. There is no settling here, and never once did I feel Butcher was taking the easy way out. It all felt completely natural. I haven’t been this excited for the next novel in the Dresden Files in years.

  • Recommended Age: 17+
  • Language: About normal for a Dresden novel. Can get really strong, but mostly sticks to mild profanities.
  • Violence: Very much so. Poor Harry gets his butt kicked a lot in this one. And that's the mild stuff.
  • Sex: One fairly explicit scene. Lots of references.


  • Alan says:

    Sweet. I really gotta get this one.

  • tariencole says:

    Have to agree, even though I enjoyed Changes, Cold Day, and even Turn Coat more than you did, that this is an absolute tour-de-force by Butcher and the best Dresden Files since the Dead Beat through Small Favors era. Everything about Dresden that made the series, IMHO, The Best Fantasy on the Market, is here in full force, and yet nothing that happened since Changes is diminished or trivialized. It's all confronted head on, and the heartbreak and choices *matter.*

    No handwaves, resets, or cheap forgiveness. And it all sets up for an exciting final act of the “Files” section of the series.

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