Summer Knight

I’m rapidly running out of wonderful things to say about the Dresden Files, because there are only so many forms of praise available. It’s just, read them, right? You will be pleased by how in each and every book, Butcher’s writing improves, his one-liners get funnier, Harry feels more and more like a fully realized person of your acquaintance telling these stories to you, and all at the same time, the plots and characterizations get more subtle and pitch-perfect.

In Summer Knight, after battling demons and renegade wizards, then werewolves, and most recently vampires, Harry is forced to confront the faerie realm to solve a murder that holds the key to his own survival and possibly to things far more important.[1] Without going into the plot any further (because spoilers for previous books would abound), I am starting to notice slight discrepancies in Harry’s narration. I mean, he’s always held back, hard, about his past. But his descriptions of how useful and/or powerful his magic is versus his factual descriptions of it in use in battle[2] show either an unreasonable amount of modesty, a misperception of his own skill (possible, but unlikely, since he has so few other blind spots and is, after all, a detective), or else some amount of active deception. And if he’s an unreliable narrator[3], then I may well have to go back and read these books straight through without interruption someday, trying to ferret out the truth. This future task fills me with no small amount of glee, I should point out.

Also, though, some food for thought. Why is it that in the urban fantasy genre (okay, mostly just these and the Anita Blake books, but I have some other stuff coming up pretty soon, and I bet it also follows the pattern), events take place over such a short period? The Bones book I just read was spread out over a couple of months of police work. But Harry’s adventures rarely span a full 72 hours, and Anita’s are wrapped up before the weekend, on average. And then months go by off-screen in which various new plotlines start up while old ones drift away or reach a critical mass of interaction with the new ones, and suddenly there’s a new book spanning another handful of days in which all of the pressure is released in one huge gout of steamy awesomesauce, and it’s right back to waiting for the next one. I don’t mind per se, it just stretches believability as a genre convention, enough so to give me pause while I wonder about it. Is it just me?

[1] Even to him, which just goes to show you the quality of good guy that you’re looking at.
[2] This book certainly marks the most diverse battle magic Harry has ever wielded, which is at least as cool as it sounds.
[3] Other examples include Vlad in Brust’s Vlad Taltos series and Severian in Gene Wolfe’s Book of the New Sun, both of which are fantastic, though the latter might be a bit dense.

3 thoughts on “Summer Knight

  1. Mike Kozlowski

    Two things:

    1. It becomes clearer in later books, but it’s not a spoiler to say: Dresden has a lot of raw power, but not much refinement. Older wizards are way more skilled than he is, but he can blast with the best of them.

    2. Also, one of the things I like aboot Dresden is that a lot of adventures happen off-screen, so you don’t feel like you’re getting the only interesting periods of his life, and that other stuff is happening while we’re not watching.

    3. Okay, a third thing: Seriously, they’re awesome. I’m so sad that I’m done with them. And this is “sad while reading the latest Brust” so yeah.

  2. Pingback: Shards of Delirium » Proven Guilty

  3. Pingback: Summer Knight revisited | Shards of Delirium

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