Monday, June 16, 2014

Skin Game by Jim Butcher

 Harry is forced to leave Demonreach island when Mab arrives and tells him that the parasite infesting his brain will break free, killing him first, then killing all of the people whom he loves afterwards, in just a few days. But...and it's a big one...if he performs one little task for her, she will be happy to effect its removal without all the nasty side effects. Oh, you just soooo know it's not gonna be a fun chore for poor Harry!

As events unfold, Harry discovers that he must repay a debt Mab owes to Nicodemus, one of the Denarians (those who hold the coins containing fallen angels' spirits), by helping him to rob the treasure house of Hades, greek god of the underworld.

As you might suspect from seeing how things tend to go a bit haywire around Harry, nothing really goes according to plan - even when an evil mastermind is the plotter. When Harry and a warlock named Ascher go to pick up a thief (no, not Bilbo) to help with the robbery of the century, the Fomor show up at the party to disrupt things, and Harry manages to take a bullet through the leg when the thugs attack with machine guns - James Bond he ain't.

Later on, when they are trying to get a tissue or blood sample from a human whom the shifter on the team, Goodman Grey, is going to impersonate, Nicodemus wife, Tessa, another Denarian, and her four ghoul companions try to get to the man first, so Harry has to take them on, too. He ends up with a compound fracture of the radius for his troubles, but manages to accomplish the objective - with a bit of collateral damage, unfortunately.

So Nicodemus gathered his associates slowly, and I kept waiting for them to amass the requisite nine members for the quest. Is it allowed to be a quest if it's evil? or if you intend to steal the powerful magical artifact for yourself instead of destroying it? Can we have a ruling from the committee, please?

Aside from all of the intrigue, double-dealing, and action sequences in the book, there are a few key things that occur in the long view. Harry finally gets the chance to get to know Maggie, his and Susan's daughter, and to bond with her. He and Karen openly acknowledge that there's something more meaningful than just friendship between them. Good old Butters steps up to the plate and joins the fight against evil openly. While it seems that Harry will never really get over being tortured by the possibility that he will turn into a monster, given his position as Winter Knight, his friend and former Knight of the Cross, Michael, does manage to talk a little bit of sense into him. Harry also finds an unexpected ally or two in high places...or maybe low places, and acquires some weapons that may help in the fight against the Outsiders.

As much as I hate waiting, this one was worth the time Butcher spent getting it right.

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