Summer Knight by Jim Butcher

Summer Knight by Jim ButcherThe bad puns for titles is kind of old already. I know from seeing titles of future books that this doesn’t end here — maybe not ever — but it is a little smarmy, like it’s trying to sell you something. To be fair the bad puns and painful jokes continue through the text of the book so the titles are advertising the contents of these books pretty well.

I’ve been told by multiple people that the Dresden books start getting really good with the fourth one. I’ve been holding out for that as the judgement point for the series. The first three books I found to be lacking in a number of ways. Each one has improved significantly from it’s predecessor, though.

With Summer Knight Butcher has obviously learned a great deal since he started writing and has concocted a slew of situations and conversations that reveal important information just in the knick of time for the coming action, revelation, surprise return of a previously unknown character, and other plot points to not seem pulled from thin air. The trouble with this is the same trouble I get with other long running series where the past of the characters is not planned out from the beginning. Dresden doesn’t wax eloquent about his past very often. This means when Butcher wants to give us a surprise encounter with somebody from his past Dresden mentions that person to one of his acquaintances, one chapter before she shows up in his apartment for some poignant banter and plot progression.

There’s isn’t anything particularly wrong with this tactic for story telling except that Butcher does it so often that the author starts to show through and it begins to look like author tricks instead of organic revelations of past life experiences.

Butcher’s author tricks are not the annoying kind so, while they pull me out of the story while I say “I see what you did there” they don’t make me stop and put the book away (a la Dan Brown).

Dresden and Murphy have one of the few male/female relationships in fiction that is not romantically motivated by either member. This is refreshingly rare in so many ways that it’s hard to believe most of the time. The problem is that Dresden seems to be incapable of describing any female character without talking about body type, and how shapely she is. This is only obvious because very few men get that kind of detail of description. It comes across as sexist and it’s hard to tell if it’s a character flaw of Dresden (since it’s written in the first person) or if Butcher just didn’t realize what he was doing.

All that aside this is a much better book than the previous ones. I enjoyed it more. That’s not to say I loved it but it wasn’t bad enough to make me give up on the series. The plot seems to be more thought out, the mystery more believable and Dresden doesn’t get completely ruined in the first chapter and spend the rest of the book barely scraping by against all odds and summoning just enough power to blast a million vampires to molten death after failing to light a lamp because of his previous drubbing like he did in the others.

I find the fact that he never has any money, never eats, rarely showers and also never charges his clients to be a little too heavy handed on the depressing-life side and leans more toward farcical instead. I suspect that’s a fragment of this urban fantasy showing its noir detective roots, though.

I liked this one more than the last and I will probably read the one that comes after.

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