Thursday, June 14, 2012

Review: Summer Knight by Jim Butcher

Summer Knight
Summer Knight by Jim Butcher

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It's difficult to divorce the sexism from my enjoyment of these books. I usually leave it alone, because I'm in the minority of readers bothered by it. But I often felt like this book went out of its way to rub in my face how manipulative and weak and sexy women are (unless they're ugly), and that affected my opinion. My opinion is that it takes a lazy writer to continue to characterize women this way after four books, and that Jim Butcher can't hide behind his character's "chivalry" anymore. He can't both present Harry as the most modern wizard among relics, and yet have him acting like he just stepped out of the Middle Ages when something curvaceous crosses his path.

And let's not get into how the female character who stands the best chance of evolving into something other than a stereotype is described as having been raped, and cries a lot in this book.

In Summer Knight, there's a war brewing between vampires and wizards, and Harry has to secure the Winter Court of the fae's allowing wizards to pass through "their lands." He has to solve a mystery and figure out what happened to the mantle of power the murder victim was holding onto. Why Harry is on the case is anyone's guess. I have no idea why anyone who doesn't need both hands and a flashlight to find their own backside couldn't have solved it. They certainly would've had a lower profile. Harry being a decoy so the real detective could investigate in peace would've made a much more plausible story. Everywhere he went, people were trying to kill him, and everyone recognized him, and things were always complicated by the other boneheaded things Harry had pulled.

That's not to say the book is bad. It made me cringe at the author's clumsiness in writing women or token foreigners. Of those, there's a wizened old Chinese sage, a Native American they call Injun Joe who carries a raccoon on his shoulder, a mysterious Gatekeeper is referred to as being Middle Eastern, and the one getting a promotion at the wizard meeting is the redneck stereotype who has a gun rack on his truck. The default setting for wizards is evidently white European male. If you're not, you're a walking stereotype.

But there are good moments, as well. Some of the lines come across as corny, but, if you actually like Harry, I can see where you might find them funny. The fairy battle was exciting, and there's some creative imagery. But my favorite part came at the very end, when Harry sits down to play a tabletop roleplaying game with some geeky werewolves. I have to admit, the notion of a guy who can really sling spells sitting down to roll a barbarian character next to people who can shift into scary wolves amused me.

If you're looking for something new in this book, having read the previous three, you will be vastly disappointed. This is more of the same. But, if you've liked the previous three books, well, it's more of the same.

At this point, as I remarked to a friend who really, really likes them, I'm listening to James Marsters read me a story. If he were narrating audio books I'm more likely to enjoy, I'd listen to those, instead.

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