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  Bookends: Dan Davidson
 

Dresden Files #4: Summer Knight

Reviewed: May 10, 2007
By: Jim Butcher
Publisher: Roc
371 pages, $10.99

>I’m breaking a sort of unwritten rule here. It is just a little too soon for me to be returning to this series. My excuse is that I’ve just finished watching the 13 episodes of The Dresden Files on the Space Channel and I wanted to read another of the books to see just how close the show had come to the writing.

>The answer is somewhere between “sort of” and “not very”, but the differences are in the details rather than in the spirit of the series. We still have Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden, named after three famous stage magicians by his father, who was a lesser light in the same category. Harry’s difference is that, in addition to having been trained by his dad, he is also an actual wizard, one who is looked on as bad news by the Council, which feels that his last adventure has stirred up some bad blood (vampires) that he ought to be punished for.

>Judged by the Council, Harry has a trial by ordeal of sorts to undergo. What no one realizes is that this is a bigger danger than it seems. The mystic knight who serves the Fairie Queen of Summer has been killed. The Winter Queen is the obvious suspect, and she has acquired Harry’s bond from his Fairie Godmother (no kidding - and she’s not nice either) in order to force him to find out who really did it.

>On his success rides the fate of the world, for a battle between Winter and Summer will make Global Warming seem like a mild temperature inversion. The potential danger and the struggle has a cosmic significance.

>Nothing like this would ever have happened in the TV series, where Harry is sort of like Jim Rockford with a magic hockey stick, helping the local police solve X-files type crimes that don’t make sense to anyone without a bit of magic in them.

>Butcher has upped the mystic ante in each of the books I’ve read so far, whereas TV Harry stays at about the same level of power and deals with much smaller issues - about the size of things you can solve in a 45 minute weekly show. If the program does get renewed I imagine it might have longer story arcs, a bit like those on Buffy, Angel, Heroes, Battlestar Galactica, the 4400 or Lost, but that remains to be seen.

>The folks involved in this series have quite a bit of TV cred, and it’s just surprising how many of them can trace their lineage back to one or another of the incarnations of Star Trek.

>Summer Knight is, on the one hand, a simple murder mystery while, on the other, it is a supernatural struggle. I felt that the two parts of the story meshed fairly well. It certainly kept me refreshed during my downtime during a recent trip to the city on school business.

>Apparently these books are also available as audio-books, read by James Marsters, the actor originally approached to play the part of Harry. Marsters made bit villain, Spike, a continuing major character on both Buffy and Angel, and last year played the villain Brainiac on Smallville. He declined moving to Canada to take on the role, and so it fell to Brit actor, Paul Blackthorne. I find it amusing that Marsters had to acquire a British accent to play Spike and that Blackthorne has to shed his to play Harry.

>I’ve enjoyed both versions of the character and expect/hope to see more, though I probably won’t mention him here again for a while.

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