Harry's life being what it is, in no time at all things get very much worse. First, a little old lady turns into a ghoul and nearly eats him, then Queen Mab of the Faerie's Winter Court informs him that she now holds his debt, and then the White Council of the wizards comes to Chicago to have a wee chat with their most wayward member. The only way Harry can avoid becoming toast is to make a deal with (you guessed) Queen Mab herself. This will provide the wizards have another option besides offering Harry up as a blood bag. Mab doesn't want much, she just needs Harry to find out who killed the Summer Knight before Armageddon breaks out all over.
Other than some assistance from a troop of pizza eating pixies, a den of young-adult werewolves, and a few faerie may-not-wannabees, Harry is on his own in this one. Unless you want to count the people (and not quite people) who are trying to kill him as company. Whatever the reason for the murder was, no one wants Harry to find it. Out of the six queens who rule Faerie, one has hired him and the other five just might kill him on sight. Yet he must talk to them all, as well as their supporters. Sometimes it seems that the vampires would have been a better choice.
I grumbled a bit about Harry's haplessness in my review of 'Grave Peril,' and 'Summer Knight' started out the same way. Harry has this compulsion to be a hero. And this continually gets him in trouble. Unlike the previous volume, however, the crises of this one seem to make Harry begin to pull himself back together. He develops enough gumption to keep him from always playing the role of victim, and this makes 'Summer Knight' a very likeable effort. The result is an interesting story with a rich variety of characters. A good read all around.
Hard-boiled, tongue-in-cheek, wizard detectives are a rare commodity, and need to be nurtured. The dash of grittiness that Butcher used is just what is needed to keep the fantasy from becoming overblown. Harry's spell casting is a bit too theatrical for me (everyone else waves a hand, Harry uses a wand AND a staff, as well as shouting in Latin). But a wizard has to do what a wizard has to do. I believe that Jim Butcher has begun to show the quality of which he is capable. This bodes well for the future of the series.
"Summer Knight" begins with our hero, Harry Dresden, Chicago's only professional wizard, in a deep depression. He has spent nearly all his time of late down in his sub-basement lab, trying to find a way to reverse what happened to his girlfriend Susan, who he lost to the vampires in the last book, "Grave Peril". Not only is he mourning the loss of the woman he had just discovered he loved, he is also dealing with the guilt of starting a deadly war between the White Council of wizards and the Vampire's Red Court. Attempts on Harry's life come almost daily, and he is barely able to survive them in the sorry state he is in. Harry still has a few friends left in the world, including the Alphas, a group of young adult werewolves who we first met in "Fool Moon", and Lieutenant Karrin Murphy, head of Special Investigations in the Chicago PD.
But Harry's few remaining friends aren't going to be able to save him from his own people. The White Council is coming to Chicago to deal with Harry and the mess he has caused with the Vampires, and they are none to pleased with him. And when you factor in Harry's less stellar past with the White Council, it seems Harry may not have to worry about the bad guys at all. Because unless he can figure out something fast, the White Council is going to get rid of Harry permanently.
Then Mab, the Winter Queen of Faerie, makes Harry a proposition he literally can't refuse. All Harry has to do is find out who murdered the Summer Queen's Knight, retrieve what was stolen from him, and prove that Mab isn't responsible. If Harry can do that, Mab will give the White Council free passage through the land of Winter Faerie in the Nevernever, which would give them a huge edge in their war against the vampires. Harry needs to do this to keep himself from being executed by the White Council, but getting involved in faerie politics is a potentially fatal endeavour. Not that Harry has much of a choice in the matter.
So Harry sets about trying to solve the mystery of the Summer Knight's death, enlisting the help of the Alphas and Murphy whenever possible. But someone definitely doesn't want Harry to figure this out. Attacks on Harry and his allies occur with a frightening regularity. In addition, Harry must speak with the five other Queens of Faerie, each of whom might just murder him on sight! With so many complications, Harry has to pull himself together and think fast, which he does. In "Summer Knight" Harry seems to come into his own, finally taking charge and giving the bad guys a run for their money. And it's darn important that he does so, because the fate of the mortal world depends on Harry solving this mystery and preventing the impending war between Summer and Winter!
"Summer Knight" is action-packed and filled with thrills and excitement. The suspense builds to a gripping final showdown that will have readers tearing through the pages. Harry's wonderful self-depreciating sense of humour and dry wit are present throughout, creating the perfect atmosphere for the story. Butcher has penned an absolutely fabulous tale, with a well-thought-out out plot and characters who readers can't help but be intrigued by. "Summer Knight" is an all-around excellent read, and you'll be sorry if you miss it. I guarantee you'll love Harry Dresden and all his adventures, so buy this book today!