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Small Favor (Dresden Files) Review

Posted on February 4, 2008 by Flames

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Written by Jim Butcher

Sometimes, as an author, you might have it in your head that you’re going to write a very long story. Instead of writing an “epic novel” in one book, you break it up into smaller pieces so that when the end is in sight, the pieces fall together neatly like a stack of dominoes. Small Favor was, to me, one of the dominoes of the over-arching plot. While it tied up a lot of previous plots, it also opened the door to a host of questions for Thomas, Murphy, Michael and, of course, Dresden.

Plot with ***SPOILERS***

If you remember from a previous book in the series, Harry Dresden is obligated to perform two more favors in exchange for help from Queen Mab; a wholly insane, frigid, and other-worldly beautiful version of what fairy aficionados know as “The Morrighan” in other tales. In the Dresden-verse this fairy Queen occupies the Winter Court and usually plays by her own rules and in Small Favor, Mab asks him to do something she thinks will help himself – become her Emissary and find a kidnapped Johnny Marcone.

True to the duality rampant within the Dresden-verse, the Summer Court moves in sync with Mab’s request, sending fairy-tale gruffs (half-goat/half-man) to kill Harry. Even though he tries to be sarcastic, Mab has the winning line:

“Mortal brute. Whatever your past, whatever your future, know this: I am Mab, and I keep my bargains. Question my given word again, ape, and I will finish freezing the water in your eyes.”

Like the other books within this series, Small Favor is full of conflict between Harry and his world around him. Most of the characters you’ve read about throughout the series make an appearance; Kincaid, Ivy, Johnny Marcone, The Denarians, Michael and the entire family, Thomas, Murphy, Bob, and Luccio.

***SPOILER*** Of course, you should know that the Denarians are after more than just Harry, think about what they could do with the entire, living memory of human existence.***SPOILER***

Even with the multiple plotlines simultaneous twisting in and out of each other, you get a sense of deepened character backstories and possibilities. What if Thomas became the Winter Knight? What if Murphy became a servant of faith like Michael? What if Mab knew who had attacked her Court and she was merely using Dresden to enact her revenge?

I’m happy to say that the book leaves off with more answers than questions, even though the off-screen war between the vampire clans remains in a period of stasis. For you see, once you get to the final chapter, you’ll realize that the culmination of this series will not just be about a vampiric war – the plot arc will be much, much, bigger than that.


Whether you have read a single book of The Dresden Files or not, Small Favor was written with the first-time reader in mind. I feel that this is a book that will be better appreciated by someone who has followed the series, because of the integral parts each character plays in Small Favor.

My only criticism is this: the war between the vampire court(s) and the Wizard’s Council remains so far off-screen, that it’s hard to really understand the Council’s inner-workings and the scope and scale of what’s going on. As a reader, I’m no longer emotionally-attached to the idea of a governing Council, because at this point, most of them have been wiped out. I’m sure, though, that Butcher will pick up the threads once again, as he has done in this novel, to literally pack a punch when you read it.

Highly enjoyable and slightly pulp, Small Favor is a fine addition to the Dresden-verse and is for me, as I like to call it, “brain candy.”

Review by Monica Valentinelli

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2 Responses to “Small Favor (Dresden Files) Review”

  1. Quent says:

    I think Jim Butcher missed the mark with this book. Reading it, I had the feeling he put it together because he had to write another ‘Dresden’ novel.

    In a previous book, ‘Dead Beat’, Dresden is forced to become a Warden because the Red Court vampires are so out of control that they violated the territory of both Faerie Courts and brought in demons from Outside.

    Hundreds of Wardens have died in the fighting, and only five are able to show up for the battle against the necromancers in Chicago. The White Council itself is tottering, and the Faerie Courts themselves will soon enter the struggle. The Red Court vampires have so violated the otherworld norms of conduct that the battle will be to the death, no quarter asked or given.

    All of a sudden the urgency disappears and everything is just rocking along. The Summer Queen then decides, for reasons which are not well explained, to go after Dresden with her Gruff enforcers.

    All of these seems very contrived, simply for the purpose of generating another book.

    I hope Mr. Butcher gets back on track, because, overall, the Dresden Files series is excellent.

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