After the first book in the series, Jim Butcher established a pattern in his Harry Dresden novels. In each volume, detective/wizard Dresden faces off against another genus in the family of magical beasties. In the second volume, it was werewolves; in the third, it was vampires. This time around, he is confronted with creatures which (unless you’re big on Celtic myth) you may not think of as scary: faeries.
These faeries are not (for the most part) sweet little Tinkerbelles or Fantasia-inspired sprites. They are creatures of what Harry calls the Nevernever who are nonetheless closely tied in with the elements of the natural world. In particular, they are connected with the seasons. Still trying to help end the war between wizards and vampires that he helped start at the end of the previous book (without being offered up as a blood sacrifice by the wizards’ White Council), Harry gets sucked into a power struggle between the two rival Faerie courts of Summer and Winter. The Summer Knight has been bumped off, his mantle of power stolen, and the Winter Queen, Mab (remember her from Romeo and Juliet?), wants Harry to prove that her side wasn’t responsible. In the mean time, Harry’s girlfriend has skipped town and his first love unexpectedly appears–but on whose side?
The action in Summer Knight is fast-paced, without being quite as horrific as in Grave Peril (Book 3); nor is it as formulaic as it was in Fool Moon (Book 2). Butcher continues to weave in threads from Harry’s past, and to expand the reader’s understanding of the parallel universe that Harry inhabits (both in Chicago and in the Nevernever). He returns here to something more closely resembling the gumshoe/whodunit form with which he began the series so wonderfully–a cross (as I have said before) between Dashiell Hammett and JK Rowling. Shakespearean references abound (beginning with the punning title), which Butcher manages to be very sly about… until the very end. Ah, well. All’s well that ends well. 😉