“Skin Game” Review

skin game

I’ve finally made it! After nearly a year of reading the Dresden series, I just finished the latest book, “Skin Game.” Now, just like every fan out there, I get to wait for the next installment (whenever that’ll be). Before I get into the plot, I’d just like to say thanks to anyone who’s been reading these posts. It’s been a fun series to explore and it’ll be interesting to see where it goes next. All that said, let’s get into the meat of “Skin Game.”

Harry gets roped into a heist scheme involving Nicodemus, leader of the Denarians, and a ragtag group of professional thieves both old and new. Despite his reluctance, he’s forced to go along with them or face punishment by Mab. But this heist is far from ordinary and will take Harry to the depths of the Underworld itself. Will he make it out in one piece and prevent Nicodemus from causing major trouble, or has Harry gotten in over his head?

I’ve said in the past that Nicodemus and the Denarians in general are my favorite baddies in the Dresden-verse. I can honestly say that this is possibly my favorite book involving them to date. Wrapping them into a heist plot also made for a fun time, as I’ve always enjoyed a good heist now and then. However, this does have at least one downside to it, which I’ll get to later. I WILL say that the pacing was a bit…slow for me for a while. I partially blame it on trying to start the book after coming off of being sick as well as how distracted I get when I’m visiting my fiance. But a lot of it also stems from the downside I hinted at.

I liked that many familiar faces return in this and get either development or at least some cool things to do. Characters like Michael and Karrin get in on the action and their relationships with Harry give off the warm fuzzies. There’s a chapter consisting of mostly dialogue between Harry and Michael that was easily one of the best moments in the entire series. It emphasized why a character like Michael is needed to balance out Harry. I also liked Grey, one of the hired “thieves” for the heist. He was interesting both in personality and in having shape-shifting abilities, and of course plays a crucial part in the book’s climax that I won’t spoil. The only characters I took issue with were Butters and Hannah, another thief. Through most of the book (barring the ending), Butters acts a bit like a vigilante and comes across annoying in his actions. I got where he was coming from and why he was doing the things he did, but it was pretty clear that he was being more of a detriment than a help. As for Hannah, I liked her…at first. She’s one of those “spunky” female characters who is tough but also doesn’t mind flirting with her male counterparts. For the majority of the book, I was interested in the little tidbits that popped up about her. But by the third act, I was tired of her “flirty, action heroine” shtick. It came off a little obnoxious, though this was luckily addressed by the climax.

Finally, we come to one of my biggest issues with the book: the first half. The book is exactly 600 pages long, and for over half of that, it spends over 350 pages planning out the heist. Now, I know part of the fun of a heist is the thought that goes into it, but in book form, it felt like it took forever to get to the plan’s execution. Thankfully, there are character moments (like the Michael one I mentioned, for example) that break up the planning bits, but by the 300-page mark, I was anxious to get to the action already. The second half WAS definitely worth it, though, and the little twists and turns that popped up before, during, and after the climax kept me fully invested. I just wish it had kicked in just a tad sooner.

Overall, “Skin Game” was a good if not great book. Bringing back Nicodemus and the Denarians was a welcome return, and the plot centering around a heist was a neat departure from the other Dresden stories. There were great strides made with a few characters (major AND minor), and Harry even gets a few moments in himself. I’m happy to finally be caught up and know the ins and outs of the series thus far. Maybe now I can keep my assurance to James Marsters and try the audio books while I wait for #16 to be released.

Wizard World Comic Con Awesomeness

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Well, I was planning to wait on blogging about Wizard World Comic Con till after this weekend, but these past two days were all me and my fiance needed to get the full experience. While the convention is the smallest of the two official ones I’ve attended, it was still very fun and a great experience.

The convention kicked off badly for us yesterday, however, because it turned out that the convention center it was located in was past the Port Authority in Fort Lauderdale. For anyone who’s never gone on a cruise before, they’re in charge of checking your cruise documents and photo ID before letting you enter the docks. After making the hour-long drive up from Miami, we learned this only once we reached the port and had to make the trip back to grab my ID, which we hadn’t known we needed. It was a frustrating start and neither of us were pleased that the convention didn’t list that info directly on their website. Thankfully, once we got back and made it to the center, we had four hours of fun ahead of us.

Since much of our time had been wasted driving, we decided to browse the merchandise stands and artist alley for possible commissions/purchases. My fiance and I found an artist we met during this year’s Megacon and he got a great voodoo priest commission of himself. We found plenty of artists worth revisiting for today, as well as a couple hard sellers that talked our ears off. But the biggest highlight, besides the laidback atmosphere and not-at-all huge crowd was our photo op with James Marsters aka Spike from “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” (and MANY other things). As with all photo ops, the moment only lasted a short while, but he enjoyed my Buffy-themed shirt and even gave me a warm “You’re welcome” as I thanked him before leaving. My fiance and I left with photo in hand and feeling extremely glad that the day turned around after the fiasco that kicked it off.

But today was the big con day for us, and while we didn’t stay till closing time, we had a blast. My usual “tradition” at conventions now is to snap pics of cool stuff and awesome cosplayers while we’re walking the floor, and I got a good amount of them at this one as well. We tried to be wise about spending our money and went for only the artwork that we desperately wanted, with my fiance going for many Halloween-themed pieces to celebrate the season and myself choosing fandom-based stuff (including a great pixel bead piece of Paper Mario AND artwork by the guitarist of the band Good Charlotte). We met many cool fans throughout the day and even became chummy with a few artists that we both hope we’ll see in future conventions.

AGAIN, though, the highlight of the entire day was anything and everything to do with James Marsters. Having decided to get his autograph by having him sign his self-written comic, “Spike: Into The Light,” we got in line at his table shortly after 11:30. While there, we talked with a few fellow “Buffy” fans, and we had the pleasure of watching James interact with two women ahead of us we’d spoken to. One of them asked him to recite a speech Spike gives Buffy in Season 7, and as he did, he held her hand the entire time. She was crying tears of joy and it was just adorable to watch. The next woman had a beautiful “Beauty and the Beast” tattoo on her arm that James was quick to ask about. Finally, it was our turn, and I was more excited than nervous when we approached him and shook his hand. We soon got into a conversation involving “Lilo & Stitch” (thanks to the shirt I was wearing – he just loved my shirts!), books/audio books (such as the Dresden series), Canada (which he admitted he’d love to live in), Amber Benson and her directing capabilities during “Chance,” and, to top it all off, he did a hilarious little bit for us in Spike’s accent. He gave us lots of his time without making us feel bad for it, kept eye contact (such pretty eyes!) at every turn, and had us both invested in everything he had to say. Once we’d stepped far enough away, we were both jumping and squeeing at how awesome and friendly he was.

But that wasn’t the end of our time with James. After 2:30, he hosted a Q&A panel where fans asked him various questions about shows he’s been on and his favorite episodes on them, sang a good chunk of a “Ghost of the Robot” (his band) song which was in-freakin’-credible, and even pulled out the Spike accent once more while talking about voice work. The whole time, he was very attentive to both the person asking their question(s) and the audience, and he was very engaging to listen to and watch. He even indulged in some major gamer geekiness at the end when a boy asked him where the game room was (James quote, paraphrased: “There’s a game room?! Where’s the game room?! Oculus Rift! Oculus Rift! Oculus Rift!”). It was one of the best panels I’ve ever been to and it flew by way too fast.

So, while Wizard World Comic Con at Fort Lauderdale was a much smaller outing than Megacon, it still gave me an experience I’ll never, ever, EVER forget. The moments I had involving James were a life-long dream come true and I’m proud to say I finally got to meet a man I both admire and consider my biggest celebrity crush of all time (my fiance even mentioned this to him and it earned me a hearty high-five). And even though my Florida trip is far from over, I feel I can safely say that this convention will be in my top highlights of it.

Me, Richard & Spike!!!