Small Favor, book ten of Jim Butcher’s bestselling series The Dresden Files, starts off with a snowball fight. That, in and of itself, probably should have been an omen—especially since no one has tried to kill Harry Dresden, professional wizard, for over a year. But the past casts one hell of a long shadow, and Mab, Queen of Air and Darkness and ruler of the Unseelie Court of the Sidhe, has come to collect a favor. A favor that will place Harry between a rock, a hard place, a nightmarish foe, and a terrifying ally.
No biggy, right?
Wrong. Harry soon finds himself completely outmatched and has to call in some favors of his own. The Knights of the Order of the Blackened Denarius are in town, and Harry needs the help of one of the two remaining Knights of the Cross to even hope to counter them. Not only that, but the Archive—the grand sum of all recorded human knowledge, condensed into a single being—is called in to help mediate the conflict.
And, of course, all hell proceeds to break loose.
Playing the long game
With the Denarians being in town, that means one of my most favorite literary villains of all time is present in Small Favor: Nicodemus Archleone. Nicodemus is a guy who’s literally been around for centuries, and he knows how to play very long ball. And Harry, of course, doesn’t realize Nicodemus’ true intentions and plans until just a hair too late. Nicodemus is one of the few villains who has probably read the Evil Overlord List—heck, he probably would have contributed to it. And that thought? That’s scary. And downright nifty. Not only is Nicodemus not stupid, he isn’t cocky, either. When he brags about how he will kill you, it’s not bragging. He is fully capable of pulling off whatever it is he has envisioned. And that’s downright chilling. Which makes him an awesome character, and probably my favorite villain from The Dresden Files thus far.
The snark, it doth flow
As has become pretty much standard fare for any installment in The Dresden Files, Small Favor is filled with snark, insouciance, and Harry mouthing off to the wrong person at the wrong time. However, times have changed, and he’s no longer badmouthing two-bit sorcerers like he was in Storm Front. Oh, no. He snarks off to those who could take his head off ten times over and not break a sweat. You know, like the guy who has dueled three Senior Council wizards—and killed all three of them. But, this is Harry. And there were donuts involved.
A small dose of worldbuilding on the side
At this point, Butcher has fleshed out Harry’s alternate universe to a fairly great extent, but one of the things I love about his books is that he doesn’t stop. There’s always something new to be uncovered, or another layer to be discovered in that which has already been introduced to the reader. Small Favor contains a lot of the latter form of worldbuilding. We find more about Chicago and the immediate area; apparently, the area is a giant hub of ley lines— currents of magical energy that flow through the earth [generally] regardless of the geography around them. This is just one of the many things revealed to the reader in Small Favor, with others including the hit men of the Summer Court of the Sidhe, an island that will likely play a big role in coming installments, and details about the Archive and her existence.
Why should you read this book?
Because you like donuts, that’s why. Also, Small Favor has one of the best villains I’ve ever seen in urban fantasy basically running the game, and the humor in the novel is pure comedy gold. The action sequences are mind-boggling and yet totally believable; no one comes away unscathed—and some barely come away at all. While definitely not where I would enter into reading The Dresden Files for the very first time, this novel can stand on its own if need be. A fun, brain-bending game of intrigue, snark, and lots of kaboom, Small Favor is definitely a worthy installment to the series.