Wizard and private investigator, Harry Dresden has been out of sorts ever since his girlfriend, Susan, left town after being bitten by a vampire. He's also on the White Council's bad side after starting a war between them and the Red Court of the vampires. Obsessed with finding a cure for Susan, he hasn't worked in months and is about to be evicted from both his apartment and his office. He needs to find a job and fast, but so far, the only client who has approached him is the Winter Queen of Faerie. She has purchased a different sort of debt Harry owes to his fairy godmother and is offering to wipe the slate clean if he fulfills three requests for her. The first is to act as her emissary and clear her name in the murder of the Summer Knight. After his fairy godmother's betrayal, Harry isn't too keen on getting involved with the Fae, but when the White Council insists that he must succeed in his mission in order to gain them passage through Faerie lands for the purpose of waging their war with the vampires, he has little choice in the matter. As his investigation into the Summer Knight's death heats up, Harry finds himself in the middle of some pretty nasty Faerie politics that could get him and his cohorts killed. Not to mention, the fate of the entire human world rests on him finding the killer and bringing them to justice in order to prevent further mayhem from ensuing. It's just another day in the life of a wizard PI.
Summer Knight was a much better read for me than the last book of the Dresden Files series. Even though I was really tired again while reading this one and occasionally dozing off (just like last time:-)), I had no trouble at all following the story. There's lots of action, mystery, intrigue, and plenty of supernatural occurrences. The climactic battle in the Nevernever in the land of Faerie kept me on the edge of my seat. I loved that Jim Butcher finally gave his readers some more insights into Harry's background. I'd been getting really antsy waiting for Harry's character to develop more fully, so this new information was very much appreciated. The author also utilized several secondary characters who were already on the canvas from previous stories, and it was nice to see them again. Most exciting of all was a surprise character from Harry's past who showed up and became an unexpected ally. Everything combined to make Summer Knight a very enjoyable read.
In this installment, Harry is still reeling about nine months after the events of Grave Peril. He's been in a major funk ever since his girlfriend, Susan, left town after being bitten by a vampire. He also feels guilty about what happened to her, thinking it was at least partially his fault. He's been obsessively searching for a cure for her condition, without success, and it's strongly affecting his life. His apartment has turned into a pigsty, and he's about to be evicted from both it and his office. He needs money fast, but the only "job offer" he receives is working as an emissary for one of the faerie queens to clear her of a murder. After being screwed over by his fairy godmother, working for one of the Fae is not an appealing prospect, but when he discovers that his fairy godmother sold his debt to the Queen, he doesn't have much choice. Not to mention, the White Council is breathing down his neck for starting a war with the Red Vampire Court, and if he doesn't succeed in his mission, there could be hell to pay in more ways than one. Harry was definitely in fine form in this story. I've always loved the fact that he isn't an all-powerful wizard. His magical powers do have their limits, but I think this makes both him and the stories more interesting, because it gives him vulnerabilities, which adds conflict to the stories. Sometimes, he simply has to use good old-fashioned ingenuity and/or brute force to get out of sticky situations. However, his powers can also be pretty impressive, and I get the feeling that they may be gradually growing, that there could be a lot of untapped potential in him, which is a good thing for future stories of the series.
Susan may be temporarily (presumably) out of the picture, but there were plenty of other secondary characters to fill in the gap. Harry reconciles his friendship with Karrin Murphy, and we get to learn a little more about her background. She's still struggling emotionally with the supernatural things that happened to her in the previous books, but it seems she's finally forgiven Harry. She ends up being one of the few people Harry feels he can trust completely, and her warrior woman instincts help him out of a life-or-death situation. Billy and his Alphas werewolf pack from Fool Moon return to help Harry with his investigation and the coming battle. Toot-toot, the pixie who was first seen in Storm Front, is back to help Harry, along with his adorable little faerie army. The way Harry can always trick them with food is just too cute. We're introduced to a number of new characters including Ebenezar, Harry second mentor, and several members of the White Council, who I have a feeling will factor prominently in future books. Then there's Mab, the faerie queen who hires Harry. I'm sure we haven't seen the last of her, because Harry still owes her two requests before his debt will be paid in full. There are also a group of half-mortal, half-fae young people who are instrumental players and some of whom will likely have roles in coming books as well. Of course, there's the mysterious character from Harry's past that I mentioned earlier, but I can't say much more about that without giving away a major spoiler. Suffice it to say, I liked this part of the story and hope we'll see more of this person as the series progresses, because I didn't feel like their history had been fully reconciled yet. This is only a fraction of the broad and varied supporting cast, but some of the ones I felt were more memorable.
Overall, I liked Summer Knight, and in the end, I waffled a bit on how to rate it. The ending was just so good, I almost gave it the full five stars, but as I considered a few minor quibbles I'd had throughout, I decided to knock off a half star. The writing needed a few more contractions, because the dialog and/or prose was occasionally a bit stilted without them. There are so many supporting characters, I sometimes found myself forgetting who they were, especially when they appear in an early chapter and then aren't seen for several more. Last but not least, while I did enjoy the book, I can't really say I felt a burning need to get back to it when I had to put it down, at least not until those climactic final chapters. I can't put my finger on exactly why this is, but normally, I only give five stars to those books where I could barely put them down. Other than the couple of minor things I mentioned though, I can't say that there was anything wrong with the story. In fact, I thought it was very well done. It held my interest quite well, and even though I probably never would have guessed the villain (that's not one of my strong suits anyway), once everything came out, it made perfect sense. So, ultimately, Summer Knight was a near-perfect read that has put the series back on track for me, and I'm looking forward to reading more Dresden books in the coming year.
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