Summer Knight (The Dresden Files, #4)
If you're going to try the Dresden Files, this is the book to start with.
[Oh well-a well-a well-a...]
There seems to be a general consensus that the first few books in the series are not of the same quality as the later books--to be expected, since they were the author's debut. I like the first few books; they feel like more straightforward spoofs of Raymond Chandler in Middle Earth. However, I felt the first few books feature flatter, more stereotyped characters, choppier writing, and less sympathetic side characters.
Summer Knight is where all of that changes.
[Tell me more, tell me more...]
[Was it love at first sight?]
Harry Dresden, professional wizard, has practically become a recluse since he lost his girlfriend. A little less than a year ago, his girlfriend was bitten by a vampire. Although he retrieved her--incidentally setting off a war between the vampires and wizards--despite desperate attempts to help her that drive him into near psychosis, he can't restore her humanity.
[Tell me more, tell me more...]
But when the sky starts raining toads and the White Council of Wizards comes to town, Harry is forced to snap out of his misery and self-loathing. The wizards aren't thrilled about the war Dresden set off, and decide that the best way to end it is to throw Dresden to the vampires, unless he solves the case brought to him by a terrifying new client: Mab, Queen of the Unseelie Fey. To stop himself from becoming a reconciliation gift to the vampires, Harry must solve the murder of the human champion of Summer and prove that Mab is innocent of the crime. With only a band of teenage werewolves, a pizza-loving fairy, and his friend, Lt. Karrin Murphy, to help him, Dresden must solve the crime before the fairies go to war with Chicago as ground zero. And of course, that's when things start getting complicated: an old flame pops up on his doorstep, begging him for help, a changeling girl has gone missing and Harry's guilted into taking the case, and there's a killer ghoul--not to mention a chlorofiend (plant monster)--out for Harry's blood. Harry is in for a wild, creative, and above all, entertaining ride.
[Did she put up a fight?]
This book introduces a host of new characters, and a disproportionate number are female. But (finally!) in this book, Butcher does a much better job in staying out of stereotyped-noir-female land. Aurora, the Summer Lady, and Maeve, Winter Lady, fall into the classic stereotypes, but the mortal females develop more complex characters. Lt. Karrin Murphy, despite a wimpy introduction, gets some of her first fantastic kickass moments, one of which involves a chainsaw. (And a chlorofiend.) Elaine, Harry's old flame, who he believed had gone up in flames, is sufficiently complex that it's difficult to analyze her motives fully. Meryl, an Ogre changeling, is practical, phlegmatic, and likeable. And therefore, unsurprisingly, dies before the end of the book. In general, female characters don't fare well in Butcher's books, and while this book certainly had some irritating moments--seriously, Harry? Your introduction of Murph? She wasn't the only victim in the last book, and you did not white-knight save her--but given the genre, I'm willing to take what I can get. As with most of the Dresden Books, the cast is overwhelmingly white and there are a few truly cringeworthy moments that I try to ignore; in this case, the extremely 50's-ish stereotype of Native American culture embodied by "Injun Joe" (I kid you not.) I just close my eyes, start humming, and think of happier things until the scene is over.
The various political imbroglios and the introduction of a whole new set of politics between the fairies adds a ton of complexity and fun to the remainder of the series. The villains are varied and enjoyable, and pull from fairy tales and legends rather than horror movies; they include gun-for-hire ghouls, pissed-off plant monsters, psycho fairies, moody centaurs, noir-tough-guy ogres, chitinous unicorns, and more.
Why, yes. Songs do tend to get stuck in my head, even songs from musicals I haven't seen for 15 years and detested even 15 years ago. Just thought I'd share the earworm. You're welcome.
Believe it or not, I've written a review of every single book in the series. I may have addiction issues. Links to the complete set are below. The starred ones are my faves.
[#1] Storm Front [#2] Fool Moon [#3] Grave Peril [#4] Summer Knight* [#5] Death Masks [#6] Blood Rites [#7] Dead Beat* [#8] Proven Guilty [#9] White Night [#10] Small Favor* [#11] Turn Coat [#12] Changes [#13] Ghost Story* [#14] Cold Days