“Working for Bigfoot” by Jim Butcher (Subterranean Press, 2015)

Jim Butcher, author of the bestselling Dresden Files, released his first short story collection, Side Jobs, in 2010, but he continues to write stories set in the Dresden universe for various anthologies, and it’s probably going to be a while before he releases his next collection. Thankfully, he is releasing his collected bigfoot stories with Subterranean Press.

Working for Bigfoot features the three stories (so far) where Harry Dresden helped out a client he clearly respects, the bigfoot Strength of a River in His Shoulders. In each of the stories, Dresden ends up having to help the bigfoot’s son, Irwin, whose mother is human. So while he looks like a normal person – albeit very big and muscley – as he grows through his teenage years he begins to develop his “abilities” as the son of a bigfoot. Naturally, there are those who can sense the power and ability within him and wish to prey on that. It’s up to Dresden to help keep the kid out of trouble.

The stories are classic Dresden Files, but also about Harry’s growing respect for young Irwin, and the world of magic that is the bigfoot.

Originally written on April 16, 2015 ©Alex C. Telander.

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“Skin Game” by Jim Butcher (Roc, 2014)

Skin Game
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For the fifteenth novel of the Dresden Files, bestselling author Jim Butcher decided to go for the ultimate “What if?” for urban fantasy that fans might’ve thought he would’ve tackled in an earlier book in the series, but as the saying goes: “Better late than never.” Fans of the series will gobble Skin Game up, as they have the whole series, even if Butcher seems not to be that big of a fan of his female characters.

As the winter knight to Queen Mab, Dresden has certain obligations he must fulfill. Mab makes up a solution for Dresden who’s dealing with his big headache problem that he knows will eventually kill him if he doesn’t do anything about it. In exchange for an earring that will minimize the pain he has to grant her a favor. This involves entering into a heist operation with a number of unlikeable characters including a rogue warlock, Hanna Ascher, a shapeshifter named Binder and an old enemy, Anna Valmont. The whole operation is being run by Nicodemus Archeleone. Dresden isn’t happy with any of this by any means, but he knows he is under the honored agreement with Mab and can’t say no, or will have to suffer the consequences. He does at least enlist Karrin Murphy to watch his back and help him however she can.

The plan is to open a way into Hades and steal something from the vault of the devil himself. No biggie, right? In return each member of the group will get millions, as well as their own ability to steal whatever they want from Satan’s vault in hell. Dresden is sure he smells a trap, but he also has his own revenge plans. Ultimately, there will be a lot of double-crossing and even triple-crossing before the book is done, but Butcher clearly had a lot of fun throwing his characters into a heist setup within an urban fantasy universe. As with all Dresden books, there’s plenty of conflict so the reader never gets a chance to grow bored, and unlike some of the other Dresden books, Harry doesn’t get quite as much thrown at him making it seem a little less farfetched.

The failing of the book is in what Butcher does to his female characters. Murphy has an unfortunate accident and is out for most of the book, replaced by the familiar face and sword of Michael Carpenter. As for the other female characters, they either meet untimely ends or get put through the ringer to the extent one wonders if Butcher has something about doing cruel things to his female characters. Nevertheless, Skin Game is a run romp to Hell and back, with Dresden biting off way more than he can chew; fortunately he has the winter mantle to keep his strength up, but that will only last to a point, and it if ever gets taken away, he’ll quickly learn just how human he still is.

Originally written on June 28, 2014 ©Alex C. Telander.

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You might also like . . .

Side Jobs  Cold Days  Ghost Story

“Cold Days” by Jim Butcher (Roc, 2012)

Cold Days

Harry Dresden, wizard for hire, is officially no longer a ghost.  Back from the dead, he’s alive and relatively well, recovering from not being in the land of the living, and everything that happened to him when he was killed.  But he’s not your usual wizard anymore, he’s the Winter Knight and under the rule and thumb of Queen Mab, the Queen of Air and Darkness.  And this is also a Jim Butcher book, so in the blink of an eye, Dresden up you-know-what creek with nothing to paddle with.

When Dresden is finally somewhat back to normal, and enjoying his new superpowers as a Winter Knight, he is charged by Queen Mab with his first assassination, to kill an immortal.  Someone who cannot be killed, the perfect seemingly insurmountable job for Dresden.  He returns back to Chicago to meet up with some old friends and try not to get them too involved, because then they’ll be used against him.  He also travels his his personal, powerful island, Demonreach, though he is more summoned.  It is there he learns the true history and reason for this island located at a nexus of ley lines, and also that things are reaching crisis that could result in the end of Chicago and the surrounding area.  And then there are a bunch of people out there who just want Dresden dead, as usual.

Cold Days is a return to the classic Dresden book, after the interesting and introspective Ghost Story.  At times is seems like Butcher may have put a little too much into this book, as it can leave the reader exhausted in parts, with it feeling just too much at time.  But then this is what fans have come to expect from Dresden and his world.  There are also some hints and references to something much bigger brewing, something that will come to fruition in future Dresden books.  Of course, for now, fans will just have to wait.

Originally written on February 11, 2013 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Cold Days from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“Naked City: Tales of Urban Fantasy” edited by Ellen Datlow (St. Martin’s Griffin, 2011)

Naked City

The subject known as “urban fantasy” has grown to become its very own strong and prominent genre in fantasy, and yet there are still many people who have yet to read an urban fantasy book, or an urban fantasy story for that matter.  And where are said readers supposed to start with the glut of urban fantasy currently out, along with the many more works being published?  An anthology is a good place to start; this particular anthology – Naked City – is a great one.

With so many different authors writing urban fantasy, it’s hard to decide on which one to like and read.  Naked City makes that easy for the reader in offering twenty stories by different authors to get interested in and choose from.  The book kicks off with another great romping ride courtesy of Jim Butcher, and this time Harry Dresden is on the case of the Chicago Cubs curse.  Naomi Novik’s entertaining tale, “Priced to Sell,” is about vampires buying real estate in Manhattan.  Patricia Brigg’s “Fairy Gifts” features a vampire called home to save those who freed him from a curse.  Melissa Marr’s “Guns for the Dead” is the story of a dead man trying to get by in the afterlife, who keeps falling into trouble.

In the introduction, popular and prolific editor Ellen Datlow talks about the important of place in Naked City, with most of the stories featuring an important location as their focus point.  Readers will learn lots about various towns across America in Naked City, as well as some other places not found on any known map.

Originally written on September 21, 2011 ©Alex C. Telander.

CLICK HERE to purchase your copy from Bookshop Santa Cruz and help support BookBanter.

“Ghost Story” by Jim Butcher (Roc, 2011)

Ghost Story

Jim Butcher returns – a little behind schedule – with his thirteenth Dresden Files book, which was pushed back a couple of months as Butcher explains in his introduction because he needed that extra bit of time to make Ghost Story perfect.  We last left Harry Dresden shot and sinking beneath the waters, left for dead in Changes; between then and now a short story collection was published, revealing some great adventures, as well as some very interesting and important story- and plotlines that hadn’t been discussed in the regular novels.  Now fans finally get to find out what exactly happened to Harry . . . if you don’t want to get spoiled, stop reading.

And Harry is pretty much . . . dead, but then that doesn’t really stop Dresden.  He finds himself initially in a sort of between world which is a different form of Chicago, and gets some help from none other than Murphy’s dad, and before he knows it, he’s back in regular Chicago, only he’s a ghost and can’t be his regular old self.  Harry has to think and work differently now, and employs the help of an old friend, the ectomancer Mort, to get by and help him find out just who exactly executed him, as well as to protect his friends.

Unsurprisingly, Harry gets into more problems and fires than he can handle, real fast, but to use magic in his incorporeal state he must use the power of memory.  Butcher uses a great ploy here to give some great back story and history on Harry and his life that readers have been curious about for many books, to make his magic that more powerful.  Harry doesn’t get to be his usual self as a ghost, so he needs to think about what he does, and be creative about it.  Ghost Story is a more mature Harry that has been overdue, as he must now face his reality for what it is without any pretension.  This thirteenth book represents Harry Dresden at his very best, as he must now begin a new chapter in his life, and this definitely shows in Butcher’s writing and storytelling, setting up for a great next book and a whole new world for Harry Dresden, wizard at large.

Originally written on August 15, 2011 ©Alex C. Telander.

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“Side Jobs” by Jim Butcher (Roc, 2010)

Side Jobs

In this collection of short stories from Jim Butcher set within his unforgettable world with his seemingly immortal character of Harry Dresden, fans get some quick fixes after the cliffhanger of Changes, and the never ending wait of Ghost Story, coming April 5th, 2011.  While this collection is not recommended for anyone not familiar with Harry Dresden, new readers can get a short taste of the characters and world that Butcher has created, and will be convinced to start the series from the beginning with Storm Front.  As for longtime readers of the series, they will eat Side Jobs up like the delicious candy that it is (while they wait for that larger sweet payoff), as Butcher takes them on adventures with Harry and his friends and enemies, as well as addressing some important issues that could’ve used more light in the regular books.

The collection begins with “A Restoration of Faith,” the first ever Harry Dresden story written very early in Butcher’s career; in fact it was one of the first short stories he ever wrote, that was never published.  He is to be rewarded for his pride in his character, and admits that the story feels like that of a young, novice writer.  With Side Jobs, Butcher provides a description before each one, as well as revealing where it fits in the timeline of the series.  After the first entertaining and shaky start, readers are taken on a fun, rollercoaster ride with Harry to all places strange and unusual.  Along the way he meets up with Karin Murphy, where things certainly heat up – especially when people get drugged and are not themselves – to insights into McAnally’s and his renowned beverages.  In the final tale –“Aftermath” – the time is just hours after the cataclysmic events of Changes, and while readers will have to wait until Ghost Story for all the answers, this story will at least hold them over until then.  As for what the story entails, Butcher puts it best with: “to quote a great man: ‘Nuff said.”

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Originally written on December 21, 2010 ©Alex C. Telander.