~Please note that there may be spoilers in this review for the previous books in The Dresden Files urban fantasy series.~
Summer Knight by Jim Butcher is the fourth instalment in the author’s adult urban fantasy series, The Dresden Files. In this volume, Harry Dresden is a hot mess in the wake of the tragedy that befell his girlfriend, Susan. While his friends try to get him back on his feet, he’s approached by an incredibly powerful being with the job of hunting down the culprit who killed their vital representative. To makes matters worse, the White Council decides that unless Harry fixes the messes he created, he will be handed over to his enemies in order to uphold peace. So… another typical day in the Dresden office of magical mischief.
After the horrendously atrocious monstrosity that was Grave Peril, I felt pretty hesitant in picking this series back up. What ultimately drove me onwards is my love of some of the side characters. My desire to see what happens to them was strong enough to lure me back to the Muck Side. Thankfully, Summer Knight ended up being a rather pleasant treat all-around, giving me a morsel of hope for this series yet. But just a morsel.
My favourite parts of Summer Knight include Harry’s friends, a blast from Harry’s past, and seeing a more vulnerable side of Murphy, the cop who tends to save Harry’s ass every now and again.
The side characters really do make this series fun. They stem from a variety of different backgrounds and races (i.e.: werewolf and faerie), and their charming personalities help to balance out Harry’s less than appealing misogyny and brutish broodiness. There is one kid who’s a college student that has a tendency of ending up naked a lot (due to what he is) and the way he asks questions and is always ready to fight for his chums is super endearing. Then there’s another lady who is all fucking sass and unexpected bitter quips. She’s terrifying and that unyielding presence works fantastically to put Harry in his place. Plus, strong, badass women are naturally attractive to me.
The blast from Harry’s past was a great surprise. Even better was trying to finagle out which side of the fight they were on. The chemistry they share with Harry is decent but it never overshadowed his feelings or sense of longing for Susan, which I appreciated (Susan is my favourite female character in the series so far). I do like the reminiscences of childhood and the minor flashbacks of them learning magic together. As it stands, we know quite little about Harry’s past, so to read about these exposed experiences and bits of simple childhood and adolescence helps to make Harry more tolerable. It also helps me want to emphasise with him more.
Lastly, there is Murphy. She’s a cop and she has a lot to prove for various reasons. Some of this is discussed in the previous three books. I hated what happened to her in the third book, and it was one of the things that had ticked me off enough to never want to pick up The Dresden Files again. However, in Summer Knight, Murphy starts to find a way out of the trauma of everything that happened. It was interesting to see her depicted as being so emotionally unguarded, but it also works to illustrate that she’s not a hardass merely because of her line of work. It also creates a decent ground for her relationship with Harry to further develop.
Narratively, Summer Knight wasn’t bad. The overarching plot of this specific novel led to some very colourfully fascinating locales and settings. It was fun imagining them in my mind and I bet they’d look great on the LED screen with a decent special effects team (or a bitchin’ awesome animation studio). Some of the descriptions felt overdone for the sake of it, yet I didn’t mind too much because it was an attempt at being unique from what one would expect, and I can respect that. The plot unfolded and reached its climax rather decently as well, it wasn’t too rushed or too slugged, but the last few chapters were dragged out longer than they needed to be. I’ve noticed this is a running routine in Butcher’s books. I’m hoping it will become less so as the series continues onwards.
The misogyny and grotesque objectification of women that made me want to burn Grave Peril to a crisp didn’t really exist here, thank the fucking Seven Hells. There is a small bit of it since Harry is a dumbass, chauvinist at heart, but it didn’t feel like it was written by a thirteen-year-old boy with raging hormones on cocaine. I still question the use of women who are always super, duper attractive and thin with bulging bosoms and erect nipples, however, it adds to the campy nature of the ridiculousness that is The Dresden Files and that helps it bother me less. A tiny bit less.
All in all, Summer Knight is a vast improvement over Grave Peril, which was the worst book I’ve read in years. Possibly ever. This was fun with good humour, good tension and some mild suspense, hefty fantasy action and violence, and entertaining side characters that help Harry to become a better person, slowly. If you like urban fantasy and still want to read more of The Dresden Files after the cat vomit that was Grave Peril, then I’d say you won’t be too disappointed with volume four. RECOMMENDED overall.
Storm Front (The Dresden Files #1) Book Review
Fool Moon (The Dresden Files #2) Book Review
Grave Peril (The Dresden Files #3) Book Review
Publication Date: September 2002
Publisher: Penguin Putnam (0-451-45892-3)
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: The Dresden Files
Page Count: 371
Content Warnings: Fantasy violence and action. Death. Some blood. Sexual content and innuendo. Mild misogyny and sexism. Some strong language. Death of animals. Cautionary advisory for taphephobia.
Availability: In-print; paperback, eBook, and audiobook formats available.