Review: ‘Small Favor’ by Jim Butcher (audio)

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Small Favor

Dresden Files #10

Author: Jim Butcher

Format: audio book

Publisher: Penguin Audio Books

Release Date: 1/14/2009 (original release date: 4/1/2008)

Length: 13 hour 49 minutes (a 541 page paperback also resides amongst my other Dresden Files books)

Acquired: Audible.com

Sample chapters

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The back cover blurb:

Wizard Harry Dresden’s life finally seems to be calming down. The White Council’s war with the vampiric Red Court is easing up, no one’s tried to kill him lately, and his eager apprentice is starting to learn real magic. For once, the future looks fairly bright.

But the past casts one hell of a long shadow.

Mab, monarch of the Winter Court of the Sidhe, calls in an old favor from Harry. Just one small favor he can’t refuse–one that will trap Harry Dresden between a nightmarish foe and an equally deadly ally, and strain his skills and loyalties to their very limits.

And everything was going so well for once…

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My spoiler-riddled thoughts:

Nearly a year after the end of White Night, Harry is conducting a lesson with Molly Carpenter in her parents’ back yard. Kids are throwing snowballs, Harry is chatting amiably with Charity Carpenter, all is well and all is well. And then it’s not.

Harry, Charity and the kids are attacked by creatures Harry’s never seen before. The whatsits, as he thinks of them, go after the kids to distract Harry so another of them can sucker punch him. He manages not to get killed but does manage to get his nose broken which of course gives him two black eyes, leading everyone he meets throughout the rest of the book to ask what happened to him, which makes for some amusing dialogue. Charity Carpenter turns out to be the hero of the tussle, killing a whatsit with a nail gun and a hammer. The rest of the whatsits flee. Faeries… they don’t like the iron so much.

A little research and Harry learns that the creatures were gruffs and that they’re agents of Summer. Harry can’t figure out why Summer would send hitters after him but as the book progresses, he’s pursued by increasingly older brothers of the first gruffs. It gets… interesting.

In the meantime, Murphy calls him in on a case involving a building which had been blown apart and Harry soon realizes that the destruction involved magic. LOTS of magic. In order to try and figure out what might have occurred, Harry calls upon Toot-toot the pixie to help him gather some information about what any little folk in the area may have seen. Toot returns almost immediately and tells Harry to run. When a pixie thinks something is more important than a donut, it’s wise to heed their advice. Harry runs but soon becomes lost in a whiteout… and realizes that he’s not alone.

Mab, the Queen of Air and Darkness has popped in from the Nevernever to ask a little favor of Harry. He still owes her two favors since he took her case in book #4, Summer Knight and should have the option of refusing when she asks. Only this time, he’s given little choice but to do what she wants, which is for him to be her emissary in a delicate matter of kidnapping. Or mob-boss-napping, seeing how it’s Johnny Marcone who was forcibly taken from the destroyed building, which he owns and was apparently using as a safe house earlier that night. Mab wants Harry to find Marcone and since it’s in Harry’s best interest to do as she bids, he takes the case.

Having just become an emissary of Winter, Harry is almost immediately threatened with a shotgun to the head by none other than the Summer Knight. Fix is worried that Harry’s actually taken up the mantle of the Winter Knight and is intensely relieved to find that Harry has done no such thing. Still, it rather pisses Harry off to be so threatened by his friend. Throw in the fact that Fix didn’t warn him about the gruffs and Harry’s quite testy, though he quickly comes to realize that Fix is once again under compulsion not to reveal certain information to Harry. Fix does manage to drop a hint about the oak leaf pin given to Harry by Lily, the Summer Lady, at the end of book #8, Proven Guilty and Harry surmises that the gruffs have been using the pin to track him. Useful information to have, which allows him to get the gruffs off his back for awhile in order to concentrate on Marcone.

The first order of business toward that end is to find Hendricks and Gard, who were with Marcone when he was taken. When Harry, accompanied by his brother Thomas, finds them however, he also finds a bunch of Denarians trying to kill them and/or kidnap them. Of course! Harry wasn’t having enough of a bad time with the friggin’ billy goats gruff trying to kill him and then Mab freezing his eyeballs to make him agree to doing her a favor… he’s now got to deal with more Denarians! Quite a lot more than he faced in book #5, Death Masks. Great. Fantastic. It’s the typical ‘shit flying at Harry from all sides without cease‘ kind of plot but then by this point in the series, we expect no less from a Dresden book!

Amazingly, this new bunch of Denarians actually try to cut a deal with Harry and convince him to let them take Marcone’s people, promising to leave him alone in return. Like that would ever happen. Either Harry cutting a deal with them or them keeping a promise! Harry declines and manage to escape with Thomas, Hendricks and a badly injured Gard and they head to Michael’s house, hoping the Denarians won’t know to look there for them. Upon arriving at Michael’s house, they find Sanya, who is stuck in the city by the heavy snowfall. Harry then succeeds in enlisting the help of the two remaining Knights of the Cross, who join his cause in an effort to offset, and hopefully to permanently diffuse the Denarian threat.

Harry calls in the White Council to assist with the negotiations for the return of Marcone (since he’s a signatory of the accords), and requests that they bring in the Archive to mediate. Harry’s worked with Ivy before and is perhaps a bit too fond of her, according to Captain Luccio of the Wardens. Harry is indeed fond of the child Archive which means that he gets REALLY pissed when the Denarians, led by Nicodemus, kidnap her, too. It would seem that kidnapping Marcone was just a ploy to prompt Harry to call in the Archive so that they could take her and force her to take up a coin. Yeah. Things, they aren’t going so well.

So… Harry plans an assault on the Denarians, under the guise of a trade: 11 captured coins representing over a third of the Fallen, and the sword Fidelacchius in trade for Marcone and Ivy. The only problem is that Denarians are holding their prisoners on an island on Lake Michigan–in blizzard conditions, mind–and they’ve got an unknown number of minions backing them up. Needless to say, all hell breaks loose. BUT, Harry gets Ivy and Marcone off the island, as well as Sanya and Michael… though when he last sees the latter, his old friend has just been peppered with automatic machine gun fire. And he’s not moving.

And so the time comes for Harry’s checklist, which are fantastic ways to sum things up for a review… so thanks for these, Mr. Butcher!

‘I seized the hilt of Fidelacchius from where the sword had fallen. As my fingers closed around the weapon I realized several points of cold logic, as if having them explained to me by a calm, rational, wise old man who was utterly unperturbed by my rage.

First, I realized that I was now alone on an uncharted island in the middle of Lake Michigan, with nothing but mad men and fallen angels for company.

Second, that I still had the coins and the sword that Nicodemus had been after–and that he was still going to be after them.

Third, that the Denarians were sure to be really ticked off, now that I’d taken their real prize from them.

Fourth… The ground shook, as with the impact of a heavy foot.

Fourth, that since I had confounded Summer’s attempt to track me via use of the little oak leaf pin, Eldest Brother Gruff had probably been waiting for me to use fire magic again in battle–the same magic that I had entwined with the power of the Summer Lady two years ago at Arctis Tor. It was the most probable reason why Mab, the most likely suspect for messing with my head, would have taken my blasting rod and my memories of how to use fire magic in battle–to prevent me from inadvertently revealing my position to Summer every time I got into a tussle. Only now that I had, Eldest Gruff was probably on his way to visit.

And fifth, and last, I realized that I had no way to get off this stupid and creepily familiar island–unless I could get down to the docks and to the boat I’d come in on.’

Before he can do so, he’s accosted by first the Eldest Brother Gruff, who rips apart a Denarian like it’s a firggin’ teddy bear, and then Daddy Denarian, Nicodemus who laughingly thinks that Lasciel is still around. Of course Harry survives both encounters, but I’ll not divulge exactly how he did either. This book is worth reading–or listening to, since James Marsters is as fantastic as ever in his reading–just for those two awesome scenes!

The book ends on a rather worrying note as we’re left wondering at the fate of Michael Carpenter. One thing is clear, if he survives, he’ll not wield Amoracchius again and the sword is given into Harry’s possession with the same directive as he was given along with Fidelacchius, that he would know who to give it to.

And so ends my review of book #10…  I left quite a lot out but we all know how wordy I get so I thought it best to stop here! I’m hoping to have books 11 and 12 listened to and reviewed by the end of the week(…end… ish). Apologies for not getting them finished in time for tomorrow’s release of book #13, Ghost Story, but it kind of worked out for me since I’ll not acquire my own signed and personalized copy of the new book *insert fangirl squee* until next week at the soonest. Can. Not. Wait!

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My own personal summary:

The one in which Harry: is being hunted by the billy goats gruff; gets a favor called in by Mab; sets out to rescue Johnny Marcone at Mab’s behest; gets tangled up with the Denarians–again; calls in the Archive to mediate the release of Baron Marcone from said Denarians; discovers that Sanya, in addition to Shiro, was descended from kings; guilts out over Ivy getting Archive-napped by the Denarians; gets wooed once again by Nicodemus; realizes that his friends don’t wholly trust him and then realizes that someone has literally been screwing with his mind; sets Molly to researching her family tree, which leads her to discover that Michael is descended from Charlemange; tells Murphy about Lash; rescues Ivy and Marcone from an eerily familiar and creepy island; cashes in his boon from Summer and orders a donut from the Eldest Brother Gruff; discovers that a Denarian has been working for the Black Council; cusses out God in the hospital chapel; chats with an archangel which sounds quite a lot like Ebenezar McCoy (!); gets the bejesus scared out of him–again–by Mab; learns that Bob is considered dangerous by the Wardens, and that they think he’s been destroyed; realizes that he’s been granted the power of Soulfire; and has a hot date with Luccio.

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Fave quotes:

I’ve always admired your ability to be unilaterally irritating.” ~Bob to Harry

‘I gritted my teeth and tried to summon up a salvo of snark.’

‘…my curiosity took the opportunity to sucker punch terror while confusion had it distracted.’

‘Whew. My banter gland had not gone necrotic.’

‘It’s amazing what you can get used to if your daily allowance of bizarre is high enough.’

‘A sensitive guy might have been hurt by that remark. Good thing I’m me.”

“I’m freaking adorable. Especially with the raccoon face I’ve got going here.”~Harry to Torelli

“You… are so hot right now.” ~Harry to Murphy

“I’m in. From here on out. You obviously need somebody to protect you from the big, bad billy goats.” ~Murphy to Harry

‘”Heh?I said wittily.’

“You’ve invented a doll that turns people into their ugly half-brothers, eh?” ~Thomas to Harry

“Look, big guy, I’ve had a tense couple of days and I’ve got to tell  you, burning someone’s face off sounds like a great way to relax.” ~Harry

“Lassie would have given a clear, concise warning. One bark for gruffs, two barks for Nickel-heads. ~Harry to Mouse

“You said it, Chewie. I’ve got a bad feeling about this.” ~Harry to Mouse

“I followed the trail of smitten fiends. Smitten fiends? Smited fiends? Smoted fiends? Don’t look at me, I never finished high school.” ~Harry

“If you make me choose between you and Luccio, I’m pretty sure I know who I’m going to bid ‘aloha’.” ~Harry to Kincaid

“Punctuality is for people with nothing better to do.” ~Harry

“That’s the problem with you nearly immortal types. You couldn’t spot a pop culture reference if it skittered up and implanted an embryo in your esophagus.” ~Harry to Rosanna

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Check out my other Dresden Files reviews:

#1 – Storm Front

#2 – Fool Moon

#3 – Grave Peril

#4 – Summer Knight

#5 – Death Masks

#6 – Blood Rites

#7 – Dead Beat

#8 – Proven Guilty

#9 – White Night

#11 – Turn Coat

#12 – Changes

#12.5 – Side Jobs

#13 – Ghost Story


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4 thoughts on “Review: ‘Small Favor’ by Jim Butcher (audio)

  1. I think this was one of the most action-packed stories to date! I was exhausted just from reading some of those chapters and all that happens.

    Excellent write-up with just enough information to make you wonder what you left out – and you left out a lot! LOL!

    Thanks for the refresh AND for including one of my most favorite quotes ever – the one about a pop culture reference.

    Like

    • There really is… it continues to amaze me how Butcher can cram so much information into ~500 pages and still make it entertaining as hell! Love it! :o)

      Like

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