The war between the White Council and the Red Court Vampires has been going on for several months. The White Council comes to Chicago for a war meeting. Harry, being the cause of the war, is in danger of being given to the Red Court as a peace offering. Unless he can secure safe passage through the Winter Sidhe lands for Wizard attack forces. Fortunately for Harry, Queen Mab has already contacted him with a job, to find a murderer and recover a stolen item. If he does this for Mab then she will allow the White Council passage through her lands. Otherwise his own kind will turn him over to the blood-sucking monsters.
The funny thing about this series is that while reading it I never acknowledge the fact that it’s a mystery series. Sure I know that there’s a whole “whodunnit” plot going on, but it’s so different from the regular mystery series that I don’t really like reading. The Dresden Files effectively combines two different genres, and comes out on top. While reading Summer Knight I didn’t actively analyze what its genre was, I was too busy enjoying the book. It wasn’t until I sat down to write this review that I thought, “Oh yeah, I guess this was a mystery, wasn’t it?” This is a mark of a good writer, that he’s able to make us forget all about the superficial considerations like genre, and envelope us in the narrative.
Normally I don’t like first person narratives, I see it in YA a lot, and while it works I always considered Third Person Limited as the true viewpoint of adult fiction. In the case of the Dresden Files first person works only because of Harry Dresden. As such a strong, entertaining narrator he provides an extra layer of entertainment to the reading. Jim Butcher realizes how to use the viewpoint properly, focusing entirely on Harry, instead of switching viewpoints, and thereby making a jarring switch from first person to third person limited.
The prose aside, Summer Knight has a strong cast, of either new characters, or characters who have been introduced before, and are making a comeback. After my rant about Susan in the last review, I find it only fitting that now I get to talk about another significant lady in Harry’s life.
Elayne is a big improvement from Susan. She’s portrayed as a coward, hiding from the world under the protection of the Summer Court. She’s essentially the exact opposite of Harry, who is very self sacrificing, while Elayne on the other hand looks out for number one.
The reason she works is because while she looks out for her own interests, she isn’t a traitor, and remembers how important Harry is to her, and even goes against her mistress in order to help Harry. Elayne’s involvement, along with the look into Harry’s life that she brings, is a major driving force for the novel.
I know this is shorter than my bit on Susan, but really that’s because I’m not complaining. I like Elayne, and can only hope that she shows up in later books.
The changelings are an interesting bunch, with some interesting backgrounds that were developed just enough. I know there isn’t much to say really, they were a good addition to the cast, and used effectively in the book, as either an extra mystery, or a pair of interesting side characters. Except for Ace. He was kind of pointless.
I really liked seeing Billy and the Werewolves again. They’re easily my favorite bunch, even if they don’t feature that much in the story. They’re basically a bunch of geeks, and Harry hanging around them brings out his own inner geek. Easily a great group to have in a series aimed at a specific audience. After all, fanservice doesn’t always have to be sexual. Sometimes all you need is a bit of admitted geekery.
Now I’m afraid I need to talk about something I didn’t like quite as much. When describing women Butcher goes overboard, coming across as more of an amateur than he merits. You can only read so much about smooth legs and well shaped breasts before you start wondering how many cold showers it took Butcher to finish this book.
Keep in mind, there is a reason for this. Sexualization of women in pulp fiction, especially the crime noir stories Butcher is emulating, was a common feature. And by emulating this he sets the right kind of tone he’s going for.
Besides, the book is filled with supernatural and regular beauties. Can you blame him?
I absolutely loved this book, and recommend the series all the more to new readers. The last two books were good, this one is even better. After seeing for myself how good these books are, I’m taking my friends’ word that it gets better all the more seriously.
So I dare you to go out and read the books, then come back and tell me in all honesty that I lied to you when I said this series is worth at least one read through.