Warning: slight spoilers for Grave Peril (The Dresden Files #3)
Summer Knight is the fourth entry in Jim Butcher’s bestselling urban fantasy series, The Dresden Files. Summer Knight holds a special place in most fans’ hearts because it greatly expands the scope of the world. Prior to Summer Knight, the scope of the events was reserved, but this does not hold anymore. Every action that the protagonists now take has far-reaching consequences.
Harry Dresden has dealt with an assortment of Chicago’s darker elements, but he has yet to take on a case of such cosmic importance. The Summer Knight has been murdered, and his death has thrown the fairy world into disarray. Mab, queen of the Winter Court, is seen as the likely murder suspect since the Summer Knight’s death gives her court a competitive edge. To absolve herself of the crimes, Mab enlists Harry to track down the killer. To make matters worse, Harry has the White Council, the court of wizards, breathing down his neck for starting a war with the vampires. In the midst of all the murder and politicking, a ghost from Harry’s past shows up and he cannot figure out why.
Wizards have political gridlock, too
Harry is summoned to the White Council to explain his role in starting the war with the vampires. This run-in with the White Council serves as a perfect time for Butcher to allow the readers to see the inner workers of the Council, and he does not disappoint. The first thing that will catch the reader’s eye is that the White Council meetings do not take place in some sort of ancient castle, but rather in a symposium in Downtown Chicago. The second (and arguably the more interesting) thing to note is the strife between the common (I know, ironic) wizards and the senior council. The majority of the wizards are amicable to Harry’s reasoning for beginning the war with the vampires, but the top wizards seem less compliant with Harry’s plea. This creates an interesting paradox in which Harry has use to quite a bit of intelligence to wiggle out of the political quagmire he is in. I will not drone on about the White Council, but it is truly a breath of fresh air to have a conflict ruled by wit rather than physical confrontations. Who would have thought that Harry could do the political jig?
The party crashers
Although most of the war is fought between the White Council and the Vampire Courts, it is important to remember the third party, the fairies. It is sometimes easy to forget how powerful the fairies are when they are scarfing up pizza, but first impressions rarely give a full picture. Butcher sowed hints of how powerful the fairies actually are by their ability to move throughout the Nevernever. And who could forget Harry’s fairy godmother, Leanansidhe, whose power sent shivers down Harry’s spine? Summer Knight lifts the floodgates and lets the reader peer into what lays behind, and it is quite a stirring peek. Yes, Leanansidhe is powerful, but nowhere as powerful as the leaders of the Winter Court and the Summer Court.
A world in ruin
The scope of The Dresden Files has been pretty limited until now. Most of the cases that Harry had to deal with only involved Chicago, and did not have widespread consequences. This gripe can be buried now, because in Summer Knight, Harry’s actions will determine the fate of the world. At first, this enlarged scope seems antithetical to the urban fantasy genre and its standard snack-like portions, but I can assure you that it is not. The reader still gets the closeness of being with Harry while he cruises around Chicago, but now with the added benefit of knowing that his actions could impact millions of lives. This in turn makes the reader care for Harry more than before because of the enormous burden he must carry. The only issue with the expanded scope is that some of the plot threads get resolved a bit too quickly, but we cannot win them all. Overall, it is a brilliant decision for Butcher to expand Harry’s world.
Why should you read this book?
I am sure that many readers have been waiting for the Dresden Files to be more than just fun and wanton violence. Well, readers, the time is here, and the Summer Knight awaits your purchase. Butcher daftly breathes new life into The Dresden Files by greatly expanding the scope and adding a few bricks to Harry’s world. Those who have read the series so far will be in for a special treat, while newcomers will have a great novel to look forward to once they catch up. Although The Dresden Files is not epic fantasy, Summer Knight takes a few lines from that genre, and that is a good thing.