Published 2008 437 pages
Summary (from the book jacket)
Harry Dresden's life finally seems to be calming down. The White Council's war with the vampiric Red Court has entered a period of detente, no one's tried to kill him in nearly a year, and the worst problem he's had lately is working out how to remove the stains his apprentice bungled into his carpeting. The future looks fairly promising. Unfortunately, the past isn't nearly as bright.
An old bargain placed Harry in debt to Mab, monarch of the Winter Court of the Sidhe and the Queen of Air and Darkness. Harry still owes the Winter Queen of Faerie two favours, and it's time to pay one of them off. It's a small favour that he really can't refuse, but it will trap Harry between a nightmarish foe and an equally deadly ally, stretching his skills and loyalties to their very limits.
It figures. Everything was going too well to last.
Small Favour (or Small Favor if you are in the USA) is the tenth outing for Chicago’s only professional wizard, Harry Dresden. If you haven’t read any of Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files series before, don’t be temped to start here. Yes, I know that the new hardback edition looks good sitting on the shelf in the book store but trust me when I say that events in this novel follow on from events started in several previous Dresden novels (Death Masks in particular) and if you want to follow this story you really need to have read them first.
In Small Favour the favour that Harry owes Mab, the faery Winter Queen, come back to bite him on the ass. Mab wants Harry to find and rescue Marcone, a human gangster who has been kidnapped by the Denarians. Harry has had many dealings with Marcone in the past and wouldn’t be unhappy for him to be killed but that isn’t the Denarian style – the Denarians are a group Fallen angels whose essence is infused in 30 pieces of silver. (Yes, those biblical pieces of silver.)
The Denarians object is to tempt mortals (or wizards) into taking up a silver coin at which point the Fallen joins with poor sap that has picked up the coin and takes them over to do evil. The thought of a supercharged evil Marcone is almost enough to make Harry decide it would be best to rescue him before he can be converted, but Mab isn’t someone you refuse when she shows up and demands repayment of the favour that you owe her. Not if you want to live anyway….
I think you can see why I suggested that new Dresden Files readers don’t start with this novel - it populated with the heroes and villains of previous stories. This makes Small Favour confusing for new readers, while dedicated Dresden readers may be left wishing that some fresh blood or news ideas had been introduced.
Dedicated readers may also be left wondering when the plot regarding the nebulous Black Council will be kicked off – for the last couple of books now there have been hints and suspicions about a group of wizards and assorted other supernatural beings who are dedicated to doing black magic and evil (rather than white magic and good like the White Council.) Unfortunately there is still no sign of this plot line firming up into an actual storyline which once again leaves the reader with the anticipation that something big is just around the corner and will be revealed in the next book. Then again, I’ve felt that way at the end of the last three books and I’m getting to the point where I wish the author would either get on with the Black Council plotline or forget it (but that could just be me).
If the previous instalment of the Dresden files, White Night, had an overload of vampires Small Favour swings back away from vampires entirely, unless you count a couple of scenes featuring Harry’s half brother Thomas. Instead Small Favour features faeries (including the Billy Goats Gruff who are much scarier than they sound), the Fallen, the Knights of the Cross and the Archive - giving Harry plenty of opportunities to get into both magical and physical fights and get beaten up all over again.
Fast paced, exciting and full of the usual Harry Dresden wit and humour Small Favour shouldn’t fail to satisfy any fantasy fan. Dresden Files fans who have been reading about the sad state of Harry’s love life for the last few years will be pleased to know that Harry finally gets a girl too, but I’m not saying which girl…
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