Bane of Kings Reviews the fourth Dresden Files Novel, Summer Knight, by Jim Butcher, published by Orbit in the UK.
”Butcher keeps improving every time he writes. Summer Knight is easily the best Dresden yet, and with writing like that, Dresden and Butcher are here to stay. Enthralling right from the get-go.” ~The Founding Fields
I’m only at book four in the Dresden Files, and I can tell you that what a tale it’s been so far. We’ve had vampires, werewolves, pixies, faerie godmothers, wizards and more, and it’s hard to believe that out of the thirteen books that are currently available for the public, (with one collection of short stories and one that is yet to be released), that we’ve had all of that happen before book four. We’ve been introduced to some figures like the pixie Toot-Toot, who returns once again in this book, and several other characters, new and old alike.
Although if you’re a fan of the Dresden Files then by now you won’t need me to tell you that Summer Knight is excellent, I figured I’d tell you anyway. So then, now that that’s out of the way, let’s get on with the plot.
The war between the Vampire Red Court and the White Council (See Grave Peril, book three), is taking place, and we are introduced to our first real taste of faerie politics, which in my opinion, was much better done than the Vampire politics that we saw in the previous books, and was proved to be much more enjoyable The faerie, otherwise known as the sidhe, are creatures of the fey and have normally equally balanced houses of Summer and Winter, and they remain balanced in order to avoid too much power spreading to one of the houses, otherwise, bad things could happen. Very bad things.
This is why, when the Summer Queen’s right hand man, the Summer Knight, is murdered, The Winter Queen approaches Harry Dresden, Chicago’s only wizarding Private Investigator, who is in a very tough time at the moment, and gives him an offer that he can’t refuse, that is – if he wants to free himself from his faerie godmother, and make his luck increase.
The Winter Queen wants Harry to clear her name from the murder of the Summer Knight, and that seems simple enough, doesn’t it? Until, Harry finds out that the fate of the world rests on his shoulders, and the clock is ticking.
Butcher proves again that he isn’t afraid of putting his main character through dark times, and at the start of Summer Knight, he shows this by continuing on from the scenes at the end of Grave Peril, where Susan (his now ex-girlfriend), rejected Harry’s marriage proposal and left town with a taste for blood, proving that the Dresden Files does progress forwards after all.
Characters change, believe it or not, as Dresden begins to trust Murphy for a change, and there’s a distinct lack of Johnny Marcone in this novel as well, although perhaps, that’s a bit too much to ask for, I guess – especially with the excellent faerie politics that Butcher has created for us here.
We also learn more about Harry’s past, how he came to be mentored by Ebenezer McCoy, and a mysterious character that he thought was dead is back, with even more enigmatic intentions.
The pacing, like any Dresden novel, is fast and drags you in, not letting you go until the final page where you are left blown away. It’s well-written, and Butcher shows that each novel is a step-up from the last one, which makes me wonder, how can Death Masks be any better than this?
I can tell you that I’m going into that book with high expectations. I probably shouldn’t, but hey, it’s Butcher we’re talking about here, and he never ceases to amaze me, especially with a particular scene in a Wal-Mart involving a giant tree-monster. No, seriously.
There are quite a few new additions to the cast as well, and first of all, we look at the ones who aren’t actually new at all. Billy and the Alphas, a group of not-quite Werewolves, who we met in Fool Moon, are more heavily involved in this novel and we get to know them more. A nice touch to them was the fact that after an adventure, they’d go home, have pizza and play RPGs. Another band of characters, who this time are new, are the teenagers Lily, Fix, Meryl and Ace, who are also quite interesting and become quite prominent characters as the story progress.
The humour’s still there and that doesn’t detract from the storyline and if anything, makes it more enjoyable. And, if you’ve come to get tired of the frequent use of the words, “Hell’s Bells”, then don’t worry, there’s less of that in this novel as well.
The action’s well-written, but if you’re a Dresden fan you’ll know that by now, and truth be told, I found very little flaws to this novel other than the fact, well – I knew that Harry was going to live, otherwise there wouldn’t be a book five, would there? You see, I really need to get ahold of these series earlier.
It’s a shame that I’d miss the awesome new-ish cover art from Orbit though, but regardless, The Dresden Files, are still some of the best Urban Fantasy on the market today. (I’d like to point out that the only other Urban Fantasy books I’ve read are Redlaw by James Lovegrove, and to a lesser extent, the Harry Potter novels which don’t really count, I guess. As entertaining as they were though, they don’t stand up to the brilliance that Butcher delivers. Call it bias, but I still think that Dresden easily beats Potter.)
More Dresden Files: Storm Front, Fool Moon, Grave Peril, Summer Knight, Death Masks, Blood Rites, Dead Beat, Proven Guilty, White Night, Small Favour, Turn Coat, Changes, Ghost Story, Cold Days (TBA), Side Jobs (Short Story Collection)
More Jim Butcher: Furies of Calderon, Academ’s Fury, Cursor’s Fury, Captain’s Fury, Princep’s Fury, First Lord’s Fury.
Bane of Kings is one our most senior book reviewers here at The Founding Fields, based in England. He’s a prolific reviewer that has contributed to many things here and around the internet.