Saturday, February 3, 2018

The Dresden Files: Summer Knight by Jim Butcher

Hello, and thank you for joining me for this review.

Today I am reviewing the fourth book in Jim Butcher's Dresden Files series, Summer Knight.

Jim Butcher's writing skills continued to improve from Storm Front forward and we see his ability to tell a story remains strong.    Summer Knight is the first book in the series where Butcher utilizes the Faerie courts, and Queen Mab, to facilitate the story.  Rather than seeming like a forced plot hook, Butcher masterfully blends Mab's unexpected appearance into the story with natural pace, creating a compelling story line.

Spoiler Alert:  If you have not yet read the first three books in the series, you need to take a step back and read those before completing this review.  Spoilers are ahead and they are significant. You have been advised!

The story begins in classic Harry Dresden fashion with Harry in desperate need of cash.   Enter a potential client, an alluring woman of unnatural beauty. Harry's suspicions are confirmed during the interview with his new client, and she is revealed as none other than Queen Mab, ruler of the Winter Court of Faerie kind, and a being of incomprehensible power.  Now Harry's past has caught up to him, as his own faerie godmother has sold his debt to her to Queen Mab, and she intends that Harry WILL make good on that debt.  Mab informs Harry that he can repay his debt by completing three tasks.  The first of which being to solve the mystery of who killed the summer knight.

The plot twists intricately and beautifully through this story.  We are introduced to the concept of changelings, people of human and faerie parentage who must choose which world they are to be a part of.  There is a mystery afoot, treachery at play, and what can only be described as an insane plot to destroy the world.  Leverage that with the politics of the vampire war and the White Council tasking Harry to help Mab (or else!) and you see the much abused Harry Dresden placed into one of the most daunting challenges of his career.

My thoughts: 

This book could be twice as long and still be filled with the elements at play it already has.  The story moves quickly through winding paths of conflicting interests.  One of the underlying story elements this novel establishes is that where faeries are concerned you have to make your own choices.  The fay will put you in positions where you don't seem to have much of a choice, the options may be horrible, in order to manipulate into doing what they want. Yet, you always have a choice on whether to play their game or not. 

Mab's offer to Harry, for him to become the winter knight, is an unpolished jewel in the Dresden Files story line.  Mab repays the current winter knight in this novel for his deeds, and throughout the series and leading up to the novel "Changes". Harry Dresden's decision to reject Mab's initial offer haunts the series in many ways.  Butcher manages to build upon the events in Summer Knight masterfully, as Harry's decisions in this book set him upon a path that strengthens him, and eventually puts power into his hands, of a most terrible sort, when he most needs it.

Jim Butcher picks up the pace in the Dresden Files with this tale, as the stakes in each novel hereafter are dire.

Recommended for:  Everyone who has read the first three books, fans of faerie tales, anyone who enjoyed modern fantasy, and aspiring writers who want a good example of how to integrate plot points.

Not recommend for: People who haven't read the first three books of the series.  You really don't appreciate this book if you don't have the backdrop of the series to help you understand some of the underlying tension.  Summer Knight's plot points do rely on existing story material, so read these books in order.

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