When I find a series I like, I’ll usually read all the books in a row because I hate knowing there are more books about characters I like. Since The Dresden Files is such a large series (I think there are 13 or 14 books currently out) I’ve had to pace myself a bit, or it would be the only thing I read for three months. Although I’m still behind on my reviews (major projects at work=no motivation to get back on a computer when I get home) and actually have the next three books in the series to review. My statement from the very first book of Jim Butcher’s that I read a few years ago still stands–he writes incredibly addicting, witty books I just can’t put down!

 

Summer Knight: Book Four of the Dresden Files

Summer Knight is the fourth book in the Dresden Files series, which follows professional wizard Harry Dresden as he fights crime in Chicago. Still reeling from his girlfriend becoming half vampire, Harry descends deeper into the magical world in this book by becoming increasingly involved in magical politics and prevents a civil war between the faeries. The book starts with Harry being tried by the White Court for his involvement in starting a war with the vampires, giving us some insight into how Harry was raised and became the strong (if someone confused) man he is today.

Harry lost his parents at a young age (his mother died giving birth, and his dad died when he was a child), but Harry still has a godmother–she just happens to be a faerie godmother who has a powerful hold over him. Harry was taken in by a wizard, who tried to train him in the dark arts. When Harry was forced to kill him, he was put under the custody of another wizard, charged by the White Court to keep Harry safe. This man, Ebenezar, is a delightful southern man who taught Harry the value of hard work and respect for women. Thanks in large part to Ebenezar’s defense of Harry against the White Council, Harry is not stripped of his powers or killed.

Before the trial the Winter Queen, a powerful faerie, approached him with a paying job and the promise of removing his godmother’s hold on him. Even if the task seems impossible, the Court demands he take the case: someone killed the Summer Knight, the champion of the Summer Queen (who just happens to be bitter rivals with the Winter Queen), and despite all the evidence, she wants Harry to prove she’s innocent of murdering him. Like all the magical creatures we’ve met in the Dresden Files so far, the faeries have an entire culture and world of their own–one that is determined to trick, manipulate, and control everyone in their path. And that includes each other.

What I really love about Butcher is the detail he puts into his magical worlds. The faerie court is divided into two factions–Summer and Winter. They each control the faerie world for half the year, exchanging power on the Summer and Winter Solstice; in the spring and fall the controlling side’s power begins to fade, and the murder has occurred in the few days leading up to the Winter Solstice, leaving Summer in a decidedly weaker position during Winter’s reign. The Winter Queen is suspected of murdering the Summer Knight because his death would make it easier for Winter to gain complete control of the faerie realm and not return it come spring. A minor side effect of this war would be the ending of seasons on Earth, destroying the world.

To complicate matters, Harry becomes entangled with a group of halflings–children with one human and one supernatural parent. They can choose which side they want, but it’s a difficult process and their supernatural half becomes more dominant the older they get. The teenagers Harry meets are desperate to find their friend who was kidnapped and is somehow involved in the murder of the Summer Knight, and Harry can’t help but identify with their fierce loyalty. So in addition to solving a murder a stopping a world-ending civil war, Harry has to find a missing girl.

My favorite part about this book is how every situation really brought to light some aspect of Harry’s personality so the reader can better understand him. The relationship between Harry and Ebenezar is the strongest and most loving we’ve seen yet, and Harry thrives under the guidance of this father-figure. The abandoned halfling children speak to Harry’s own miserable youth, and he puts himself in danger to ensure they stay safe because he knows they need all the help he can offer. When the murder case becomes incredibly complicated, he continues to work because he said he would solve the case and he is so determined he won’t stop until he’s dead. By turns Harry is gentle and loving, intelligent and intuitive, and stubborn to a fault.

I wanted to give him a hug and slap him all at the same time. Such a strong reaction to a character is always a sign of great writing, and makes Summer Knight (and the rest of the Dresden Files) a highly recommended read.

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