Mar 30, 2016

[Books] Summer Knight (The Dresden Files - Book 4)

So after my lengthy detour in the alternate history of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, I wanted a bit of a break before returning to fantasy books. But that hiatus didn't last too long as I really wanted to get back to my explorations of the stories of The Dresden Files after having read the first three books. I hadn't realized how long it had been since I had last read one of the books and I was disappointed that (1) it had been like half a year and (2) a friend had managed to find the time to read all the books during that period.

Bad Rocky, bad.

So here we are with Summer Knight, the fourth book in the series and another adventure that involves the faerie world. Now I have to admit that I best came to appreciate the power of faerie after encountering them in Discworld novels like Lords & Ladies. And I know that Discworld novels are written with a very different tone versus the Dresden books, but it truly is my best frame of reference. Both approaches to writing about faerie folk have quite a respect for the old lore and the powers they are said to have.

And man, the resulting adventure is pretty epic in itself.

Synopsis: Summer Knight is the fourth book in Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files series of novels. It was originally published in 2002.

Things haven't been going well for Harry Dresden, Chicago's resident wizard. Ever since the events of Grave Peril, the Red Court of vampires has been pretty much out to get him and he's been juggling trying to find a way to save his sometime girlfriend  from fully turning into a vampire and staying alive despite the Red Court's assassins. To make matters worse, he is visited by a client who later turns out to be Queen Mab of the Winter Court herself. She has purchased Harry's debt from his godmother and is prepared to grant him his freedom for as long as he fulfills three favors, the first of which is to investigate the murder of on Ronald Reuel, who turns out to be the Knight of the Summer Court. He's initially reluctant to make any sort of a deal with the Sidhe, but then the White Council of wizards obligates him to assist the Winter Court or he'll be stripped of his title as a wizard.

This book truly has it all. We have the intricacies of the Faerie realms in the Nevernever and the politics of the Summer and Winter Courts. We have a murder mystery that only magic can get to the bottom of. We have intrigues and complicated plots both in the White Council and the Faerie Courts. And we have a good mess of werewolves, vampire agents and other magical creatures out to make Harry's life a living hell.

Now I was beginning to get a little worried that the books were starting to follow a sort of formula with Harry always being brought to a point of physical exhaustion that later affects his ability to use magic while fighting the bid bad guy. And while Harry had a lot to deal with in this book, the situation didn't quite follow that exact same path of plot development. And things certainly got pretty hairy at the end.

The book had a lot of characters to juggle, especially with some folks from Harry's past coming into the mix. But I never felt overwhelmed with all the names and such since Butcher has a way of breaking down scenes so you only have maybe 3-4 talking heads at most. Bigger sequences like fights and moments of action tend to not have much dialog and focus more on Harry's thinking when he deals with challenges in his way. I envy the seeming ease of his writing. We're reading about Harry dealing with some pretty fantastical stuff and it yet it feels like it's just another afternoon in the city.

I really enjoyed this book. You get a sense that the Dresden universe and the characters in it are really maturing and by this time Butcher has a good idea of what he wants to accomplish and he knows what each of the characters would do given this or that situation. And the fact that the characters are so well-developed and fleshed out is really where the strength of his writing lies.

Summer Knight is a great book that further explores the role of Faerie in this world and also reveals more about Harry's past. The action is great and the the detective piece was very well done and the ending will just blow you away. Thus the book gets a full 5 creatures of faerie out of a possible 5.

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