After three books of battling evil wizards, ghosts, vampires and werewolves, Harry Dresden has a brand-new threat to the world on his plate -- warring faeries.
But worry not -- "Summer Knight" does not descend to drooling over benevolent Tolkienian elves or airy Victorian sprites. Instead, Jim Butcher crafts his fourth Dresden Files adventure-fantasy with plenty of solid action, intriguing characters, wizardly backstabbing, and a brewing supernatural war with plenty of unexpected twists and turns. It's clear that Butcher has hit his stride in this book, turning a merely solid urban fantasy series into one of the best.
It's been nine months since Harry's girlfriend was half-vampirized, and he's spent all that time trying to find a cure. Even worse, the White Council wizards are getting their butts kicked by the Red Court. Oh yes, and it's raining frogs.
The Council is hoping to hand him over to the Red Court in hopes of stopping the war, but he just accepted a case from Queen Mab -- find out who killed the Summer Knight, and stole his power. If he can solve the case, then the Council won't have him killed for peace. And as Harry prepares to do some major-league detective work, he finds an old friend is also involved -- Elaine, his first lover whom he thought he had killed as a teenager.
But Elaine isn't the most surprising thing about his new case -- he finds himself dealing with a little gang of half-fey, hostile wyldfae, pizza-loving sprites, and the various Sidhe royalty from the Summer and Winter Courts. And Harry and his friends are assaulted by some of the nastier creatures from the Nevernever, as he comes closer to finding who murdered the Summer Knight -- and who is trying to destabilize the entire world into eternal summer or winter.
Not many authors can handle the whole "faerie" thing. Most of them come across as twee, drippy, absurd, or just longing for an ethereally beautiful Legolas clone. No thank you.
Fortunately Jim Butcher is not one of those authors, and "Summer Knight" is what faerie-oriented urban fantasy should always be. He handles the world of the fey as adroitly as he previously handled werewolves and various kinds of vampires. Even better, he gives us a deeper look into the heretofore shadowy world of the wizards, by taking us straight into the White Council and introducing readers to its colorful -- and sometimes bizarre -- members.
Even better, this is where Butcher's series transformed from a solid fantasy-noir series to a brilliant fantasy-noir series. The seemingly straightforward mystery story blossoms out into a complex weave of conspiracies, lies, subplots and various potential enemies, all of which are neatly tied together at the end. He builds up a sense of suspense all the way to the grand finale, without losing his sense of humor -- it's pretty terrifying and bloodspattered, but Harry still has enough presence of mind to shriek, "I don't believe in faeries!"
Even Butcher's writing has grown more mature, adding in ethereal details and haunting atmosphere, and even a tinge of horror in some of the scenes. But he hasn't lost his knack for wacky humor ("Generous" TootToot and his little pizza-loving army, including the Star Jump, Loo Tender, Corpse Oral...). And it's dotted with some solid action scenes, where Harry gets beaten up by an ogre, and Murphy defends a Wal-mart from a plant fey... with a chainsaw. You gotta love that part.
Oh yes, and Butcher gets extra points for the Tolkien homage -- a kindly old man named Ronald Reuel, who is described as a "creator of worlds of imagination." Gotta love that, especially in a book with elves.
Harry is wracked with guilt and obsession when the story first begins, and the fact that his fellow wizards seem to hate him doesn't help. So it's nice to see him pulling himself out of his little misery hole, and struggling to overcome some of the nastier hands that fate has dealt him with the help of his werewolf and fey friends. Not to mention Murphy, who still has some nasty psychic scars of her own to deal with, and her own unspoken sorrows to overcome, and a gang of outcast half-fey who struggle to decide whether to be human or faerie.
"Summer Knight" is an intricate little mystery that delves into the beautiful, dark world of the fey, which has been ruined by many lesser urban fantasy authors. But Jim Butcher was just hitting his stride with the fourth Dresden Files novel -- and it only gets better after this.
on May 7, 2004
Once again, Jim Butcher has created a novel that carries you along on a roller coaster ride leaving you almost literally panting by the end. Being narrated in first person usually robs a book of suspense, because you know that the main character will survive to tell his story. Butcher knows his stuff, however. Rather than focus on whether or not Harry will make it, he focuses on how. Seeing into the mind of a wizard gives a view of the process of magic that is simply fascinating.
Even the mystery in this book is not your standard fare. It's fairly easy to guess the killer a short way into this book. But that's not important. The key is determining the underlying reasons and power struggles which lead to the murder.
Not an easy thing to do when you're dealing with the Fae.
My personal favorite part of this book has to do with Dresden's interaction with his friend and sometime partner Murphy. I won't say exactly what changes, but let's say that Harry begins to finally realize how silly he's been in his dealings with Murph and he begins to correct the situation. Hurray for character development! :)
All-in-all, a very strong installment in a very strong series.
on May 18, 2012
I found book four of the Dresden Files the best so far. It was explosive and had some pretty cool plot lines with things like old friends coming back into a storyline and people thought to be dead or trusted, proving to not be so. The series just gets better with each book
Also, I think there may have been a few typos, but less so than previous books. There was also a new look and different paper quality to the series starting with book four. Hopefully that means less errors that were missed by editors previously.
I can't get enough of this series and look forward to reading book five next. Definitely a 5/5 book.
on December 19, 2011
It's Jim Butcher. It's Harry Dresden.
Harry continues to mature and stands more alone in this novel than ever before. At times his introspection grows frustrating, as it is the impulsive, emotional Harry that I love so much.
Faced once more with the threat of being vampyre meat, or facing Morgan's sword, Harry continues to be his usual charming, witty self. Harry will not be food for anyone or anything - if he can help it!
on May 17, 2003
The fourth book of Jim Butcher's "Dresden Files" series continues the adventures of Harry Dresden, Wizard for hire. His girlfriend has left town to deal with issues resulting from book three, and Harry is down in the dumbs. Enter Queen Mab, the Sidhe (faerie) Queen of Winter, with a case for Harry: Find out who killed the Summer Knight. Harry becomes the emissary of Winter.
We see the first gathering of the White Council, and learn some of Harry's allies, such as his second mentor, Ebenezer, along with enemies like Morgan and The Merlin. There is also the shadowy Gatekeeper.
With a battle brewing between the White Council of Wizards and the Red Court of vampires, the wizards need safe passage through the Nevernever world of the faeries. However, there is also a struggle between the faeries of Summer and Winter. Harry must solve the murder and power struggle or be handed over to the vampires by the White Council. There's a lot at stake for poor Harry.
Luckily, Dresden has some allies on the Council, and enlists the aid of the young Alphas, the werewolves from book two. He also begins to regain his friendship with Lt. Karrin Murphy of the Chicago police Special Investigations unit. They have a couple key scenes, including one that involves a fight with an ogre, a ghoul and a plant-monster at a WalMart.
Add to all of this the return of Harry's first lover, the wizard Elaine, plus the various faeries, and we get the makings for a bit of intrigue.
As with his other books, the story is well-paced, with plenty of action along with plot development. Harry's use of magic is always interesting, and his humor carries him (and the reader) through some of the darker periods. There is a good balance of levity with shadow. Harry's character continues to develop, and his talk with Lt. Murphy is a major step forward for him. For the other characters, we mostly see them through Harry's viewpoint, but the way they react to him also reflects some development, if only at a minimal level.
Some of the things I bumped on were the way that characters seem to disappear for large chunks of time. Michael Carpenter, Harry's ally from book three, isn't even mentioned this time. Also the identity of the murdered was no big surprise, but here the who is not as important as the why. There are plenty of twists and surprises to keep a reader guessing.
With book five due out soon, I can only wonder what adventures will come Harry's way next. Will he be able to help Susan? What will become of Elaine? The vampires loom at the edge of twilight, but I suspect that Harry Dresden will be ready.
on April 23, 2003
Very very few books that I read in the category of "mind-candy" receive more than 3 stars. Butcher deserved it, and is making me quickly reconsider him as belonging to the mind-candy list at all!
The wait for this one was a tremendously hard one for me. I was lucky enough to receive the "teaser" from Mr. Butcher via E-mail, and then had to wait. Wait. Wait. It hurt.
For a fun read, this series - about the only wizard in the Chicago Yellow Pages - leaves nothing to be desired. But this fourth book turned everything on its edge, and was absolutely fabulous. A haggard Harry is trying to cope with everything that went so terribly wrong in the third book - not limited to, but including a very bad turn in his love life, the starting of a wizards-vs-vampires war (oops), and quite a bit of disfavour among the wizard's council. And then of course, the fae come to collect on Harry's debt, old (and once murderous) love interests show up, and before you know it - Harry's hip deep again in trouble.
As always, it's Harry's character that keeps you going (that and his air-spirit-trapped-in-a-crystal-skull sidekick, the oversexed Bob). Harry is such a wonderful guy to follow that you can't help but feel for him, even as his winning chivalry gets him deeper and deeper into mess. The mystery itself in this one - who killed one of the Fairy Court's Knights? - is just as interesting, and the Fairy culture that Butcher wove together is skillfully plotted.
This was superb, and if you liked Anita Blake, or Tanya Huff's "Keeper" series, you'll love Harry Dresden.
on March 13, 2003
Noire Fantasy is a genre best typified by series like this and Laurel Hamilton's Anita Blake and Merry Gentry novels which blend noire, fantasy and lite police-procedural. The characters in them are modern; they use phones and guns (sometimes), but magic and monsters are very real. In Jim Butcher's series, the main character is a wizard named Harry Dresden, the only representative of his reclusive caste in Chicago. He is alive only at the sufferance of the White Council, the governing body of all wizards, and in this fourth novel, on trial for his life for the second time because of a war with the Red Court, the vampire hierarchy.
Harry is the modern good guy, tough, sincere, well meaning, and human in many of the best ways. Many of his foes walk on the side of the righteous, or perhaps self-righteous, as do many of his enemies. Harry's friends and enemies include vampires and werewolves, fairies and demons, witches and gods. This whole series is a great read with a little bit of everything for those who like this blended sub-genre.
on January 20, 2003
With "Grave Peril" and "Summer Knight", Butcher solidifies his style and achieves an admirable blend of rapid pace, intelligence, tongue-in-cheek suspense, off-the-wall humor, and high adventure. Occasionally a plot element or bit of dialogue falls flat, but for the most part these books are highly enjoyable page turners.
Comparisons to Harry Potter abound, perhaps justifiably. Personally, I find a MUCH stronger resemblance to Harry Harrison's excellent "Stainless Steel Rat" series. Even more so in this volume, because towards the end Harry Dresden manages to pull off a few clever twists a la Jim diGriz, whereas in "Grave Peril" he is mostly riding the ragged edge of disaster.
My only apprehension is that this may be as good as it gets. The "Stainless Steel Rat" series peaked with the fourth installment("...Wants You"), tanked after a couple more, and still refuses to die a dignified death. This series may well follow those footsteps. Nonetheless, as with Harry Potter, I definitely look forward to the next release.
on November 26, 2002
The latest installment of the Dresden Files finds Wizard Harry Dresden in a faerie war between summer and winter, with more than just finding a killer at stake.
The previous book in this series was almost painful to read as Harry tangled with the local vampires to a cost that was almost impossible for him to bear. At the start of this book he is still in deep depression. However, this wallowing doesn't last long, as Harry is confronted with a client (and possible income) that can't be refused.
These books are intelligent and well written, with strong characters that you care about. It is magic set inside the world we know, however the action in this book mostly takes place outside this world in contrast to the other installments so far, which take place in and around 'normal' Chicago.
It will be interesting to see where this character goes in the next book, as all the events in these books are built on each other. They are best read in the correct sequence to get the best out of them and the careful character development that has been built into them.
If you like your fantasy mixed with mystery this is a series you should pick up.
on November 1, 2002
"Summer Knight" by Jim Butcher is the fantastic fourth instalment in the Dresden Files series, and it may just be the best book to date. Butcher has once again created a hugely entertaining mix of genres, blending fantasy, mystery, horror and comedy into one witty and compelling tale. "Summer Knight" is a fun-filled and riveting read that had me turning pages all through the night, and I can't recommend it enough!
"Summer Knight" begins with our hero, Harry Dresden, Chicago's only professional wizard, in a deep depression. He has spent nearly all his time of late down in his sub-basement lab, trying to find a way to reverse what happened to his girlfriend Susan, who he lost to the vampires in the last book, "Grave Peril". Not only is he mourning the loss of the woman he had just discovered he loved, he is also dealing with the guilt of starting a deadly war between the White Council of wizards and the Vampire's Red Court. Attempts on Harry's life come almost daily, and he is barely able to survive them in the sorry state he is in. Harry still has a few friends left in the world, including the Alphas, a group of young adult werewolves who we first met in "Fool Moon", and Lieutenant Karrin Murphy, head of Special Investigations in the Chicago PD.
But Harry's few remaining friends aren't going to be able to save him from his own people. The White Council is coming to Chicago to deal with Harry and the mess he has caused with the Vampires, and they are none to pleased with him. And when you factor in Harry's less stellar past with the White Council, it seems Harry may not have to worry about the bad guys at all. Because unless he can figure out something fast, the White Council is going to get rid of Harry permanently.
Then Mab, the Winter Queen of Faerie, makes Harry a proposition he literally can't refuse. All Harry has to do is find out who murdered the Summer Queen's Knight, retrieve what was stolen from him, and prove that Mab isn't responsible. If Harry can do that, Mab will give the White Council free passage through the land of Winter Faerie in the Nevernever, which would give them a huge edge in their war against the vampires. Harry needs to do this to keep himself from being executed by the White Council, but getting involved in faerie politics is a potentially fatal endeavour. Not that Harry has much of a choice in the matter.
So Harry sets about trying to solve the mystery of the Summer Knight's death, enlisting the help of the Alphas and Murphy whenever possible. But someone definitely doesn't want Harry to figure this out. Attacks on Harry and his allies occur with a frightening regularity. In addition, Harry must speak with the five other Queens of Faerie, each of whom might just murder him on sight! With so many complications, Harry has to pull himself together and think fast, which he does. In "Summer Knight" Harry seems to come into his own, finally taking charge and giving the bad guys a run for their money. And it's darn important that he does so, because the fate of the mortal world depends on Harry solving this mystery and preventing the impending war between Summer and Winter!
"Summer Knight" is action-packed and filled with thrills and excitement. The suspense builds to a gripping final showdown that will have readers tearing through the pages. Harry's wonderful self-depreciating sense of humour and dry wit are present throughout, creating the perfect atmosphere for the story. Butcher has penned an absolutely fabulous tale, with a well-thought-out out plot and characters who readers can't help but be intrigued by. "Summer Knight" is an all-around excellent read, and you'll be sorry if you miss it. I guarantee you'll love Harry Dresden and all his adventures, so buy this book today!