Small Favour, by Jim Butcher (Dresden #10)

  • TITLE: Small Favour (The Dresden Files #10)
  • AUTHOR: Jim Butcher
  • PUBLISHER: Orbit (UK)
  • PUBLISHED: April 1st 2008

Small Favour, the tenth book in the series was—more or less—one of the weaker-plotted Dresden instalments. There was something about this book that just didn’t gel; it felt as though it was far lesser than the sum of its parts, which felt more gripping and enjoyable if taken alone, aside from the main plotline that runs through the book.

Long story short, Harry needs to repay one of the favours owed to Mab. Despite their arrangement, the one where he is free to choose when to act in her name and when to turn her away, he is forced into service on the side of Winter again. He’s not happy about it, and spends much of the time whining about it—which is one of the downsides. Granted, with the hired hitters from Summer suddenly on his ass just because he’s acting on behalf of Winter, and with the favour to Mab requiring him to lend a hand to none other than Gentleman Johnnie Marcone, he’s got a few reasons to be irked. I just wish he’d get on with the task a little more, with less bitching, sarcasm, and whining. If he did, he might have figured out the larger scheme at play behind current events, and wouldn’t have been so sucker punched when the real deal goes down.

But, this is Harry we’re talking about, and following the events of recent books, he does have a lot on his mind, and hey, maybe Butcher decided to write it this way. The problem was that the outcome, the scheme at play, and its eventual semi-victory seemed sketchily plotted and weakly executed, especially after the phenomenal and tight-plotting of the last two books (Proven Guilty and White Knight). It only half worked, for me, with too much of it feeling sloppy and random.

And, just once, I would like to see Harry actually kick some serious ass without relying on dumb luck, whacky circumstance, or loopholes: just once, I would like to see Harry Dresden drop the wise-ass, dumb-ass act, and be genuinely cool. Just once.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Harry. But. But. He’s too much of a wise-ass by now: he’s changed over the years, thanks to various events—Susan and the Red Court, Thomas and the White Court, his relationship with Murphy, his falling-out and reconciliation with Ebenezer McCoy, the shadow of Lasciel in his head, his posting in the Wardens, accepting Molly as his apprentice, to name but a few character-changing, life-changing events—and I think those changes were definitely reflected in previous books, including Dead Beat (which I did not like, mostly). However, I feel in Small Favour a little bit of the Harry from Storm Front was back, and that just did not gel with me.

Maybe it was the plot that didn’t work and subsequently affected how Harry came across, but either way, something was off. Perhaps the greater problem was that something wasn’t off with everyone else: Molly is growing up; Thomas is there for Harry and adjusting to his own changes; Murphy has accepted her limits and has learned to really trust Harry; hell, even Michael, most steadfast and unchanging character of all, shows a subtle shift in character to reflect his advancing age and his daughter’s new talent.

Either way, Small Favour earned the same rating as Dead Beat from me. Naturally, with every Dresden, there are aspects that are brilliant, and just as many that are not as brilliant. I was excited to see a return of the Denarians, and then was grossly disappointed that their execution fell disastrously short of the bar set in Death Masks. In this Dresden there was too much happening. Between the Denarians, the Gruffs from Summer, the traitor in Marcone’s organisation, and Mab being Mab in the background, there was too much.

After White Night this was a downright let-down. But, it was a very unputdownable book, strangely enough. (Perhaps I’ve been in a reading mood, lately…) It was compelling right up until the moment when Harry figures stuff out, and it was a downhill slide from there. I always find that the first half of a Dresden book is better than the latter half, and this was a fine example of that rule.

It wasn’t a terrible book, by any means, and it perhaps deserved half a star more than Dead Beat to reflect that. But at the same time, Dead Beat made up for its failings with Harry’s inner psychology and his character adaptation in light of Lasciel’s residence. Small Favour was a bit too tangled—and stretched, at times—and it certainly lowered the bar of what to expect from Turn Coat. It feels like we’re coming to a turning point in the Dresden series, despite being so far in (not that I know if Butcher has indicated how many books will make up the complete series in the end…), and I’ve a hunch that the books leading up to Changes are supposed to shift the gears somewhat. I hope the gears don’t all shift in the same direction as in Small Favour, otherwise my attention span with Harry might begin to diminish.

Enjoying only half a book is frustrating, and I only enjoyed half of Small Favour.

3/5


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