After a break, I’ve gone back to the Dresden Files. My fiancé has nearly caught up to me (he’s on the third book in the series), so I felt the need to keep ahead of him. What a good thing it is that he’s indirectly pushed me, because Summer Knight goes beyond the first three books in the series into creating an actual Dresden mythos, rather than being more reliant on traditional folklore to tell the tale. I think this stretched Butcher more as an author, and the result is an engaging and eminently readable book.
The book starts off where a Dresden Files book usually starts off — with Harry in dire financial and emotional states. Instead of being offered a well-paying job by a desperate woman, however, he gets a shock. His faerie godmother has traded her claim over him to the Queen of Winter, Mab. She offers to release him from all obligations to her if he performs three jobs for her. The first she tasks him with is to clear her of the murder of the Summer Knight, the guardian of the opposing faerie court.
Not so bad, right? Well, he is also tasked with passing a test from the White Council of Wizardry, which also involves the faerie courts. If he isn’t able to pass the task, he’ll get turned over to the vampires (whom he started a war with in the last book). This would not be a good thing. No pressure, but Dresden has a lot riding on his shoulders — and the return of an old flame makes things even more complicated.
Summer Knight brings something completely new to the Dresden Files series. We get an actual second world to explore. There are some old characters making a return, but something feels really fresh and new about what Butcher is offering the reader. It may be that I just haven’t read enough in the topic area, but, other than the names, I think a lot of what he delivers is out of his imagination in a different way from the other books. It feels creative in the most basic sense — he’s making a new world for us to explore, with new characters and situations.
I really think that Summer Knight is the best of the Dresden Files books. There’s a lot to keep track of, so it keeps the brain working. Dresden’s path in this book is by no means predictable, and the fact that we’re taken on a wondrous trip through both Chicago and the Nevernever makes it special in a different way from the books that precede it.