Publisher: Buzzy Multimedia (Audiobook – 3 September 2002)
Series: The Dresden Files – Book Four
Length: 11 hours and 13 minutes
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Welcome back to my Throwback Thursday series, where I republish old reviews, review books I have read before or review older books I have only just had a chance to read. In this week’s Throwback Thursday I continue to explore the incredibly fun Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher with the fourth book, Summer Knight.
Readers of this blog will be familiar with my recent exploration of the epic Dresden Files series by the outstanding Jim Butcher, widely considered one of the best urban fantasy series out there. After having an absolute blast last year with the latest book in the series, Battle Ground (one of the best books and audiobooks of 2020), I have spent a bit of time this year checking out the earlier entries in the series. I have so far had the pleasure of listening to the first three Dresden Files novels, Storm Front, Fool Moon and Grave Peril, each of which got a five-star rating from me, and when I wanted a good audiobook to check out, the next entry in the series made the most sense. The fourth Dresden Files novel is the impressive and compelling Summer Knight, which sets the protagonist against the fairest and most vicious opponents yet.
Following the events of Grave Peril, the White Council of wizards is at war with the Red Court of the vampires, and it is all Harry Dresden’s fault. With vampire attacks increasing and his life consumed with finding a cure for the vampirism affecting his ex-girlfriend, Dresden is once again dragged into the conflict when the White Council arrives in Chicago. Considered by many wizards to be a dangerous maverick, Dresden will need to find a powerful bargaining chip if he is to continue receiving the protection of the council. Unfortunately for Dresden, the perfect opportunity has been given to him; he just wishes it were anything else.
Harry has been contacted by Winter Queen Mab, the powerful leader of the Winter Court of the Faeries, who offers him a dangerous bargain: in exchange for forgiving a previous debt, and for allowing certain concessions to the warring White Council, Harry must work a case for her. The Winter Queen desperately needs Harry to find out who murdered a seemingly normal human, and with his life entirely in the White Council’s hands, he has no choice but to comply. However, when it is revealed that the victim was the Summer Knight, the rival Faerie Summer Court’s mortal champion, Harry begins to realise that this will be no easy case, especially as a great deal of the Summer Court’s power was stolen after the murder.
With the Summer Court and the Winter Court gearing up for war in response to the Summer Knight’s death, Harry must quickly race to find the killer before Earth’s climate is destroyed by these powerful magical forces. However, this is no simple case, and to solve the murder Dresden is forced to confront some of the most dangerous and malicious magical beings in existence. Worse, the Summer Court have hired their own investigator, Dresden’s first love, Elaine, the woman who broke his heart and tried to kill him. Can Dresden solve this murder before it is too late or will the entire world tremble at the destruction of an all-out war?
Summer Knight was another impressive and wildly entertaining release from Butcher, which did a wonderful job expanding his universe in some amazing ways. Perfectly flowing on from the events of the previous novel, Summer Knight has an incredible story, some great characters, as well as some clever new fantasy inclusions that set up multiple future novels extremely well. I had an absolute blast listening to Summer Knight’s audiobook format, and unsurprisingly it gets another five stars from me.
This latest entry from Butcher has a pretty amazing story that is extremely easy to enjoy. Like the rest of the Dresden Files novels, Summer Knight can be easily read as a standalone read, although there are some compelling story threads that are continued from the prior books. The novel starts with a damaged Harry Dresden dealing with hit squads, angry vampires and his own irritated wizard brethren. After a fun and action-packed opening scene, Dresden soon gets drawn into another dangerous case as Mab, the Winter Queen, buys Dresden’s debt to his fairy godmother and uses it and the wizards war against the Red Court to trap him into investigating a case. The subsequent magical murder investigation proves to be pretty fantastic, as Dresden is forced to dive into the murky magical underworld of the warring Fae courts. After some deadly attacks, fascinating internal wizard politics, and an interesting side story about neutral half-Fae teenagers, Dresden soon uncovers the reason for the victim’s death. I liked the twist surrounding who was responsible for murder as well as the revelation of their master plan. Butcher did a really good job of disguising the people behind it and their methods, especially as most of the clues were often cleverly in plain sight. This all leads up to a massive and epic conclusion, where Dresden and his allies find themselves fighting through two armies of rival Fae to try and stop the end of the world. There are some awesome moments during this part of the novel, and Butcher throws together some epic clashes, interesting revelations, and a tragic death. I had a particularly good chuckle at the surprising way in which the big bad was taken down, and it proved to be a great way to end this novel. I felt that Butcher once again hit the right balance of action, drama, comedy, and character development throughout Summer Knight’s narrative, and this was another exciting and addictive read.
I really enjoyed the way in which Butcher expanded out the Dresden Files’ universe in Summer Knight, with several impressive inclusions turning this fourth book into a significant entry in the series. Not only are events and inclusions from the previous three novels fit into this book seamlessly, but it also successfully introduces some elements that were a prominent feature of the 17th book in the series. The most significant inclusions are those surrounding the rival Winter and Summer Courts of the Fae. Butcher utilises a mixture of Faerie lore and his own pre-existing explanations of magical creatures to create a compelling group of characters, locked in a constant and balanced war between the Summer and Winter Courts. The author does a good job introducing the various creatures, rules, and roles of these two competing groups of Faeries, which serves as a great basis for much of the narrative. I also loved the fascinating examination of the differences between the two rival courts, with the Summer Court shown as caring and artistic sorts, while the Winter Court are colder and darker. Of course, with Faeries, not everything is as it seems, and it was really intriguing the way the various plot reveals around them unfolded. There was also a great focus on the White Council, the governing body of wizards that Dresden is a member of. While the White Council has been mentioned in the previous novels, this was the first time that we get a deep look at their inner politics, especially as the more maverick Dresden has dragged them into a war with the Red Court of the vampires (so many Courts, so little time). There was a particularly great council meeting towards the start of the book where Dresden and his mentor are forced to navigate the politics of the White Council to keep Dresden alive, and it was an interesting part of the book. I really appreciated the detail that Butcher put into these expansions, and I look forward to seeing how else he expands on them between the fourth and 17th book.
As always, one of the best parts of this Dresden Files novel was the outstanding and well-developed characters, all of whom continue to develop and evolve as the novel continues. This is particularly true with central protagonist and point-of-view character Harry Dresden. When Summer Knight starts, Dresden is still reeling from the events of the previous three novels, particularly Grave Peril, where his lover partially turned into a vampire and then left him. This has left Dresden an emotional mess, especially as he has spent the intervening time ignoring some of the other dangers coming at him while he fruitlessly searches for a cure to vampirism. Dragged into this case against his will, Dresden soon starts to regain his old personality as he slowly overcomes his grief thanks to his friends and the intervention of some magical beings. It was great to see Dresden start to heal as the book progresses, and I really appreciated the way in which Butcher explored the trauma surrounding his protagonist. Even though he is a bit emotionally compromised, Dresden continues to be the main source of the novel’s comedy due to his sense of humour. It is always fun to see Dresden’s witty take on the insane events occurring around him and I found myself cracking up several times throughout Summer Knight.
In addition to Dresden, Summer Knight contains an excellent group of side and supporting characters, including a combination of existing characters and newer inclusions that were introduced in this novel. I liked the return of the werewolf gang, the Alphas, who were previously featured in the second novel, Fool Moon. The Alphas, particularly their leader, Billy, serve as backup to Dresden for most of the novel, and it was really fun to see how much they have grown since their introduction, turning into mystical vigilantes, while also remaining a pack of nerds. It was also great to see more of police lieutenant Karrin Murphy, who serves as a compelling female opposite to Dresden for most of the novel. Murphy, who has also gone through a lot in the last few books, is showing a fair bit of trauma in this novel, and she ends up having some deep discussions with Dresden about it. Despite her lack of magical abilities, Murphy serves as some impressive backup for Dresden, managing to take down several foes, including an ogre with a chainsaw. There were also more signs of the growing romance between her and Dresden which becomes a big part of the series later, and I like the way in which Butcher is slowly building it up. I also must highlight the inclusion of Dresden’s first love, Elaine Mallory, who suddenly reappears in his life, working for the Summer Court. Elaine has been mentioned several times in the previous books and is a cause for a lot of Dresden’s mistrust and romantic failures. It was great to finally meet her and see the full extent of her complex relationship with Dresden. Elaine naturally brings out a lot of emotional issues with Dresden throughout the book, and she serves as an interesting supporting character, especially as you have no idea about her true loyalties. These supporting characters, and more, really add a lot to the overall story and I had a great spending time with them.
Like I have with the rest of the Dresden Files novels, I made sure to grab the audiobook version of Summer Knight, a choice I am extremely thankful for. The Dresden Files audiobooks are pretty damn awesome, mainly because of their excellent choice of narrator, actor James Marsters. Marsters has an amazing voice, and he perfectly dives into the various characters featured within the novels, making these audiobooks an absolute treat to listen to. I especially love the way he gets into the emotional head of the main protagonist, as well as the sheer enthusiasm he exhibits while yelling out spell conjurations. I also enjoyed the fun voices that he assigns to some of the smaller pixies that appeared in this novel, as well as the very fitting voices that the rest of the cast received. This voice work is pretty amazing and it ensures that readers can fly through the audiobook in no time at all. Summer Knight’s run time was just over 11 hours, but it only took me a few days to get through due to how engrossed I got in the story, as well as the audiobook adaption. As with all Dresden Files entries, Summer Knight comes highly recommended in its audiobook format, and I fully intend to check out the rest of the series in this same way.
Summer Knight by Jim Butcher was another exceptional entry in the awesome Dresden Files series and I had an incredible time listening to it. With a captivating story, some complex characters and some awesome new fantasy inclusions, I deeply enjoyed this novel, and it is really worth checking out, especially in its audiobook format. Butcher continues to shine as one of the best authors of urban fantasy and look forward to working my way through the Dresden Files in the next few years.