Summer Knight (Dresden #4), by Jim Butcher

“Well, wizard?” Mab asked. “Have we a bargain?”
“All right,” I said. “We have a bargain.” When I said the words, a little frisson prickled over the nape of my neck, down the length of my spine.

  • TITLE: Summer Knight (The Dresden Files #4)
  • AUTHOR: Jim Butcher
  • PUBLICATION DATE: 3rd September 2002
  • PUBLISHER: Orbit (UK)

I’ll start by saying that I was a Harry Dresden fan before I read Summer Knight: now I am a Harry Dresden fanboy. There is a difference, by the way. Summer Knight tipped the scales for me, taking the Dresden Files from “great” to “awesome”, with its tight infallible plot, vast vision, and far-reaching scope—not to mention, the faeries.

Dealing with the Sidhe Courts of Summer and Winter, Dresden faces his toughest case yet, hired by his toughest client yet—the Winter Queen, Mab. In exchange for something Harry can’t refuse—hell, if he did, the Council and just about everyone else whose shit list he’s on might have words about it—Mab presents a simple enough case for Dresden to solve. After all, how hard can another little homicide case be?

Worlds harder, actually. Especially with the White Council at his throat, the Red Court baying for blood more fervently than they usually do, and with random hits going down left, right and centre. In fact, Harry’s got his work cut out for him in this one, and he’s going to need help. Luckily, help and friendship are commodities Harry has in abundance for once: Murphy seems to trust him again, not everyone on the Council wants to parcel him off to the Red Court, and hey, whilst he might not have taken them seriously before, the Alphas amount to a whole lot of wolf—and who’s Harry to say claws, teeth and snarling doesn’t come in handy when facing off against supernatural nasties?

That said, Harry would need to actually get over the events of Grave Peril and get over the absent Susan to really be able to accept the benefits of all the above. Harry’s taken a one-way ticket to Mopeville, via Despairstown, and he seems unlikely to hitch a ride back. But this is Harry Dresden we’re talking about, and whilst his initial moping is infuriating to the point you want to reach into the book and whack him about his greasy-haired noggin, he pulls himself together when more than just his own life hangs in the balance, because that’s just how our caring, sharing, neighbourhood wizard rolls.

Much in the same way that Grave Peril allowed us to glimpse farther into Butcher’s idea of the supernatural, Summer Knight does much the same, but to an even greater extent than before—Harry’s client is a faerie and his case revolves around faerie power—and with far, far greater detail than we’ve seen up until this point.

Summer Knight revolves entirely around the supernatural: the Sidhe and the Red Court vampires call the shots, whilst the White Council makes an appearance properly for the first time, as up until now, they’ve merely been mentioned and represented (usually by the Warden, Morgan). As such, we get a deeper view into Harry’s life. The supernatural, being a wizard—these are aspects of Harry’s being that make him precisely who he is, and although he is in part the same old Dresden, the difference (the pressure, perhaps?) shows.

That the supporting cast is expanded to truly involve the Alphas as well as an ensemble of mysterious teenagers—Meryl, Ace, Fix and Lily—is to say that Butcher’s characters are getting stronger and better and all the more likeable for their increase in numbers. Dresden books are no longer 300+ pages of Harry playing at the wizard equivalent of the Lone Ranger. Harry has allies, friends, and it’s bloody fantastic.

The plot is tight, the humour as present as ever, and the intrigue always there, making Summer Knight a success right off the bat. Only a chapter into the book and I knew it was going to be my favourite; something about it seemed a little different to the previous books, and it seemed better.

Summer Knight is everything an urban fantasy novel should be: it’s funny, quirky, has excellent characters, and devastatingly fast action. Quite frankly, the Dresden Files are the best urban fantasy series you’ll read. They simply are mind-bogglingly excellent.

5/5

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