Review: ‘Summer Knight’ by Jim Butcher (audio)

Summer Knight

The Dresden Files, Book #4

Author: Jim Butcher

Format: unabridged audio book

Reader: James Marsters

Publisher: Buzzy Multimedia Publishing Corp.

Length: 11 hrs and 12 mins

Release Date: 06/10/09

(novel released September 3, 2002 by Roc & a 371 page paperback sits on my Dresden shelf)

Acquired: received as a gift

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Publisher’s Summary:

Ever since his girlfriend left town to deal with her newly acquired taste for blood, Harry Dresden has been down and out in Chicago. He can’t pay his rent. He’s alienating his friends. He can’t even recall the last time he took a shower.

The only professional wizard in the phone book has become a desperate man.

And just when it seems things can’t get any worse, in saunters the Winter Queen of Faerie. She has an offer Harry can’t refuse if he wants to free himself of the supernatural hold his faerie godmother has over him — and hopefully end his run of bad luck. All he has to do is find out who murdered the Summer Queen’s right-hand man, the Summer Knight, and clear the Winter Queen’s name.

It seems simple enough, but Harry knows better than to get caught in the middle of faerie politics. Until he finds out that the fate of the entire world rests on his solving this case.

No pressure or anything…

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My thoughts, which include spoilers… thou hast been warned:

Wow, Harry Dresden is in baaad shape. His ex-girlfriend, reporter Susan Rodriguez left town months ago after the Red Court began to transform her and Harry has been working non-stop in an attempt to try to find a magical solution to her little vampire problem. To no avail. He’s depressed. He’s withdrawn. He’s figuratively, and literally, a damn mess.

To kick off the book, Billy (the werewolf we met in Fool Moon) gives Harry what-for about all of it… his appearance, his self-imposed exile, his lack of work or anything resembling income, his impending eviction from his home and office and his general bad attitude. Then someone tries to kill him. Several someones, in fact. And then it rains toads. Could Harry’s day get any worse? Why, yes… yes, it could.

It would seem that his debt to his godmother The Leanansidhe has been sold, to none other than Mab, the Winter Queen of Faerie. And Mab wants Harry to do him a favor: find out who killed the Summer Knight and stole his power. Oh, and clear her name of the crimes in the process.

Harry isn’t interested. Until, that is, he learns that the White Council of wizards is going to throw him to the dogs… erm, to the Red Court of vampires if he doesn’t ensure the cooperation of the Winter Queen. So he actually has no choice but to do Mab’s bidding. No, really! He’ll be happy to help!

A lot happens in this book. A hell of a lot. Not only do we get to meet the Senior Council of wizards but we’re also introduced to Harry’s mentor, Ebenezer McCoy. We also get to meet the one and only Elaine, Harry’s first love and fellow apprentice to Justin DuMorne. Elaine, that Harry thought had betrayed him all those years ago. Elaine, that Harry thought had been dead. By his own hand.

As if that weren’t enough new characters to get to know, we’re introduced to a whole slew of faerie royalty. Winter queens and Summer queens are plotting and consorting and preparing for a war. A war which will tip the balance between Summer and Winter and which will not bode well for humankind.

We also meet a couple of changelings that the now-deceased Summer Knight had taken under his wing and they want to hire Harry to find their friend. Harry just doesn’t have the time. But he really needs the money so he takes that case, as well. Of course he does, where a damsel is in distress, there the wizard Dresden will be to lend a hand. And most likely get his ass kicked in the process.

So… not only does Harry have to solve the murder of the Summer Knight, he has to fend off vampire assassins and faerie assassins, he has to trust the girl who essentially betrayed him, he has to stop a war between beings so powerful that any of them could crush him on a whim and he has to keep his own kind, the wizards, from mollifying the vampires with his life.

I almost forgot… Morgan of the Grey Wardens reappears in this book and he’s as nutty, fanatical and infuriating as ever. Just another thing counting against Harry as he races against the clock to find out who the baddie is this go’round, stop the war and save the world.

In all fairness, I ought to mention what’s counting for Harry this go’round. Of course I mentioned Billy earlier and he and the Alphas are all for helping Harry out in this latest escapade. They’re pretty bad-ass, too. However, notable mention in the Wizard Assist category goes to Karrin Murphy of Chicago PD’s Special Investigations. Only she’s not acting in that capacity when we see her in this book. In fact, she’s in pretty crappy shape herself.

She’s still having major issues over what she endured at the hands of the Nightmare in the last book and to top it off, she’s facing some difficult to deal with personal issues. It’s the first we see of this side of Karrin and I’m pretty sure that this is the book in which I really, really start to like this character. It’s the first book in which she’s not all in-your-face-bitchy to Harry and that might be due in part to the fact that this is the first book in which Harry is completely and totally up front with her about everything. About the Red Court and the White Council… about his case with the Queen of Winter. About all of it.

To her credit, Karrin handles it all pretty well and then proceeds to kick ass against some pretty tough denizens of Faerie and kind of saves Harry’s bacon in the process. When Harry tells her, “When I asked myself who I could trust, I came up with a damn short list. You’re it.” …I admit that I got a bit choked up. Especially in light of the events at the end of book #12, Changes and what they mean for Karrin in book #13, Ghost Story, due to be released in July of this year. As much as I’m anticipating this next book in the series, I’m afraid that it will be one big sob-fest for me!

I believe I mentioned in my review of Grave Peril, book #3 of The Dresden Files, that James Marsters had finally fully realized his awesomeness as the voice of Harry Dresden. I was premature in that assessment. While Marsters’ reading of that book was indeed awesome, his reading of this book was downright fantastic. Likewise, his reading of the Winter/Summer battle was nothing short of incredible. Well done, Mr. Marsters… well done.

Next up in the Dresden Files re-listen is book #5, Death Masks though sadly, it’s on hold until I finish book #2 of Patrick Rothfuss’ Kingkiller Chronicle, The Wise Man’s Fear. Look for that review by the end of the week. Or maybe by the end of the weekend.

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Fave quotes:

‘No one does suave like me. If I was careful, maybe I could trip over something and complete the image.’

‘A faerie queen. A faerie queen was standing in my office. I was looking at a… faerie queen. Talking to a faerie queen. And she had me by the short hairs.’

‘Somewhere out there was a village I’d deprived of its idiot.’

‘I don’t have a muscular stomach. I’m not overlapping my belt or anything but I don’t have abs of steel. I don’t even have abs of bronze. Maybe abs of plastic.’

“That’s what I love about working with you, Dresden. The certainty.” ~Murphy

“Harry, that’s not a plan, that’s a Looney Tune.” ~Murphy

“Consider a haircut, you look like a dandelion.” ~Lea to Harry

“Unicorns. Very dangerous. You go first.” ~Harry to Elaine

“Hi,” I said. King of Wit, that’s me.

“I would have acted sooner but it would have been a fair fight, and I avoid them.” ~Maeve to Harry

“Not only ‘no’, but ‘hell no’.” ~Harry to Mab

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Check out my other Dresden Files reviews:

#1 – Storm Front

#2 – Fool Moon

#3 – Grave Peril

#5 – Death Masks

#6 – Blood Rites

#7 – Dead Beat

#8 – Proven Guilty

#9 – White Night

#10 – Small Favor

#11 – Turn Coat

#12 – Changes

#12.5 – Side Jobs

#13 – Ghost Story


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