I'm not sure when exactly I turned the corner from 'like' to 'love' on this series, but I realized somewhere in the middle of this book that I had, and it's totally going to affect the way I read the rest of the series. I am famous (FAMOUS I TELL YOU!) for my inability to be objective when it comes to books that I love. (Seriously, try me. Say anything bad about Harry Potter at all and I will rage-punch your stupid face in about two seconds.)
The other thing about this review is that I'm quickly coming to realize there's a certain amount of challenge in reviewing books in a series this big (23 books, eventually, 14 of which have been published so far). Unless something goes wrong, or changes significantly, it's hard to keep finding things to say other than I LOVE THIS OH MY GOD. (Or, alternatively, THIS IS SO ANNOYING OH MY GOD.) Maybe I should start taking notes.
So: Small Favor. Queen Mab of the Winter Court of the Sidhe has called in the second of three favors Chicago's only Wizard P.I. (and now Warden of the White Council), Harry Dresden, owes her. She wants Harry to rescue everyone's favorite mobster and sometime associate of monsters, fairies, and wizards, Gentleman Johnny Marcone. This isn't something Harry is much interested in doing, but Mab, er, insists. Almost immediately, other crazy stuff starts happening, so Harry knows it can't be a coincidence. The freaking billy goats gruff (called Gruffs, in a significantly larger and more scary rendition of the classic folk tale) have been set on him, probably by Summer. And last but certainly not least: The Denariians are back in town, and they start causing trouble pretty much immediately. It doesn't take Harry long to tell that all of these events are somehow related, and he blunders through the investigation in his usual way, with his smart ass quips and uncanny instincts, putting himself in constant danger and getting the shit beat out of him every five minutes. All of this of course leads to Harry solving the mystery and then concocting a plan of epically stupid proportions guaranteed to put everyone's life in danger even if it works.
The plot itself is mostly really spot on (it got a little too action heavy in the middle for my tastes), and there's some really satisfying mytholgy/arc stuff that is revealed in this one. Harry finally gets some satisfaction, if you know what I mean. He finally tells someone about Lasciel's shadow (first Murphy, then Michael), and the whole thing comes to a head with Michael and all of them doubting him. Butcher slips in a cool little mindfuck that I won't spoil. I also got the distinct feeling that Butcher is moving us steadily away from rooting for Murphy/Harry as a romantic pair, and that's good (I could also be very wrong about that, but with his life-span and emotional issues, I'm not seeing it ever working out between them). Small Favor was also full of plot points from previous books coming back to bite Harry in the ass. Murphy looks like she might be the one to take possession of the sword that Shiro gave him back in Death Masks. Harry now has two of them, incidentally.This one also sees the return of Kincaid and Ivy, and also brings Luccio into his inner circle (sort of) when she totally wants to bang him.
Like I said, a bit action heavy in the middle, but the end is the perfect combo of both action and emotional resolution. Plus it will never not be funny that in the middle of battle with the eldest Gruff brother, in what reads as a completely absurd moment, Harry finally cashes in the boon Summer gave him back in Summer Knight by asking for a donut with sprinkles on top, and it's the only thing that saves his life. Plus, the way James Marsters reads that line when he asks for the donut, it's even more fucking hilarious.
Some set up for future books: Harry's Wizard Sight is coming in; the island where the battle takes is obviously important in future events; Harry's new ability to wield soulfire (and the introduction of the Watchman, Uriel) is pretty cool; the Black Council's been poaching for both sides, apparently; and Butcher strongly hints that Lucifer is somehow involved. Yeah, that Lucifer. Anyway, I will probably zoom through the rest of this series pretty quickly. I'd been planning to read one book a month, but I'd guess I'll be done by July at this rate, and then I'll have to wait for new Dresden books like the rest of you schlubs.