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Small Favor (The Dresden Files, Book 10) by Jim Butcher
Cover Artist: Chris McGrath
Review by Drew Bittner
Roc Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 0451461894
Date: 01 April 2008 List Price $23.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

Chicago's only professional wizard is back.

Some time ago, Harry Dresden needed help ... and turned to perhaps the most dangerous entity on Earth to obtain it. Now he owes Mab, the sidhe Winter Queen of Air and Darkness, two favors.

She's come to collect on one of them.

Harry's assignment: find John Marcone, Chicago's most dangerous crime boss, and rescue him from his kidnappers. Mab doesn't know who they are, how they got Marcone or why -- she just wants him freed. And Harry has to do it.

Investigating the site of the kidnapping, Harry learns that it was heavy-duty firepower that took out Marcone's safehouse -- and that an old enemy appears to be operating in Chicago once more. He calls in help from his old ally Michael Carpenter, Knight of the Sword and father of Harry's own protégé Molly ... but finds that Michael is not sure of Harry, given Harry's own exposure to a cursed coin some while back.

Reinforced by distrustful allies, Harry's troubles are only beginning. Having accepted Mab's task, he's now under attack from the forces of Summer, Winter's eternal enemy. The creatures are known as "gruffs", goat-like faeries who inspired the Three Billy Goats Gruff children's story. Only, Harry learns, these are not cute little billy goats.

The action ramps up when the enemy forces are revealed in their full strength. Harry's outclassed badly, but realizes that his foes might lose in negotiation what they took by force, so he contacts the Archive (a little girl with the collected knowledge of all human writing throughout time in her head) and her protector Kincaid to broker a negotiation.

Things go bad in a hurry, as Harry finds he's been played for a sucker. Soon he has two kidnap victims to rescue ... and if he can't, a very dangerous man will have all the knowledge he needs to launch Armageddon or simply take Harry and his friends out of the way permanently.

Either way, it's a damned hard case Harry's been handed.

But then again, nobody ever said being the only wizard in the Yellow Pages was going to be easy.

In Small Favor, the tenth Harry Dresden novel, Jim Butcher amps up the action to 11. Harry's never been put through this kind of wringer, where his allies don't know if they can trust him and his enemies appear to be making some interesting offers.

Harry continues to evolve in fascinating ways. He's still a force of nature in many ways, smashing through barriers rather than finessing his way past them, but he's learned a great deal since those long ago days of Storm Front (the first Dresden Files novel). His singular triumph over a contamination of his soul has not been met with congratulations; instead, his closest friends feel they cannot trust him, depriving him of a reliable source of strength. He forges past this hurtful circumstance, however, as it's quickly obvious that powers greater than any he's faced so far are aligned against him.

Readers of the series will quickly recognize the foremost group battling Harry, but as if a pack of unholy knights wasn't bad enough, he's also opposed by the forces of Summer. Winter's opposite is relentless in this book, complicating Harry's task immensely.

(By the way, gruffs are a terrific addition to Butcher's bestiary. They're tough as nails, resourceful, and hew closely to their fairy tale traditions. How Harry manages to fight them and a bunch of other Summer baddies is inspired.)

This story heavily features Michael Carpenter, Harry's Knight of the Sword best friend and faithful ally, whose daughter Molly is Harry's student. The Carpenters own a large part of the story and add even greater depth to Butcher's impressive characterization of a loving, truly Christian family.

Harry's allies include Marcone's bodyguards, including Miss Gard (who may or may not be a valkyrie). They're along to find their boss and get him to safety before he's killed -- or worse.

The enemies, as noted, have rarely been so formidable. Harry is facing no fewer than half a dozen Knights of the Blackened Denarius this time around; these hellbound devil-enslaved humans are tough customers individually but multiply the threat when working together. Even calling in all his resources, Harry's more heavily overmatched than usual ... and Nicodemus (their leader) enjoys several powerhouse scenes in this book.

Fans of the Dresden Files will be delighted with this new installment, but fans of urban fantasy generally should grab this one right away. Harry Dresden is perhaps the best-written supernatural detective working today ... and his adventures only get better.

Strongly recommended.

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