After taking a break over Christmas from “The Dresden Files,” I decided to read the next (aka fourth) book earlier this week. I have two more in my possession to read yet, but I can’t promise they’ll be right away. For now, let’s take a look at “Summer Knight” and see how it stacks up to the previous books.
Given that there are a TON of twists and revelations in this one that I don’t want to spoil, a lot of my review may come off a bit vague and I apologize for that. The basic plot is this: Harry Dresden is pulled into a murder mystery involving two prominent groups of faeries, the Summer Court and the Winter Court. When a representative of the Summer Court, the Summer Knight, is killed, the Winter Court’s queen, Mab, enlists Harry’s help to find the killer. But doing so soon gets him caught up in affairs between the two courts, who are on the brink of war as a result. Will Harry discover the culprit in time, or will the ensuing war tear the world apart?
First off, this book adds a lot of world-building to the Dresden universe. Much like with the vampires in “Grave Peril,” we get a deeper look at the world of faeries aside from Toot-Toot (introduced in the first book) and Harry’s godmother. I like the idea that both courts essentially control the weather, sort of like a parallel to the Miser brothers in “The Year Without a Santa Claus.” Unfortunately, as far as the queens go, we only really get to know Mab thanks to the Winter Court being under suspicion. The Summer Queen is never properly introduced, though we do meet her subordinates throughout the story. While I would’ve liked to complete the rounds of meeting these figureheads, Mab was an interesting character and I can definitely see her returning in future books. There’s more to her beyond what the main plot offers, but saying more about her role would be a big spoiler.
Aside from the faeries, we also get an insider’s look into the White Council. This is their first formal appearance, and though most of the council leaders don’t get much focus, I appreciated having faces and names to attribute to the group. My favorite of anyone introduced was Ebenezar McCoy, a former mentor of Harry’s and a laidback sort of guy. The book wastes no time establishing their connection even before they’re in the council meeting and he’s very likable as a result. I especially enjoyed his interactions with the council leaders, most notably the main figurehead, the Merlin. These interactions showed Ebenezar as not just being a simple farmer/wizard, but also an extremely clever one. Morgan, a Warden from the first book, also makes his return and is just as horrible as ever. Every time he talked venom toward Harry, I just wanted to punch him. He mostly serves as a minor obstacle here, and I hope something major is done with (or to) him in a future book.
There’s another important character who becomes involved in the story almost coincidentally, though I can’t give away who it is. I will say that even by the end, I found them hard to like due to their actions and was glad to see that the connection between them and Harry wasn’t forced into something more than it was for dramatic purposes. People who have read this book probably know what I’m referring to, but let’s just say that this was one character I could honestly care less to see return.
As far as the culprit in this one, I was able to accurately predict who did the deed, but not the reasons surrounding it. It’s a lot more intricate than you expect. For that reason, considering the “politics” in the book and the war itself, I found the overall plot in this one to be both interesting and at the same time lackluster. I blame it both on my lack of interest in any sort of politics, even fictional ones, but I also found it hard to relate to the Courts too. Given that it’s a dispute between supernatural beings and the fact that Harry’s thrown into the fray, I found that I only had interest in the war itself due to the stakes involved. I think when it comes to this series, I prefer the mysteries that have more of a personal stake for Harry than him playing the outsider looking in. That said, I still appreciate how this book shows just how small he and many others are in the face of these two powerhouses, and it did at least show that either side could pose a threat at any given time.
If I had one other gripe about the book, it’s near the beginning. One of the werewolves from “Fool Moon,” a teen named Billy, helps out Harry even before the main plot really kicks off. I had no problem with him helping nor with his involvement through the story, but I did find it jarring to have him show up and immediately act very concerned and worried for Dresden as a friend. Now, is this because I don’t think he should feel this way? No, of course not. But given that I hadn’t seen this character since “Fool Moon,” it WAS a bit jarring to see that huge of a leap in their relationship to one another. I felt that maybe it would’ve benefited to have a scene or two with him during “Grave Peril” to continue showing the advancement of their friendship, much like his friendship with Murphy has done (speaking of, her role here, while not as brief as the last book, involved some of my favorite moments in the book). As it stands, it took me a few scenes between the two after that initial one to settle into their friendship.
Overall, while I enjoyed this book and think it was just as well-written as the previous ones, I felt it was the least interesting of the bunch so far. Again, a lot of that is due to the “politics” involved and my own preference toward that. Thankfully, that still didn’t make the book difficult to read through, and those twists and revelations I mentioned earlier were a big factor in that. If you liked the previous books, this one is definitely worth the read if only for you to experience those twists and the world-building involved.
I give “Summer Knight” an 8.5/10.