Some books clearly indicate where they are going. After all, with so many fiction books being published these days, it is to be expected that similar...moreSome books clearly indicate where they are going. After all, with so many fiction books being published these days, it is to be expected that similar storylines would run through most of them. Even Michael Manning's earlier books in the Mageborn series were fairly predictable, albeit with a slightly different (modern?) feel and an enjoyable focus on magical research.
But some books aren't like this. And this was one of the that kind.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying this only because the story is about a "bad guy." Those books can be predictable too. But - there is just so much to this tale that I can't identify a "fiction mold" it came from. It is disturbing how real all the abuse surrounding Daniel, given and taken, felt - I honestly had to glance away from the book a few times from discomfort. Needless to say, those aspects never drove me away for long.
The worldbuilding here was also pretty exceptional, in my opinion. I enjoyed following along with Daniel as he explored different areas of magic, trying to copy from those around him and adapt enough to stay alive. Too many fantasy books leave the subject of magic awfully vague, and that made Daniel's struggle with copying spellweaving all the more distinct.
And don't get me started on the relationships...wow, let me just say that you will probably cycle through all your emotions during this book, and pity will likely be the last one. While the details on the magical system made me wish I too was a mage, the human interaction made me glad to be muggle.
I don't see how to continue without spoilers, so all I can do is recommend you read this book. It is about the best novel I've seen from a self-published author for a good long time now (and it doesn't cost that much too!). The writing was excellent - and if you read the early Mageborn books, you'll be glad to know that the editing is too.
Speaking of editing...one of my complaints in the Mageborn books was immersion-breaking modern English language. This novel partially invalidates those complaints rather cleverly. (For example, Daniel used the phrase "icebreaker at parties" once that made me pause - he never went to a single party in the book, and I really couldn't see a peasant throwing around the word "icebreaker" except in terms of physical labor. But those phrases were rare.)
Warning note: You might be confused by the occasional breaks in the narration of Daniel's story if you haven't read Manning's previous works. The narrator is the main character of the Mageborn series. I'd encourage you to read those novels as well, but this one shouldn't be too confusing if you haven't.(less)
For me personally, CHANGES – GHOST STORY – COLD DAYS is the big three-part special episode that comes in the middle of the season like they used to do in the old shows, like in the 70s and 80s. “This is the HUGE, EPIC episode!” and they’d occasionally pre-empt the whole evening to show it to you. That’s what those three books are to me. This will be getting back to what we’ve done before. Harry’s been kind of in isolation for a while, and the events that have happened to him have kind of changed him over time. We get to see a little bit more of that, we get to see a little bit more of him stopping that. And you get back to Chicago to the Scooby Gang and so on. Although he can’t spend as much time with them as I’m sure a lot of readers would have because the whole premise of SKIN GAME is he gets loaned out to the Evil League of Evil so they can pull a job. So that’s what he’s busy doing, he’s got to hang out with all these jerks and psychopaths.
Anyway, here's what the book's about: Since Harry was forced to take the mantle of Winter Knight; he's been subjugated by Mab's wishes and intentions. Of course he's not going to bend to her whim as was demonstrated in Cold Days. Now Mab has him in a bigger quagmire when she loans out his services to Nicodemus and his Denarian followers. Harry is now at odds since he has to follow Mab's order and his conscience is revolting against the very thought of being in the same room as Shiro's murderer. Nicodemus has plans to raid Hades' vault and grab the most famous chalice in recorded history. Harry is back but has never had to take part in a heist and one in which his conspirators might just be more tempted to bag him rather than Christ's cup. Harry's in a bind and almost without any allies...
Now if you are reading this book, you know what to expect in a Harry Dresden story, Jim Butcher piles up the comedy (Parkour!), terrific action sequences, crafty plot twists and some neat character reappearances. Firstly, I think this book rocks so much because of Nicodemus and the Denarians. As far as the villains of this series go, Nicodemus and bunch are pretty much at the top of the sociopathic heap. What makes Nicodemus so intriguing is that he's a willing partner with Anduriel and so far has been the one guy who rivals Harry in his determination! Johnny Marcone is another fascinating rival for Harry but he's not the subject of this book.
Nicodemus and the Denarians are possibly one of the best creations that have sprung from Jim Butcher's imagination. These folks kill, murder, and torture but ultimately they are all heading towards an unseen goal that Harry hasn't been able to decipher. Whenever they have appeared in the series, those books (Death Masks, Small Favor) have been fantastic. Lots of carnage, horrific deaths and rather cruel twists to our heroes but as with every hero (he/she) needs a formidable antagonist to make the story a memorable one. Nicodemus does that in spades for Harry, so far his despicable actions have made him a universally hated figure and with this book, he will go a few steps further.
In the last book, there were revelations about the Outsiders, the Winter court and what is happening on the outer fringes of our dimension/plane of existence. These were some huge revelations that shook up the story told so far. This book doesn't have that many revelations; to be fair it has almost next to none when compared with those of Cold Days. Then why would I say that this book was better than Cold Days?
Simply put this book has all that magic (literal and figurative) that the earlier books (White Night, Changes, Dead Beat, Small Favor, etc.) epic battles, shocking twists, snarky humor, and horrific events that make them all such gripping reads. This book does all that and marks a return to form by the granddaddy of urban fantasy. There have been various events that we have been waiting for: - Will we get to see a new knight of the cross? - What happens to Molly after Cold Days? - Will Karrin and Harry ever get it on? - Whatever happened to Lasciel and her coin? - Will Harry survive the Winter knight mantle? - And many more…
Some of those questions get glorious (and I mean Glorious) answers. There are a few new characters introduced in this one that I hope make a reappearance in the future (such as antagonist Goodman Grey) and plus with all the previous Denarian stories, there is the re-appearance of the characters whose lives were affected previously. This might be easy to figure out but you might get one character right and another one wrong. RAFO. With the last couple of books the comedic aspect of the books was toned down as the plots didn't quite gel with it. This book however marks a fine return in that aspect & fans will definitely be glad for it (Parkour!). Plus with the book's climax, fans will definitely be salivating for Peace Talks (the 16th entry in the Dresden Files) & the author has said that "it probably will be one of the more supernaturally violent books to date!"
With some of the past few books, amid the appearance of angels and questions related to Faith & Divine will. The books have taken a strong jump into Christian theology with regards to its mythos. With this book, that trend continues and it can get confusing as to whether the author is implying that this theological tract is the only correct one in this universe. In his most recent AMA, he did talk about getting the church stuff right & mentioned that he has had "a childhood with a much, much higher than median exposure to theological thought".
Skin Game has a heist plot that runs along the line of most heist stories but what strongly differentiates this one is Jim Butcher. Jim’s characteristic writing skills have made The Dresden Files such a publishing phenomenon. Skin Game continues in that rich vein and if you are a Dresden fan then you will love it. If you aren’t a fan then this book won’t do much to change your mind. This volume didn’t have any deficiencies in my mind but then again I lap up everything Butcher feeds me.
CONCLUSION: Epic, simply epic is the adjective I would use to describe Skin Game. The fifteenth volume was a bit delayed but fans can rejoice as the book more than makes up for the wait. Jim Butcher is back, boys and girls, and Skin Game will have you rejoicing and gallivanting like none other.
I highlighted some great quotes so it's time for me to add them to Goodreads. ;)(less)
Good as usual, but I'm starting to think Modesitt's writing is a bit too stiff and forced - I especially notice this in some of the unnatural dialogue...moreGood as usual, but I'm starting to think Modesitt's writing is a bit too stiff and forced - I especially notice this in some of the unnatural dialogue. Still thoughtful though (if you are looking for action and adventure, don't look here).(less)
This series was awesome. I wish it wasn't over. I want more.
One small thing annoyed me about this book, at least a tiny bit. I enjoyed the first books...moreThis series was awesome. I wish it wasn't over. I want more.
One small thing annoyed me about this book, at least a tiny bit. I enjoyed the first books because I like to put myself in the main character's shoes - and who wouldn't want to be an archmage? Unfortunately that meant that every point of view switch disrupted my "pretending." And as this series progressed, there were more point of views to cover all the characters. And that made it feel like only half of this last book was actually from Mort's perspective.
However, that is only my opinion. Most people don't read books the same way I do and like having other point of views.
There were points that felt a little too "deus ex machina"-ish. "Oh cool, found new ability at just the right time" or "look, reinforcements arrive just when needed most". Not too obvious, but I noticed it in some scenes.
I'm also happy to see that the editing quality is much better. I used to cringe every other page at some obvious grammar mistake, but now my inner grammar nazi stays mostly satisfied.(less)
This is adventure with actually intelligent characters and refreshingly little distracting romance. (Not that I have anything against romance necessar...moreThis is adventure with actually intelligent characters and refreshingly little distracting romance. (Not that I have anything against romance necessarily, but it should complement a story and not detract from it.)
Modesitt's books are thoughtful as always. I mentally put books like these into a subgenre of "Intelligent Fantasy," because I don't feel guilty about...moreModesitt's books are thoughtful as always. I mentally put books like these into a subgenre of "Intelligent Fantasy," because I don't feel guilty about reading just another brain candy book when I'm done.(less)