Small Favor - Jim Butcher

 "God," I said. 'I wish.”

 

~~Moved from GR~~

 

Small Favor (Dresden Files #10)

by Jim Butcher

 

Hands-down, this is my favorite book in the series. Maybe it's because the monster of the week is the Billy Goats Gruff. Maybe it's because catnip and a donut end up playing pivotal roles in the plot. Maybe it's because the cast of characters is diverse and rounded. Maybe it's because, with a destructive force[1] finally out of his head, Dresden is no longer prone to intense and sickening bouts of malicious violence. Maybe it's because the writing is captivating--Butcher is quite good at striking the balance between showing and telling, and he "shows" with all five senses. Describing the smells and textures of a scene do a tremendous amount to bring it to life. Maybe it's just because this book was my intro to the series.

But mostly it's because Small Favor captures a perfect balance of humanity, humor, and pathos. In each book, Butcher has become a better writer: the characters are more rounded, the writing is more graceful, and the plots are more intricate without losing the overall flow and pace. However, with each book (excepting #3, where it was hard to become attached to the characters who bite the dust), it seems like the books get darker and the endings sadder.

Small Favor is the optimal point: the writing is great, the characters are strong, and the book is not yet so dark that the humor feels out of place. While the book is fun, it also captures something more. Harry is still Harry--as one character tells him,

“I've always admired your ability to be unilaterally irritating.”

But when Harry experiences distrust from his friends and allies, his pain and sense of betrayal are poignant and heartrending. When he faces tragedy and ends up crying out against a god he doesn't have faith in, his pain is so well portrayed that a scene which is objectively both mawkish and embarrassingly corny instead inexplicably works.

 

It also has one of my favourite lines in the series:[2]

"Kid. You just made the last mistake of your life.'
'God,' I said. 'I wish.”

Plus, donuts. Just saying.

This is a book about relationships: Harry's irreverent badinage with his brother, his fatherly protectiveness of the young girl Ivy, his mixture of friendship, jealousy, and flirtation with Murphy, his newfound shyness and ineptness with Anastasia Luccio, and his need for affirmation from the father figure of Michael.

The cast of characters is large, but not too much to handle. The characters are quite round: everyone from Marcone the crime lord to Dierdre the hellion show both cruelty and kindness, at least to some extent. Michael, Harry's trusted friend and a Knight of the Cross, is human, lovable, and righteous--all without being preachy and holier-than-thou. Although I'm no longer Christian myself, in a genre swimming in virulent athiesm, I found Butcher's respectful attitude towards religion something of a relief.

The only bad news is that this probably isn't a good book to start with.  Even though I did it, and not only lived to tell the tale, but promptly got addicted to the series, at least two major plot points needed for solving the mystery require knowledge from previous books. My advice? Start at #7(Dead Beat)...that gets you to the good stuff as soon as possible.  Oh, and listen to them on audio.  James Marsters is a fantastic narrator--trust me, the books are genuinely better that way.

 

[1]

Lash. 

(show spoiler)

I hate not being able to do inline spoilers.

 

[2] I'm also pretty sure, unless they're both referencing something else, he attempts to do a Dean Winchester--the :You think you're funny?" "I'm freaking adorable" interchange is, I discovered recently, a direct SPN quote.  They might both be quoting something else.. not sure.

 

Other Reviews

Believe it or not, I've written a review of every single book in the series. I may have addiction issues. Links to the complete set are below. The starred ones are my faves.

[#1] Storm Front    [#2] Fool Moon    [#3] Grave Peril    [#4] Summer Knight*    [#5] Death Masks    [#6] Blood Rites    [#7] Dead Beat*    [#8] Proven Guilty    [#9] White Night    [#10] Small Favor*    [#11] Turn Coat    [#12] Changes    [#13] Ghost Story*    [#14] Cold Days