Thursday, 27 March 2008

‘Small Favour’ – Jim Butcher (Orbit Books)


After having enjoyed ‘White Night’ I was pleased to see Jim Butcher’s latest ‘Harry Dresden’ tale come through the door. After a fairly dodgy start I’m really getting into what ‘urban fantasy’ has to offer and Jim Butcher is a name that I look out for. While ‘Small Favour’ wasn’t perfect it certainly didn’t disappoint either…
Things have been uncommonly quiet for Harry Dresden just recently. All the elements of the supernatural community seem to be getting on with each other and, more importantly, no-one has tried to kill Harry in almost a year. All that is about to change though. You see, Harry owes two favours to Mab (Queen of Air and Darkness and ruler of the Winter Court of the Sidhe) and she is about to call one of them in. It’s just a small favour but one that Harry cannot refuse, even if it brings the real risk of most of Chicago crashing down on his head…
As with ‘White Night’, you’ll get more out of ‘Small Favour’ if you’ve been reading the series since the first book. I got off a little more lightly this time, having read the previous book, but there is a lot of stuff happening that is the result of things that took place maybe two or three books ago. ‘Infodumps’ make up for this but only up to a point. I found myself wishing that I had read earlier books just so I could have more of a feel for the overall story. Maybe this is something I’ll get round to remedying some time… Another area where ‘Small Favour’ could prove problematic, for the first time reader is the complexity of the relationships both between characters and various factions. While there is a rich depth to the various interactions (that you could only really get from a long standing series such as this) it would have helped me as a reader if I’d had a little advance warning. Certain relationships appeared to be a little unlikely (to say the least) and the ongoing plot regarding the faerie hit men only looked as if it was there so that Dresden would have a way to bail out of the final confrontation. However, given that this is the tenth book in a series should Butcher be thinking of people who haven’t read all the other books first? I don’t think he should have to…
Difficulties aside, ‘Small Favour’ is an excellent read in terms of the plot itself. The story is convoluted but everything looks like it’s there for a good reason and the resolution of one plot line (in particular) really threw me! One thing that I have found myself looking for recently are ‘set piece battles’ that stories tend to build up to and wind down from. While Butcher prefers to concentrate more on the ‘pulp noir’ side of the story he doesn’t hold anything back when it’s time for a showdown. A pitched battle in Chicago train station, a house under siege or a final confrontation on Lake Michigan, it’s all good and some of the power on display was enough to make me gasp! This is tempered (and bought into perspective) by quieter moments where characters get a chance to kick back and relax and it’s here where Butcher’s ability to draw likeable and compelling characters comes to the fore.
‘Small Favour’ is really a book for the long term ‘Dresden fan’ but don’t let that put you off if you’re after a good slice of urban fantasy pulp noir (it’s pretty much persuaded me to find the rest of the series). I think it’s got pretty much everything you’re looking for.

Eight and a Half out of Ten

2 comments:

ThRiNiDiR said...

I have never dipped into the "ungainly" urban fantasy genre...but I've been tempted by this "hairy butcher# of yours often enough to be delightfully enticed by the subgenre. I'm picking up Storm Front somwhere in the near future for sure. great review.

weariedjuggler said...

I am so jealous that you got to read it already. How did you get the book before it came out today? Amazing...
Great review. You have a way with words, it is inspiring, and at the same time maybe just a little discouraging...ha. Goodluck, I am looking forward to reading more.