Saturday, May 31, 2008

Small Favor by Jim Butcher

Harry Dresden is Chicago's only known wizard, because he advertises, literally, in the phone book. But he certainly inhabits a world full of strange and dangerous things, not the least of which are faeries and a group of fallen angels living in the literal 30 pieces of silver that was used to pay off Judas when he betrayed Christ at the last supper.

And those two don't mix well, as Harry finds out to his cost, when the Winter Queen of the Faeries, Mab, asks Harry to repay one of the two favors he owes her by protecting the Archive, who in this incarnation is a small girl named Ivy, from attack by the Denarians (the 30 pieces of silver are Roman Denarii). Who have kidnapped Harry's longtime foe and sometime ally, "Gentleman Johnny" Marcone, who also happens to be a big crime boss.

To help, Harry calls in his friends, including Sergeant Karin Murphy, who has suffered a lot for Harry's sake. She nearly lost her job, was demoted, and her career is in the toilet, all because of him. But she doesn't blame him, because he was trying to help her at the time. And his brother Thomas, who happens to be a White Court Vampire, cursed with living on the emotions of humans, his good friend Michael Carpenter, a holy knight in service to God who bears a sword made from one of the nails that crucified Jesus Christ, and his apprentice, Michael's daughter Molly.

But his foes are equally powerful, perhaps even more so. Certainly, most of the Denarians have shown up for this fight, and the forces of the Summer Queen of the Faeries are opposing Mab, the Winter Queen, meaning that the Summer forces are Harry's opponents, not allies. Added on is that Harry's boss among the wizards seems to be interested in him for more than for his magic ability, and Harry's plate is full to overflowing this time around. But can he and his allies prevail against the impressively overwhelming odds?

I love Harry Dresden, who is a sort of grown-up Harry Potter for adults. Darker in tone than the Harry Potter books, and without HP's "Chosen one" status, Harry Dresden is a deadpan snarker whose mouth often runs away with the sass before his brain can catch up. He's a competent wizard who knows what he's doing, but many things frighten him nearly witless, and as the books show us, he's right to be afraid.

But he's more than just a wizard, Harry has the ability to bring out the humanity in others. As an example, Harry was invaded by one of the Denarians when he grabbed the coin away from one of his friend Michael's children who was about to touch it (which is the way they possess humans). The Denarian in Harry's head was female, and tried for a long time to seduce Harry to the dark side. However, contact with Harry was redeeming the copy of the Denarian in Harry's head, and at one point, she actually sacrificed herself for him to take a "psychic bullet" that would otherwise have killed him. Needless to say, that's unheard of, although Harry doesn't brag about it.

I'm just wild about Harry, and this volume gives me lots of reasons to justify it. A must read, though you'll want to read the others in the series first.

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