The Summer and Winter Queens are having another strange game of 'cat's paw' and our favorite wizard is stuck in the middle again. Small Favor draws on plot threads from some of the previous novels and sets the table for Turn Coat which follows as book 11. Care is taken to explain plots that carry over from another book, at least briefly, so the book stands on it's own, but read the earlier installments to get the full story.
Jim Butcher seems to have few 'disposable' characters, and they become familliar and develop over the course of several of the books, most involved in over-arching plots that do not detract from the main plot of the novel, but continue to neatly build over time. He does hit the pop-culture references pretty hard in this novel, but that's one of the joys of reading modern fantasy that connects so strongly with it's reader base. I am a RPG playing child of the 80's and can't help but love this series.
This is probably one of the more action packed books, with the billy goats gruff, hobbes,not one but two showdowns with Nicodemus and the Denarians, a non-standard assortment of thugs, the Archive and her Hellhound, the captain of the White Council's Wardens, the Knights of the Cross, the Queen of Air and Darkness, and... a donut. Prithee, with frosting of white, and sprinkles 'pon it.
I came to these books as a fan of the narrator's previous work, and I have not been dissapointed. James Marsters rocks hard as Harry Dresden and the suprising array of character voices he portrays in this series. They come to life in his care and I couldn't imagine anyone else portraying them. The only vocal continuity glitch is the change from the normal "John Marcone" voice of previous installments to the one used for his brief appearances here.
First, an update, since no one who left a review complaining of it has done so: The audio file is intact, not corrupt and contains the full contents of the book. I will assume either there was a download problem, or an issue with the hosted file that has since been corrected.
James Marsters has quickly become my favorite Audible narrator. He nimbly performs a wide cast of characters with many distinct voices, many of which are magical, evil or demons - I wonder how many throat lozenges he goes through a book. This is no dry reading, but a one-man show - mostly spent as Harry Dresden the droll, wise-cracking and sympathetic hero.
The pop culture references sometimes get laid on a little thickly, but they serve to ground Harry in the world as we know it, while he moves equally easily through the fantasy around him.
He is a magical Everyman in a world of intrigue among the heavy hitters of the supernatural world. He is increasingly distrustful of his fellow Wizards, targeted by ticked off vampires, training his new apprentice, worried about his brother the White Court vampire's secretive behavior, while he tries to track down the murderer staging the suicides of local women.
Did I mention the fallen angel in his head trying to corrupt him?
I love these books - There is both lighthearted humor, and darker drama - the characters are never just 'one thing' they all develop into multifaceted personalities and their relationships with Harry keep every book interesting.
With every book Harry seems to pick up a new friend to add to the close knit crew who follow from book to book and add to the depth of the underlying story in the series.
It must be hard - harder than just publishing your book - to publish a book in this format. Not only does the book win or lose due to it's quality, but it has the added complication of being able to fail due to the narrator being unsuitable to the material.
This book, and it's narrator, bring Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden to wry, sarcastic life.
What the book and narrator have, the audio editing could have brought out more. You do hear James Marsters take many a deep breath, and for many of those, it seems to fit into the nature of the character being portrayed. After a while, you understand that better editing would have alleviated the background product of getting long passages of text out.
I had still made the decision to download the next few books in this series by the time I'd reached the middle of the book. I'd checked first to make sure that the narrator was the same, and he is, before doing so.
A bad narrator has often caused me to stop downloading what might have otherwise been an excellent choice. A good narrator, like this one,
has caused me to listen to entire series I might otherwise have gotten in paperback.
I recommend this to fans of mysteries, magic and modern fantasy.
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