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Summer Knight
Jim Butcher
Roc, 371 pages

Summer Knight
Jim Butcher
Jim Butcher lives in Oklahoma with his wife and son and a houseful of computers. He's also the author of Storm Front, Fool Moon and Grave Peril, all part of The Dresden Files

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SF Site Review: Grave Peril
SF Site Review: Fool Moon
SF Site Review: Storm Front
Excerpt from Grave Peril
The Dresden Files

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Victoria Strauss

Harry Dresden, Chicago's only wizard for hire (he's in the Yellow Pages, under "Wizards") is working his way through the supernatural catalogue. In the three previous books in this popular series, he's faced demons, werewolves, and vampires, plus assorted ghosts, spirits, revenants, and supernatural manifestations. Now, in Summer Knight, he's mixed up with faeries -- and the stakes are higher than they've ever been.

Harry's girlfriend Susan, who at the end of the last book was kidnapped and made into a vampire, has left town and told Harry not to follow her. Since then Harry has buried himself in research, trying to find cure or a vaccine that will save Susan from the vampire curse. For weeks he's hardly eaten or slept (or bathed), and he's let his business go to pot. Now he's got a handful of eviction notices, and if he doesn't rustle up some money soon, he's going to be out on the street.

Luckily, there's a client in the offing -- or maybe not so luckily, because the client turns out to be a faerie. And not just any faerie: she's Mab, Queen of Air and Darkness, Monarch of the Winter Court of the Sidhe. Mab has purchased the debt Harry owes his faerie godmother; he now belongs to her. If he wants to be free, he must agree to perform three tasks. The first is to vindicate Mab of the murder of the Summer Knight, emissary to the Summer Court, and to recover the Mantle of power that has been stolen from him.

Harry accepts -- it's not as if he has a choice, after all -- and begins an investigation that plunges him deep into the illusive and dangerous world of faerie, on a collision course with the ugly power struggle brewing between the Winter and the Summer Courts. Meanwhile, a meeting of the White Council of Wizards is about to convene -- to examine, among other things, whether Harry should be busted back to apprentice status for precipitating a war with the vampires -- and a painful piece of Harry's past makes an unexpected appearance in the form of Elaine, his treacherous first love, whom he believed was dead. With the help of his cop friend Karrin Murphy, a pack of young werewolves, a gang of half-faerie changelings, and several sprites who'll do anything for pizza, Harry must find a way to survive all these dangers -- and, incidentally, to save the world.

Fast paced and tightly plotted, Summer Knight delivers the kind of action-packed adventure Jim Butcher's fans have come to expect. Harry is his usual irreverent self -- a cynic with a heart of gold, a very human wizard whose power is enough to give even the faeries pause, yet who is constantly tripped up by his many doubts and failings. As in each of the previous books, a little more of his past is revealed -- this time, his relationship with Elaine, and how it figured into his long-ago slaying of his mentor Justin. Butcher also adds depth to his supernatural scenario, giving the reader insight into the inner workings of the wizards' hierarchy, as well as the relationship between the various factions -- the White Council, the Vampire Courts, the Faerie realms.

One of the things that makes these books distinctive is their clever use of urban settings to skew the usual magical situations. How many wizardly fights, for instance, take place at Wal-Mart? How many wizardly councils choose to forego mysterious other-dimensional realms in favor of a dinner theater at a convention center? Butcher knows how to keep the balance, though, delivering full-bore supernatural confrontations with all the proper trimmings, and pulling out all the stops for the spectacular faerie battle at the climax. It's another superior entry in this excellent series.

Copyright © 2002 Victoria Strauss

Victoria Strauss is a novelist, and a lifelong reader of fantasy and science fiction. Her most recent fantasy novel The Garden of the Stone is currently available from HarperCollins EOS. For details, visit her website.

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