By Jim Butcher (Official Webpage)
Buy it here: Small Favor
Almost a direct sequel to the events in Death Masks, Small Favor brings back all the favorite characters from that book and a few more, and adds a much-needed emotional twist: people close to Harry aren't so lucky this time around in terms of consequences. Probably the strongest book yet, Small Favor is a perfectly paced, non-stop thrill ride.
I was actually stuck on this book for quite some time, though it was no fault of Jim Butcher's. See, this book (as well as Turn Coat and Changes) I could only find in hardcover, and hardcovers are harder to take from place to place (such as school). So, while before I'd go Dresden happy at every possible instance, with Small Favor I had to slow down the pace.
Another reason is this book starts a little slower than the others. While most start with a crazy bang, Small Favor eases you into it. This meant it had lots of stopping places, which I would take to play Xbox, write, or do whatever. Once I got about 1/3-1/2 way through, however, I didn't stop for anything, staying up until 3 in the morning trying to finish it (a trend that continued for the next two books; more on that later).
The beginning premise (or the "Small Favor") is that Mab, Winter Queen of the Fairies who may or may not be going crazy, still has Dresden in her debt until he does two more favors for her. As is expected, this story is about Mab calling on Dresden to perform a task, a task that involves rescuing somebody Dresden really doesn't want to rescue. Add that the Summer court keeps sending these demon gruff goatbeasts at Dresden, and he's in for a ride.
Got that? Good. Because that takes a backseat, no, it is hardly even existant once the real plot kicks in.
Nicodemus, the sinister fallen angel from Death Masks is back, and with his group. They tried to taint Harry by throwing one of the thirty pieces of silver at him before (and he touched it, which has caused a considerable amount of inner conflict for Harry the books since), and now they want to do it with some of Harry's friends instead. Add that they are extremely powerful and pure evil (in books that so push the idea of "gray" rather than "black and white," Butcher makes no qualms in saying the fallen angels are the literal definition of "evil" in the truest sense), and you have one hell of a fight.
Luckily, old allies return. The Knights of the Cross, now down to Michael and Sanya, go out to kick some major demon butt. Cue the return of the Archive, her crazy bodyguard Kincaid, Murphy, Molly, and the whole band, and you have quite the story.
As stated, it feels like a sequel to Death Masks directly, because nearly every character (minus Susan) from that book makes a return. As I said before, this causes Dresden's favor to Mab to fall into the back, but since the goals are interconnected it works out for him. I, as a reader, just totally forgot that he was on that job, anyway, as he seemed to be stuck doing his own thing.
I really liked this book, especially for the ending. In some of the earlier books, as it got near the end the chaos was overwhelming. I was never completely blown away to the point of confusion, but it would often take a few times for me to exactly know what was going on. Small Favor, despite being as grandiose as any of the previous books (it is one of the "Dresden saves the world" ones), doesn't fall into the confusion trap. The ending is well explained and well paced, and all the twists work.
There is one thing that bothered me (minor spoiler, maybe). At the end, one of the main characters suffers an extremely serious injury. This is probably the first time in the series we've seen someone this close to Harry get hurt this badly. However, while it is generally stated "yeah, s/he'll be ok," it is never actually said until Changes, which is the book after the next one. I was on freaking pins and needles wondering what happened to this guy/gal, and Butcher left me hanging for a whole freaking book! Come on, dude! This is killing me!
Either way, this was a fantastic novel. I think I'm dividing my favoritism of the Dresden Books into two groups (because, truthfully, there are two types of Dresden novels). The first is the "Dresden saves the world and all hell breaks loose" variety. Then we have the "Dresden is fighting to save somebody important" version. Because both book types are so different (the first runs like a Michael Bay film, only with actual plot; while the former tends to be calmer but have a stronger emotional punch), it is hard to judge between the two.
Anyway, Butcher is only getting better, and because of my investment in this series I enjoyed this book a lot more, yadda yadda. If you haven't read these books yet, you'd better get to your library right now, or I will personally hurt you.