Tuesday, June 3, 2014

REVIEW: Skin Game by Jim Butcher

Skin Game (The Dresden Files, #15) Skin Game by Jim Butcher
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Book 15 was enjoyable but it was not one of the best books of the series. I had several issues with the characters.

The Characters

+ Dresden

I'm sick of Dresden's self-reproach. I know it's a personality flaw and it's never leaving because it's book fucking 15 and still no sign of self-esteem growth but I really wish it would. I'm tired of Urban Fantasy protags hating themselves for simply existing.

Secondly, he spent a year in Demonreach and all he learned was parkour. Granted, he did display a few new spells throughout the book, but these ice spells were still the same blunt force type as his fire spells. He should have learned other types of spells, types that would allow him to detect enemies (e.g. heat-seeking sight), summon familiars (e.g. golems or shikigami), make obstacles (e.g. fog or stalagmites), etc. There's more to magic than calling up a buttload of fire and ice to blast at enemies. For fuck sake, learn a healing spell already!

I couldn't believe parkour was all that he learned. Dresden is a piss-poor wizard. I hate how Dresden uses the excuse that he might kill people if he goes all out because of his inner demon. Yeah, right. It's not as if burning enemies to cinders or icing them to shards aren't deadly, which Dresden does with no hesitation and does often.

Dresden had access to Demonreach, an ageless entity of immeasurable knowledge, and he did nothing with it. For someone who believed the Winter Knight job would make him dark and twisted, he didn't research a way out of it. For someone who regularly told the reader Mab is vindictive and merciless, he put more effort into antagonizing the queen faerie than following his common sense.

I still like Dresden but he disappointed me greatly. The only reason he did not anger me as much as he could have was because I was too busy being annoyed with Nicodemus and infuriated with Butters. Plus, there was mpreg, which was hilarious.

+ Nicodemus

I know a villain is a poor excuse for a villain when I could have done better in his place. There were several ways I thought Nicky could have screwed Dresden. For instance, he could have made Dresden, as his oath-bound accomplice, kill Butters under the idea that Dresden needed to put down anyone who threatened the heist. And not just Butters, Nicky could have twisted the oath in a way that would force Dresden to choose between his friends and obeying the oath where Dresden would obviously choose his friends but would then die for his choice.

Nicky regressed severely. Instead of delicious deception, most of his evil acts were all blunt force that is emblematic of a mortal muscle-head. What little deception he did was predictable which totally defeated the purpose of deception.

Finally, sacrificing that one person was the stupidest thing he could have done. He couldn't bring some of his fanatics along and sacrificed one of them? Trust was the only requirement, and the fanatics have immense trust in him. You gotta be if you're going to dedicate your life to a demonic cult and allow your tongue to be severed. It's not the first time his fanatics died for Nicky in a mission.

+ Butters

I can't believe he didn't — at the very least — receive a verbal lashing after that stunt he pulled in the middle of the book, risking everyone's lives. Then, at the end he got rewarded and Murphy is on the out? Noooooooo! WTF is the Christian God is thinking? The dude will barely last a second. The only reason Butters got one over on the bad guy was because of divine intervention so unless the Christian God plans to intervene every time Butters is in a fight, a big fat NO. Worst idea ever.

It was bad enough I was already upset with Butters in the beginning of the book for thinking Dresden was his bitch. HEROES ARE NOT YOUR BITCHES, BUTTERS! They have a life of their own and crap to deal with, especially the perpetually unfortunate Dresden as you very well know. Every time you meet Dresden, you are sewing his insides back inside. And of course, the answer to your question about what he's doing now is paying a debt. DID YOU FUCKING THINK COMING BACK FROM DEATH WAS FREE? No, he doesn't have time to play superhero for the city again!

Good gracious, if Butters wasn't Dresden's go-to doctor, I would have told the dude to fuck off. I half wanted him to die during that stunt. Anyway, I hope poetic justice will be served in future books now that Butters, in his new role as a hero instead of just as a sidekick, will experience the shit Dresden and others go through. Be happy for now with your new metaphorical giant penis, Butters. It's all shitstorm from thereon out.

+ everyone else

Damsels in distress ahoy. It's like no matter how strong the woman is, she still needs Dresden to rescue her. Can the damsels rescue themselves for once? At least Valmont was not as bad as what's-her-name in the last book who was so annoyingly helpless and gloomy to the point where I just wanted her to die as soon as she was introduced.

Ascher wasn't a damsel but I hated how at the end she was treated as one by Dresden. Woman made her life choices just like her partner, Binder, made his choices. I hate how Dresden is pissy towards Binder but not towards Ascher as if both were not similar in many ways. I wish Dresden's bleeding heart quit its sexist tendencies.

Poor Murphy. I love the idea that vanilla humans can be on the same playing field with the mighty supernatural. Damn Butters for taking that idea away from me. Anyway, I hope Murphy goes back to being a cop. I hate how she is unemployed and lacking a future other than being a sidekick for Dresden when he needs her. Yeah, that's a pathetic future. I also don't care for the potential romance between them for all the reasons a character listed in the middle of the book.

It was good to see Michael temporarily in action again. I always thought it was silly how he retired because of his injuries in a world where magic exists and it's possible to come back from death. Seriously, why are healing spells non-existent?

The Worldbuilding

The series wandered in Greek mythology, Hades and his underworld to be specific. It was odd that the reader got to meet Hades, another deity, but still not the Christian God. Instead we meet again one of his lackeys, Archangel Uriel, who made a less than impressive impression. So much for the idea that the enigmatic character knew what was he was doing. Anyway, I wish the series dial down the Christian elements or dial up the other supernatural elements.


I rate Skin Game 3-stars for I like it. I might rate it up a star for re-readability; we'll see. I was disappointed we didn't learn more about the Outsiders and the Black Council. It made only an inch of progress in the story arc. How long is this reckoning going to be delayed? Anyway, the book was enjoyable but it could have easily been better.


  1. Hello there Experiment BL626. I read your review and it certainly did interest me. I can agree with the fact that it seems like a very weak book and not something most people would like. I have to give the author credit however since this is his 15th book. As an author myself, i don't know where else I would run with a book series after fifteen novels. I hope the next one is better however and I hope Dresden develops as a better character later on.

  2. Now, you've never met me before, but hello anyway. Onto business.
    I actually want to possibly point out a few issues I honestly have with your review - and yes, I realize it is months old. Now, I've seen your Goodreads profile. I know that 3 stars means you still generally liked it, and you even say so in your review. However, a few of the points you mentioned in your review as reasons you disliked Skin Game still bother me.

    First of all, the things you specifically mentioned as examples that Dresden could've tried to learn while on Demonreach.
    Summoning familiars is, I suppose, plausible in a way, but I don't believe most creatures you could summon to do your bidding ever really do so without a price. Also, I got the impression you mean summoning during a battle, which, if you remember the process of summoning and bargaining with a creature, would take a ridiculously long time. And if you mean for Harry to discover a way to do that quickly and efficiently, well... I don't see any reason then why it would've ever been forgotten in the first place. If it was banned knowledge for some reason? Dresden should seriously not be messing with the process at all. (And yes, I realize how much he usually gives a damn about silly things like rules, but the point still stands as something he should not be messing with.) Also, based on the Wiki description on shikigami (if this was not your interpretation of the creature, please let me know - I don't like coming to incorrect conclusions c: ), it describes the process to conjure them as a "complex ceremony".
    As for the "making obstacles" example... I'm really not sure what you're going for here. Conjuring illusions? Something he can already do and has been established as something he pretty much sucks at, relatively speaking. Molly even made some illusion-fog cover during that one book (can't remember which). Literally creating it out of ectoplasm? Plausible, but if it was truly effective, you'd think enough wizards would be doing to attract some sort of notice from Harry, and it's not exactly an idea that's hard to think up. Also, it seems like an unnecessary bother, since it would have to involve enough concentration to bring in the ectoplasm and give it the power to remain in a form, and then it would remain useful for a whole of several seconds, depending on what he made, how he used it, and the opponent he was going up against - though with his track record, it probably wouldn't be worth the effort to learn and spruce up anyways. If you were thinking of a different process, please let me know.
    How would the enemy detection work anyway? Honestly. First, because I believe Harry already wished this was possible once in an earlier book (admittedly, it is an earlier book) but had concluded at that time that only the Sight could really work for those purposes, and we know how well that would work out. As for specifically being able to detect heat with your eyes... how would that work? A magical facsimile of those kinds of heat-sensing glands that snakes have (for instance)? I'm honestly curious here if you had anything in mind.
    And for the plausibility of healing spells, they've also been discussed before in an earlier book (I believe Grave Peril?) due to Lea healing his forehead wound after Charity's assault/water-breaking.
    (CONT. next post - too many characters, heh.)

  3. Healing spells are ridiculously complicated and require a lot of delicacy and precision, due to the fact that it would literally mean accelerating many parts of the human body's processes, depending on the wound. Now, don't quote me on this stuff - I would be the first to admit that I am no expert on how the body works at this time. But you would need to get all of the obvious cells (like skin and vessel for flesh wounds) to replicate and bind back together at a much faster rate - which would also mean supplying them with the energy they would've consumed during the normal process all at once, while hoping that the replicated cells didn't end up being flawed because of the forced and unnatural speed. If the wound's more severe, then you might want to give the victim more blood too, but that would also involve getting the bones to produce blood faster and, again, providing all of that required energy. Then there's internal bleeding (I don't believe using a healing spell would also grant the abilities to correctly diagnose every time and be able to see inside the victim's body to know what you're doing), broken bones (which would likely need to be set first), etc. Basically, it's definitely not as easy as saying a word, spending some energy, and bam - you're feeling healed, like you were implying. (And if it was possible, the Council and all wizards in general would've invented it and then used it all the damn time.) Now, there is the Alphas' case, where they heal themselves by "transforming into themselves" again, but it's not even understood or addressed very much. It's presumably due to their shape-shifting skills and therefore restricted only to the people who can shape-shift with no serious repercussions and be able to realize the possibility.
    Yes, with access to an age-old Intellectus, you'd think Dresden would take advantage of him. But remember the time when he was first explained to about how the prison worked. It apparently took a lot of dumbing down for Bob to understand Demonreach, then took even more dumbing down for Harry to get it. He would probably have trouble understanding any more explanations, if he could get the right questions to ask first - which is commonly a problem for Harry, apparently.
    And as for Ascher, it was simply because of a few reasons. First of all, Harry actually liked her before then. They got along, had some nice banter back and forth, even made plans for going out for a meal after all of the shenanigans were over. There was basically a friendship beginning to form, which obviously did not happen with Binder - the two disliked each other from almost since they first met in Turn Coat. And second, Harry had sympathy for Ascher - she had a fallen angel whispering in her ear. Heck, it was even the same one that had planted a proxy in his mind for a few years. He could honestly relate to her rage at her friends-turned-families' deaths, and it didn't help that it was also virtually his own fault for guiding her to where she was now. Sure, she made her own decisions, but that doesn't mean Harry won't feel guilt and sadness at her presumed-death.
    (Also - this is a nit-picky thing - but technically, Dresden was a special case when it comes to the whole "coming back from the dead" point. "They" cheated apparently, so he got a second chance that he didn't even know about until he was already back in the world of the living. I doubt it would happen again unless it was a similar scenario.)

    Other than that, I generally agree with everything else you said. Though, you know, Harry did get that talking-to about that particular trait of his from Michael. It was an amazing scene. Perhaps he'll start growing out of it now.
    This was way too long by the way, sorry. I rambled. If there was anything I said you're bothered by or feel the need to counter or add to, feel free to reply somehow (as long as it's polite, please). c:

  4. Your view of magic is scientific-like, bound to rules, adhering to the laws of nature and whatnot. My view of magic is "the author can make up whatever he pleases as long it is consistent and isn't a deus ex machina."

    By summoning, I was thinking of the Jewish golems from the Kate Daniels novel series and the shikigami from the Kekkaish manga series. The summoned creatures don't have to be sapient. It can be a simple bug designed to detect and distract. By making obstacles, I was thinking of ice spikes, quagmire, and yes, fog. Fog is within Dresden's abilities now that he is the Winter Knight. By enemy detection and healing, I'll again refer to the "the author can make up whatever he pleases as long it isn't a deus ex machina."

    The author allowed Dresden to come back from the dead (a cheat as you put it, your word, not mine, and the word is fitting) and male pregnancy, but healing spells are a no go? Really? And the reasoning behind them is because Dresden is a special case? Sorry, I'm not buying it. Moreover, I find this to be a cognitive dissonance. I'm presented with all these reasons and rules why magic is the way it is, which I do admit are plausible, but when it comes to the protagonist, he's a special case. He's an exception to the rules. Again, not buying it.

    I don't ask Dresden to have the solutions from Demonreach (for now), only that Dresden make some efforts, which he didn't. If Harry can handle Bob and head Lasciel, he can handle Demonreach. It's not Dresden first time's around the rodeo of seeking advice from a guru.

    The fallen angel's brainwashing doesn't excuse Ascher. Before she picked up the coin, she knew that big power doesn't come without a big price and should have known the coin was a bad idea, particularly when it is offered by a major bad guy. Any average Joe knows that Satan = Lucifer = a fallen angel, and thus in general all fallen angels must be avoided. Ascher doesn't have a monopoly on bad childhood. Bad childhood is not a blank check to do bad things. Your knowledge of Ascher's history proves my point. We know a lot about Ascher, more than we know about Binder who have been in the series longer. For all we know, Binder could have a sob story just as sad as Ascher's yet we don't know because Binder's a dude and Dresden prefer to rescue damsels than dudes. It's not that I don't have sympathy for Ascher (I do), it is because I am annoyed with how Dresden can have sympathy for Ascher (and all damsels) immediately yet barely any for Binder (and relatively bad dudes in general).

    Perhaps, but I'm not holding my breath. It wasn't the first time Michael have to comfort Dresden, and goodness knows how many times Dresden's friends have comforted Dresden. It's book 15. The self-esteem growth, among many things, is way past due.


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