Summer Knight by Jim Butcher

The Dresden Files are pretty well known by now, since they inspired a short-lived  TV series and a RPG game. Butcher has used the success of the series to create two other book series. I’ve read them all and found that they are at the worst decent time-wasters. Like any author his books can be hit-or-miss just based on the individual’s interests as well; Fool Moon was not his strongest entry, but I just like werewolves and so I was swept along where someone else might not have persevered. A later entry in the series called Ghost Story was much better written and showed off Butchers’ skill, but spirits on the other hand are not that fascinating in my opinion. That being said, I’ve never really been interested in in Faeries or stories about them, but the way he writes them and makes them “modern” and yet inhumanly fascinating was able to get past my initial reluctance.

     Summer Knight starts off with Harry Dresden in a bad place following the events of the previous book, and things quickly go downhill. He is contacted by one of the Faerie Courts (known as the Seelie and Unseelie) in order to put something right. This means that a hapless young wizard is surrounded by mysterious, powerful beings who in many cases could squash him like a bug, as well as years of intrigue and fighting for status (magic + politics = fireballs instead of filibusters! Highest-rated TV channel ever!). This book is where the universe Butcher was planning to create really took wing, and I suspect where the groundwork for his RPG was laid as well. It features a host of new characters, an in-depth look at the power players and factions within the magical community, and some further suggestion that events in the earlier books might have alternate meanings.

It’s for these reasons, as well as the increased confidence Butcher shows in the writing that Summer Knight is one of my favorite in the series, (the rest of which are constantly shifting in rank as they are reread). As a person who likes to start a series in the beginning, it’s startling to consider that this book is probably the best place to enter the Dresden Files series of books if you want a serving of excellent writing without the early-days problems that dog most series.

In an earlier review I looked at Storm Front, the first of the series, and the two books side by side could be used to teach a class on writing improvement. On the one hand, starting at the beginning of the Dresden Files might be for the best-on the other, why not jump in where the fun really begins? I can’t answer which way is best. I’ve also begun listening to this book on CD, and it says something that the story sound just as good when spoken aloud as when read silently.