Things finally seem to be calming down for Harry Dresden, but he's long owed a debt to Mab, Sidhe Queen of the Winter Court. When mob boss, John Marcone is kidnapped after a massive explosion in one of his buildings that was generated by magical means, Harry really couldn't care less. But Mab decides to cash in one of the favors Harry owes her, coercing him into mounting a rescue effort. Having little choice in the matter, he must comply, but he soon finds out that the kidnappers are none other than the Denarians who would still love to convert him to their side. But soon it becomes clear to Harry that they're after a much bigger fish than himself or Marcone, and instead they're using Marcone's kidnapping as a smoke screen for their real end game... a game that could bring about the end of the entire world if they get their hands on The Archive.
The Dresden Files series seems to keep getting better and better with each book. Lately every story seems to be building this world toward an eventual culmination, but hopefully that won't come too soon. I still have a long way to go to catch up with this series and I know I'm going to love every minute of it. For now, though, I found myself very much engrossed in Small Favor. It's a book that brings back a lot of my favorite series' characters, both good and bad, so it was an extremely enjoyable read. In it, Harry is coerced by Mab into rescuing Marcone who has been kidnapped by the evil Denarians, only to discover that was just a smoke screen and that their end-game was something entirely different. Then he finds himself, instead, in a race against time to rescue a girl who is possibly the most powerful being on the planet before they can turn her into one of them. I loved the action, the adventure, the witty, snarky humor, and the interactions between all the characters. Everything came together to make it a very fun book to read.
Harry is a pretty powerful wizard, so sometimes I tend to forget that he's still young by wizarding standards, since wizards in this world have a very long life-span, providing they don't get killed in battle. Harry may get beat to a pulp in nearly every book, but he's still alive and kicking, which also means that he's still changing and getting better with each new story. I like how he's constantly learning new things and growing into his powers. He discovers a couple of new abilities in this book that I can't wait to see him put into action more. There's also a slightly mysterious side to him, things that readers may be privy to, but that the other characters may not, such as the fact that he stole Bob the Skull from his mentor and has been hiding him ever since. Harry often makes new enemies, as he does in this story, but he can have a diplomatic side, too, finding ways to diffuse tough situations with aplomb. Of course, when one's life is at stake, knowing how to get out of sticky places when fighting or magic isn't an option is a useful skill to possess. And then there's the fact that Harry is simply an all-around great guy. I recall that it was my romance reading GoodReads friends who encouraged me to give this series a try, saying that Harry was as good as any romance hero. And they were right. He may occasionally bend the rules or make questionable alliances with unsavory characters for the greater good, but at his heart, he's a truly nice guy. Now if only he could find one woman and stick with her, everything would be perfect. He hasn't had a steady girlfriend since Susan, but he does seem to be attracted to many of the women he works with, although nothing has come of it so far. After all, he says he's not into casual affairs, so why not give him a recurring love interest. Just saying... ;-)
A lot of what makes these books so enjoyable is the building of Harry's own Scooby Gang. He's had lots of great allies who back him up in his endeavors. His half-brother, Thomas, always has his back, as does his good friend, Karrin Murphy. Harry has been nursing unrequited feelings for her for a long time, but so far they're just friends. We learn a little more of what makes Murphy tick in this book and see where her loyalties lie, as well as her dedication to protecting her city. Then there's Harry's old friend, Michael, a Knight of the Cross, along with his fellow Knight, Sanya, whose mission is to eliminate all the Denarians and find their coins. They're the only two Knights left, with Harry still holding the sword of the third who was killed in battle several books ago. That sword comes into play in this story. There's also Luccio, who is Captain of the Wardens and Harry's boss. She's a 150 year old wizard who was transplanted into the body of a much younger woman, also several books ago. Now she's got the hots for Harry and he isn't averse to the idea at all. The author toys with a possible relationship between these two, although much like Murphy expressed, I'm not sure if Luccio is the right match for our intrepid hero. Toot-toot, my favorite little fairy, has a cameo. Molly, Bob, and Mouse are there, but they tend to stay a little more in the background this time, as the mission at hand is a little too treacherous for them to navigate. Last, but certainly not least are The Archive and her bodyguard, Kincaid. Murphy had a fling with Kincaid a while back and discovers that her feelings for him may run a bit deeper than she intended. I've absolutely loved The Archive aka Ivy since she first appeared in book #5, Death Masks. I don't recall her being in any of the books since then, so I was very excited to see her again. She's such a complex character, so powerful and yet so vulnerable. I can't wait to see what happens with her character in future stories and hope to see more of her soon.
On the flip side of allies, Harry also has both frenemies and outright enemies. On the frenemy side, we have Marcone and his employees, Gard, Hendricks, and Demeter. All three of them help Harry, because their boss's life is at stake, while Marcone proves, once again, to be rather enigmatic. Gard is pretty powerful in her own right, while Demeter may have a few tricks up her sleeve. Then there are the Billy Goats Gruff who work for the Summer Court and are trying to kill Harry. They make for some great laughs. However, the real villains of this story are the Denarians of which there are many. Nicodemus and Tessa are their leaders, each working at cross purposes to one another toward the same common goal, while all the others do their bidding. They're tough foes who aren't easy to defeat, so some die while others don't. Because of the way things played out in this book, I fully expect them to eventually come back for more.
I really can't express how much I enjoyed Small Favor. It was definitely one of the best books in the series so far. Having so many of the characters I love in one story was the icing on the cake. In fact, there were very few who didn't show up. This may be the first time there wasn't a massive battle at the end of the book. There's a definite battle but it didn't involve quite as many people this time, and for part of it, Harry is on his own, which is unusual. However, it worked like a charm and was a welcome change. I was saddened by the serious wounding of one of the supporting characters and will be on pins and needles waiting to see what happens to this person in the long run. With each new book of the series adding new and interesting bits and pieces to the larger story arc, I'm very eager to keep reading and can't wait to pick up the next story of The Dresden Files.
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