Tag Archives: suspense

Review: Dresden Files 15–Skin Game

Sorry this is a day late. I had a bit too much good news yesterday, and the excitement wore me out. So. The final Dresden File book! At least until Peace Talks comes out. 😛 BTW, a friend and I have official reached the level of, “Okay, we’re going to make this crack fanfic verse out of FRUSTRATION!” And because I’m a King Arthur story nut. Anyway.

Skin Game starts off with Harry running around the prison doing…Parkour. Yeah, you read that right. But it doesn’t last long. Mab needs him to step up as Winter Knight to work with Nicodemus. And to insure it, she has leverage over Harry. If he doesn’t, he will die from the parasite living in his head that helped save his life during his attempted suicide. So he has to struggle to keep his white hat on straight. In the meantime, he worries over the effect the mantle is taking on him and how it is going to change him. Will he become a monster, or is he just too much in his head? (Though he’s obviously not that either!)

So, to begin. Butcher gets huge props for this book. Seriously. Okay, the tone starts off a little weird and disjointed from the rest. But it gets better, and I mean lots. It was exciting, constant surprises and conflict. And the ending was perfect. I knew something was going on, this time, but Harry was suitably quiet about it. Did it sometimes irk the tar out of me that Butcher used the same turn of phrase the entire book? Yes. I wanted to whack him if he mentioned keeping something close to the chest one more time. But I didn’t suspect what the twist was, and yet it didn’t feel out of left field. He finally found a balance to the suspense and mystery aspect.

Character wise, the little girls stole the show. Maggie, obviously, and the parasite. (Yeah, I’ll spoil you on that one.) Maggie seemed a little too young at times (she’s supposed to be ten, Butcher, not seven), but her personality was great. She was very much her own character, and I worried she’d be too much like Ivy. A concern I no longer need to have. I like how she was this source of conflict for Harry and the worries he now has as a father. Though speaking of being a father.. The parasite, we didn’t get to see much of her, but the entire concept of it was hysterical. I just hope Butcher gives her an actual name in the next book. (I’ve been calling her Suli, an epithet for Minerva. It seems appropriate.) I have to wonder where he’s going with this creation. Was she just a loose end? Is she a part of something much bigger? I don’t know.

Shout out, because I am also a Greek myth nerd. I loved Hades. Absolutely loved. And this makes how many of us now who subscribe to the theory that Persephone willingly married Hades…?

World building wise, I thought that this actually did some good things. Once again, he brought in one new element, worked on some others, and that works well for him. It seems like as long as he doesn’t devote the whole book to a new aspect, he does better about keeping the information from being completely overwhelming. However, as much as I love Hades… I don’t know how I feel about the Greek myths being brought into the Dresden verse. It was already horribly complicated, and now adding yet another layer to the Nevernever and the power of belief just… It just might be more than even a series this long can handle. We’ll see.

I didn’t have as much bad to say about this book, but now I’m going to talk about the series as a whole. Maybe it’s because I never really got into huge series outside of the Saddle Club, The Babysitters Club, and Nancy Drew, but it seems to me that this is all a really big project that honestly, without a devoted fanbase, would have fallen apart books ago. It’s very hit or miss as far as whether the plot is going to work or the world building elements will be overwhelming or not. I think Butcher is doing the same thing I’m currently doing, where I throw things at the wall and see what sticks. And I think kind of learned what not to do from him, as far as how much new stuff can be handled, how many times can you really almost end the world in three days… I think Butcher really needs a reader who reads a book and knows what they are doing so they can tell him honestly what they think about it. Not an agent or his publisher, but a beta reader. I know without mine, I’d be lost.

Alright, next week I’ll be back with some sort of RPG or writing thing, and then I have a new YA book to read and review. I’ll review Peace Talks as soon as it comes out though, and keep making it a regular occurrence when it happens. See you Thursday!

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Review: The Dresden Files–Side Jobs

Since I still haven’t gotten my hands on Cold Days, I thought I would read the short story anthology, since it was published before hand anyway. A collection of various short stories, most were written under the theme of a different anthology that Butcher participated in. Most were through the traditional point of view of Harry, but some strayed into some welcome new POVs, including Thomas and Murphy.

The stories were wildly different from each other. Some were rather humorous, such as Harry struggling with all the petty concerns of his day off which ended up being a normal day. Others were very serious, such as the novella about Murphy handling the loss of Dresden. And some hit my nerves, such as the Night of the Living Brews. But it was quite a collection, and there some good parts to it and some bad to it.

When it comes to plots, some were better and more complete than others. You could tell where Butcher was just throwing things at the wall and seeing what stuck, and when he had something actually planned out. Really, of all of them, I only liked two for their plots. One was the one that hit my nerve, the Night of the Living Brews, surprisingly. While I didn’t like Harry making light of what was going to happen to the kidnapped bride, I did think structurally, it was well thought out and equally well executed. It also did what an anthology short story was supposed to do, which is give us glimpses of the characters and world going on behind the scenes, rather than throwing a ton of information at us. My other favorite was actually the one that Butcher wrote for our shared teacher, Professor Deborah Chester. It was also very well structured and I loved the message that was in it. And oh my gee, bet cop Murphy!

The rest were sort of eh. Some I felt like were beating dead horses, such as the one centered around Michael. Others were just far too busy for my tastes, with just too much going on. I get that he was trying to do that to poor Harry and Anastasia, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. And while Aftermath was great… It was too much. I could tell it was a novella, not a short story, and combined with the short blips, it just… It felt too long and too clunky. I thought it had a good point to it, I thought it was fairly well written. I just don’t think it belonged in this anthology. I think it needed either published separately or expanded upon or something. It was just awkward.

I love the depth these short stories helped add to characters. From grown Will and Georgia, to Thomas, to Murphy, to even Uriel. All of them really got a chance to shine in these books. Even Harry got a different take, since we got to see him how Thomas and Murphy saw him rather than just how he sees himself. Considering how important she becomes, I’m surprised we don’t get anything from Molly, or hell, even something from Mouse. (God, Mouse’s point of view, that would be humor.) As I said, I had a few of my old issues with female character portrayals again, but whether because he didn’t have the length or he realized it, it wasn’t so bad that I threw the book.

Some elements in the stories were very obviously from previous books. Things such as the vampire Courts, the Valkyries, even the crime scene in Chicago. He merely expanded upon them, which is awesome to see. I love all the little bits that never make it into books but the author does think about. But all that being said, I think there were issues when he was introducing new things. I don’t remember the Oblivion Wars even being mentioned, and while seeing Thomas do things on his own was cool, I just had issues connecting because I’m going, “What the heck were these and why can’t I remember them? Irony!” It eventually came up again (sort of) with the psychic link via beer goddess, but it was still clunky in my head. But that’s my opinion.

Overall, I liked these a lot. I loved the little glimpses into the relationships between characters that they offered, and how easy they were to read and track through. Butcher didn’t get tangled up in his own ideas nearly as much, and for me, it made a drastic improvement. Some spots were a little prickly, and I feel like the tone gave whiplash with the way the stories were arranged, but that can easily be placed on when they were published in the writing process and just not thinking about how one story will ready after having followed another. I kinda hope he does some more of these!


Review: The Dresden Files 13–Ghost Story

Sorry for my flakiness. I had some personal stuff going on, and when that happens, sadly the blog must take a backseat. However, I did have a very productive Thanksgiving vacation from work. I’ll talk more about it on Thursday. For now, onwards with the Dresden!

Ghost Story picks up right where Changes let off… Sort of. Harry is now dead, but he isn’t at the gates of St. Peter or about to take Dante’s tour of Hell in a more permanent nature. Instead, he’s being sent back to clean up a few messes lingering after his demise. But there is more at stake than even Harry knows, as more than his ghost returns with him and a few old enemies linger in unexpected places.

So, things that went really well in this book. Characters! It was nice to see Harry knocked down to near-Muggle levels. He needed the wake-up and we as readers needed to see him as at least moderately equal to us rather than so greater than life like he has been the last couple of books. (Didn’t someone call death the great equalizer?) It also broke up the formula of the series in the way he dealt with his problems. For once, at least on his end of things, magic wasn’t the answer.

It was also interesting to see how the other characters dealt with his death. Thomas and Harry handle loss the same way–they wallow. Though I wished we had seen more of him than this little blurp towards the end. The same for Maggie, who was practically unseen. And really, it didn’t take too long for Harry to find out where she was despite him claiming not to want to know. Hello, logic fail. However, it was Murphy and Molly who had the biggest changes. Murphy really tried to fill in the gap Harry left behind in the magical community, but you could see it and her grief were wearing on her. In a rare moment, I felt like Butcher handled Murphy exactly like how I think she should have been as a character.

Molly was her own kind of mess. Without spoiling too much, I did like how Butcher showed her fractured psyche, and some of the doppelganger shenanigans were awesome and weren’t predictable. She really came into her own in this book, I think, even if no one, even herself, was ready for it. She stopped being a child, at least to us non-wizarding types. I have to wonder how this will affect her standing with the White Council. Admittedly, they are on kinda shaky ground with Harry gone the way he is, but I can’t see them leaving her be either. So maybe the mundane world is going to have to meet the wizarding world in a rather interesting clash.

I thought the world-building down as far as the ghost-world and the afterlife was interesting. I loved the angel we met, and how he reacted to some of his underlings (who were also awesome, so happy to see them!). The ghosts were well explored, not only in what lingered but also what they were in the relation to the afterlife…and how this made Harry different. They had some memorable characters, some for bad reasons and some for awesome ones. And seeing inside of Bob’s skull, oh goodness! The villain was also passable, and logical at least. It wasn’t something I had thought about, but with the way Butcher set up his after life, well, it does make the most sense.

When it comes to the plot, I think structurally, it worked. It flowed well, there were clear cause and effects. The villain, again was passable and logical. I thought it was all dramatic and yet adorable. If I was looking at it alone, if it was set up to be a stand alone, I think it could have worked really well. So for once, it could have worked that way instead of being so hardset as a series book…if he had written it that way. Sadly, it was very dependent on being part of this series, bringing up previous events without explaining them clear enough that a newbie reader would understand them. And as a series book?

Well, to coin a weird phrase, this was a wheel-spinner book. And what I mean is, for all the awesome things that happened that I loved… I feel like this entire book could have been skipped. Or it could have been parceled out as subplots, because… Nothing really advanced. Yeah, some stuff happened, but it easily could have happened while Harry was off being the Winter Knight. We’ve established that time flows weird in the Nevernever! Dying nerfed him for a little while, which again, I liked. But he’s going to go right back to normal, ain’t he? Some side characters advanced, but they could have done that in other books. The villain wasn’t even a concern on most readers’ minds! So I’m waiting to be sold on the necessity of this book.


New Story: Runaway vs. Rogue

So, let’s get the bookshelf up to date! First things first (if not necessarily in that order) is my little western-suspense story, Runaway vs. Rogue.

Unsurprising to those who know all my characters, Rima, the main character, was originally a roleplaying character. While conceptualizing the story, I realized how perfect she was for the story and couldn’t help myself. A rough and tumble girl, she lives in the saddle and has a habit of falling in love with the wrong sort for her background: a rich, much older man (any sleazy comments will be ignored). She ends up chasing after a stallion to earn her father’s favor again.

Writing the story wasn’t as difficult as I had expected it to be. Rima was already a very clear voice in my mind, and I know enough about horses to work out how capturing the animal had to work. For setting, I ended up putting her in an area I based off of the Oklahoma Panhandle. I’m familiar with the area, especially around the Beaver river, and I thought it could make things interesting (and more complicated).

It was smooth going, until one of the minor characters interrupted. Bless Nathan’s heart, he wanted to be useful so badly, and I could not convince the character that he was as well suited to helping as a turkey to rain. (For those who don’t know, turkeys can and will drown themselves in a rain shower.) I managed to work him in, thankfully.

I don’t know if I’ll work with Rima and Nate again. I like writing the occasional western, but they aren’t usually related to each other, unlike my fantasy worlds. So I guess we’ll just wait and see what the reaction is to them in their first story.

Runaway vs. Rogue on Kindle.