Dresden Files: Small Favor (Mania.com)

By:Pat Ferrara
Review Date: Tuesday, April 15, 2008

In the blustery streets of downtown Chicago Harry Dresden once again comes to life, battling demons and walking the tight rope of supernatural politics in Jim Butcher’s latest urban fantasy escapade.

Following the events of White Night, paranormal private eye Harry Dresden is back on the beat and investigating a new mystery, one surrounding Chicago’s infamous crime boss Gentleman Johnnie Marcone. A spell of epic proportions has ripped open one of Marcone’s apartment buildings, leaving the Chicago Police Department scratching their heads at Marcone’s sudden, and more than a little coincidental, disappearance. Harry is happy to prosecute the mob boss, but when Mab, the Queen of Air and Darkness and monarch of the Winter Court, calls in one of three promised favors Dresden is forced to find and protect the syndicate leader.

Now the street savvy wizard is up to his waist in fae politics and he’ll need all the help he can get to keep his head above water. As he nears the truth he’ll have to battle the Champions of Summer and unravel a puzzle constructed by the terrifying Denarians, a group of demon-like faeries armed with centuries of knowledge from none other than the Fallen angels of Heaven.

Jim Butcher’s Small Favor continues to deliver a unique variety of fantasy that’s unparalleled in the genre. By combining the best of urban fantasy and mystery fiction, Butcher is able to spin tight, fast-paced yarns that highlight pop culture without neglecting the time-honored staples of speculative fiction. Nowhere else will you find paladins, vampires, werewolves and other ghastly ghouls mixed with a plot that features “war councils” at Burger King and referential nods to Patrick Stewart for his role as Captain Picard.

And yet it all works. A big problem in contemporary fantasy is overcoming the disconnect between the portrayal of modern life and the entrenched paradigms of the fantasy and horror genres. Not only does Jim Butcher infuse Chicago with stirring mysticism, he also cultivates his stories with a wholly distinct style that makes the Dresden Files an instant classic, and he does it all with seemingly effortless bravado.

Being the tenth volume in the series, there’s a lot of backstory on Harry that factors into the plot. That isn’t to say that Small Favor alienates new readers, however. Butcher’s delightfully conversational tone warmly invites you into Harry’s world, a world realized with taut narrative and evenhanded wit. The novel has as many gory moments as it has laugh-out-loud jokes, yet even its humor doesn’t detract from the sobriety of its tense action sequences. All of these ingredients add up to a thrilling, genre-based mystery…and one hell of a fun read.

Mania Grade: A-
Novel: Dresden Files: Small Favor
Author: Jim Butcher
Publisher: Roc
Pages: 420
Price: $14.37