Summer Knight by Jim Butcher
After finishing Grave Peril, I remarked that I wished Harry Dresden wouldn’t always get the crap beaten out of him quite as frequently and badly as he has in the previous novels – and then I read this one, and he doesn’t. Now there are still plenty of fights and action, but Harry manages not to get quite as badly hurt which was nice. I didn’t have to spend various pages reading about how he was too tired to act but had to use up his last ounce of energy to do a spell.
There’s a lot going on in this one as well. The Red Court, a faction of vampires located mainly in South America, and the White Council (the official governing body of the wizards) are at war due to something Harry did. The Red Court promises to end the war if the White Council gives him up, which some would be more than willing to do. Additionally, the White Council needs to get passage through the Never-Never controlled by the faerie world to effectively move during the war, and the only way the Winter Court would be willing to do this is if Harry would do a certain something for them.
Harry doesn’t want to work with the faeries because they aren’t very nice or trustworthy but he has no other choice if he wants to prove himself and not be turned over to the vampires. The Summer Knight, representative of the Summer Court, has been murdered and his power stolen. The Summer Queen suspects the Winter Queen Mab, who is the faerie now holding Harry’s contract (he made a deal with a faerie when he was much younger). He needs to find the murderer and the power to avert a war between the two courts, which would affect the real world very badly, starting with out of whack weather, including raining toads.
Adding to his complications, his presumed dead ex-girlfriend Elaine is back in town, still alive and also embroiled in this case. I really enjoyed this one. Many old characters are back, including Billy and the pack of friendly werewolves, and after being stuck in a nightmare world in the last novel, Murphy gets to fight back in this one.