As Summer Knight opens, Harry Dresden’s true love, Susan, has left town, the Red Court Vampires have declared war on him and someone’s shooting at him. Oh, and it’s raining toads.
To top it off, Mab, the Faerie Queen of Winter, wants to hire him to investigate the murder of a mortal. The Faerie Queens are beautiful, powerful, alien and frightening, even to Harry:
My voice came out unsteady and more quiet than I would have liked. ‘Sort of like Tokyo, when Godzilla comes up on the beach.’
Mab tilted her head, watching me with that same smile. Maybe she didn’t get the reference. Or maybe she didn’t like being compared to a thirty-foot lizard. Or maybe she did like it. I mean, how should I know? I have enough trouble figuring out human women.
The realm of Faerie is closest to the mortal realm, and consists of two kingdoms, the Summer Court and the Winter Court. The Fae live for millennia and are not kind to mortals. Mab wants the death of the mortal artist Ronald Reuel investigated, because he was the Summer Knight, a human sworn to serve the Summer Queen, Titania. With his death, his power — his link to the Summer Court — has vanished. This causes a power imbalance. Harry soon discovers that in this case, the political is not personal, but global. A power shift to either side could cause a permanent ice age, or turn the earth into a desert. The most obvious suspect is Mab herself, or the vicious Winter Knight, Lloyd Slate, but if so, why would Mab have Harry investigate?
Harry thinks it can’t get worse, even when the White Council convenes to consider turning him over to the Red Court to end the vampire war. He is wrong. It does get worse, when he is forced to investigate Ronald’s murder with Summer’s emissary, the beautiful, traitorous wizard Elaine, Harry’s first love. Elaine conspired with Justin, the sorcerer who mentored Harry and then betrayed him. Harry killed Justin in self-defense. He thought Elaine died in that magical battle, but she didn’t. She fled to the Summer Court for sanctuary. Harry would be a fool to trust her, but he has no choice but to work with her.
The action in Summer Knight moves from a local park to a battle in the cloud cover above Chicago, with a believable magical brawl in the garden center of a Walmart. Butcher creates a vivid and creepy underground city and a deadly enchanted forest. The dialogue is as sharp and witty as ever. After the unrelieved darkness of Grave Peril, this book is somehow lighter, even though the stakes are high and the consequences are real. Despite the convincing action, this is a who-done-it, and Harry has to use his brain to save the day.
Harry has Murphy, his tough but vulnerable cop friend, and a group of werewolf college students on his side. A minor-key theme to the book is the story of Meryl, Lily and Fix, half-blood Fae who have been abandoned by the Faerie. Lily has gone missing and Meryl wants Harry to find her. Meryl and Fix show the kind of loyalty and valor that reminded me what Harry is fighting for.
With its sparkling wit, pizza-snarfing pixies, fantasy-gamer werewolves, plausible magic and powerful action scenes, Summer Knight is one of the better books in this strong series.