28 August 2008

Book Review: Summer Knight by Jim Butcher

(Source: Amazon)

On my way to Vienna I read an older book by Jim Butcher called Summer Knight, which is part of his Dresden Files series of books. The Dresden Files are kind of like crack to me. When I start reading them, I just cannot seem to stop myself from reading to the finish -- Butcher has certainly happened upon a winning formula here. I'm not entirely sure what it is about the series, but Butcher's mix of action, mythology and traditional gumshoery is, well, captivating.

Summer Knight is book four of the Dresden Files, following Storm Front, Fool Moon and Grave Peril. All of these are full of action, mythology, and tons of Butcher's slightly flawed antihero, Harry Dresden, who always manages to just barely save the day -- usually at great cost to himself and those around him -- and inevitably manage to piss off nearly all the authorities in the process. Along these lines, Dresden has quite a bit in common with traditional, scrupulous gumshoes, such as Chandler's Philip Marlowe and Hammett's Sam Spade.

Summer Knight picks up nine months after the end of Grave Peril and largely deals with the events started in the previous novel. Dresden has spent the previous nine months researching a way to extricate his girl friend from the situation in which the previous book left her. Meanwhile, the White Council (a governing body of wizards) has spent the intervening time trying to decide what to do about Dresden and the war he inadvertently started. Meanwhile, the courts of Faerie are plotting something that will draw Dresden back into the middle of both, as well as dig up old wounds he had thought were healed.

As I said earlier, most of the Dresden books are packed page-to-page with action and mythological mayhem. Dresden is seemingly unstoppable as his situation goes from bad, to very bad, to worse, and finally to inevitably fatal. In fact, by chapter four, you would assume that Dresden is about three steps short of the grave. The only beef I have with this novel -- as a story, not as enjoyable reading -- is that everything is relevent in the bigger picture. Everything that happens to Dresden, ranging from his midnight excursion to Walmart to the rain of frogs at the book opening, turn out to be extremely important in not just the grand scheme of the novel, but also the grand scheme of the entire Dresden Files universe as a whole. Oh, and everything is linked directly with the book's core plot. Even knowing this fact, however, (this property also holds of the other three Dresden novels) the book will keep you guessing until the very end.

Summer Knight (as well as the other Dresden Files novels) are available through Amazon.com. Also available for the Kindle, which is the version that I read.

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