Book Review: “Summer Knight” by Jim Butcher

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Summer Knight
by Jim Butcher

By this fourth book of The Dresden Files, Chicago-based wizard/detective Harry Dresden has faced rogue sorcerers, vampires, werewolves, and restless ghosts, and he has survived. But he has not come away unhurt. The woman he loves has been bitten by a vampire, and is hiding somewhere — hiding from him while he tries to find a cure for her. And his actions in the previous book, Grave Peril, have triggered a war between the Red Court of the vampires and the White Council of wizards. Between his obsessive search for a cure for Susan and frequent attempts on his life, Dresden hasn’’t gotten out much lately. His business is failing, he is about to be evicted from his office and his apartment, he looks and smells like death warmed over, and he’’s in lots and lots of pain.

And then things start to get bad.

The first sign that all is not right with the world is a rain of frogs. Then a ghoul –– don’’t expect me to describe it; you’’ll just have to find out for yourself –– tries to assassinate Dresden. Then the Queen of the Winter Faeries shows up with an offer he can’’t refuse (literally) and hires him to investigate a murder which the human cops think was an accident, while everyone in the Faerie world thinks the Winter Queen did it.

Then the White Council of wizards comes to town and debates throwing Dresden to the vampires, to stave off another brewing war. By an eyelash’’s breadth, Dresden wins a second chance, a trial for his life: solve the Winter Queen’’s problem or die. And THEN, who of all people should show up but Dresden’’s first girlfriend, presumed dead, last seen trying to kill him, now working for the Summer Court, and asking for Dresden’’s help! And THEN a group of half-faerie, half-human weirdos hires Dresden to find their missing friend, whose disappearance may be connected with all this. And by this point, he needs money too badly to refuse.

For a resourceful wizard detective, this may not seem like much to ask. But Dresden soon realizes he is in way over his head, dealing with forces much larger than himself. And all he has on his side is an emotionally scarred cop, a gang of do-gooder youths who can shape-change into wolves, and a mysterious edge –– so mysterious, even he doesn’’t know what it is –– but whatever it is, someone wants him dead because of it.

More than ever before, Harry Dresden is at the center of a huge, complex mystery full of unusual characters with competing interests, dangers on all sides, and just enough “adult” and “occult” content to advise concerned parents about it. There are pizza-loving pixies, ogres, trolls, a vicious unicorn, a centaur, a werewolf junior justice league, and other creatures, many of them quite alarming. There are also sociopaths, traitors, scary faeries, a huge and bloody battle, a meeting full of political danger, and terrifying scenes of destruction at a Wal-Mart Supercenter. It may be worth trying the book just to imagine scenes of magical mayhem in such a mundane place; but I’’ll guess that if you come for the Wal-Mart scene, you’’ll be hooked for the whole exciting, funny, scary ride.