In my earlier reviews of the first two novels in Jim Butcher's Dresdenfile series, STORM FRONT and FOOL MOON, I described Harry Dresden as a hapless, down on his luck wizard, in fact the only licensed wizard in the Chicagophone book. Business isn't exactly brisk so from time to time he acts as a consultant with the Chicago Police Department when the cases drift out of the mundane and into the realm of the paranormal.
I went on to suggest that they were both enjoyable novels that almost defied genre classification. Harry Dresden assumed the role of the angst-ridden, hard-boiled detective with the self-sufficient, anti-authority attitude reminiscent of a John Corey or Harry Bosch. He was also portrayed as a bit of a laughable bumbler - fantasy, blended with comedy, the paranormal, cozy mystery and thriller. The key, in my opinion, was that the books didn't take themselves too seriously and, as long as the readers didn't either, easy-going enjoyment of the story was a slam dunk!
Book 3 in the series, GRAVE PERIL began a fundamental shift in the character of the series and with SUMMER KNIGHT, Jim Butcher has now changed the flavour of Harry Dresden and his escapades entirely.
The difference is that SUMMER KNIGHT definitely takes itself seriously and, while the comedy is still there and is just as funny and just as enjoyable, the emphasis is now on the horror, the fantasy, the monsters, the plot and the underlying mythology. The mystery is now a long way from "cozy"! Harry Dresden is at war! He's at war with the vampires who have stolen Susan, the love of his life, and infected her with their loathsome blood curse. He's at war with his own White Council, who want to remove his powers and offer him as a sacrificial lamb to the bloodthirsty vampires. He's at war with the Summer and Winter fairy queens, who in the course of a cataclysmic war with one another, threaten humanity itself. And, finally, he's at war with himself, as he struggles to recover from the psychological devastation of the loss of Susan's love and his inability to find a cure for her latent vampirism.
SUMMER KNIGHTis peopled with a cast of fantastical characters from wizards to warriors, from pixies to fairies, from ghouls to werewolves and vampires, from dragons to centaurs. It's now a mature series that blends an angst-ridden hard-boiled detective who's also a psychological basket case with an intensely innovative mythology of magic and the entire universe of the paranormal. It's funny, it's heartwarming and it's exciting. What more could one ask of an author?