Tag Archives: war

Review: The Dresden Files 4–Summer Knight

Warning: Rant ahead.

Summer Knight pretty much takes the ending established in Grave Peril and trashes it. Rather than sort-of coping with the help of his friends, Harry is instead drowning in his depression over Susan. It takes one of the Fairy Queens ordering him on a job (there is no options) and the Council’s threats of killing him over the war between them and the vampire Red Court to snap him back into his groove. What follows is a tangle of trying to figure out what is truth (not easy when dealing with fairies) and taking steps to prevent the next great weather shift, be it an Ice Age or the kind of plant growth that is deadly for the human race. Oh, and not being assassinated. That last one is important.

Before the rant begins, let me be at least a little kind. Butcher finally found the right balance to how much information we as the reader needs to stay equal with Harry on the detective/private investigator side of the book but not to get ahead of him. I didn’t feel like Harry was making wild leaps in logic that I couldn’t see every few seconds, but I also wasn’t about to throw the book because Harry was missing something glaringly obvious. This is a huge improvement compared even to two books ago, Fool Moon. The action sequencing was also a lot better. There wasn’t a dependency on Harry finding just a little more strength over and over again (or if there was, it was so minor I didn’t notice it), and it was doing gradual spikes, letting me breath and absorb after a huge rush of action, but still staying strong enough that I didn’t have the urge to put down the book.

As a slight warm-up to the rant, two things. First, the world-building took a step back. Even though the focus was primarily on the fairy, there were so many different aspects of it being thrown at us, I would have been completely lost if I wasn’t used to managing my own spawn of characters. I understand the hugeness of the Nevernever and the fairy that Butcher was going for, but since so few of the previous books had much to do with the fairies aside from a couple very specific people, we as readers got lost. There almost needed to be another book between this great war set up and the last one to help ease us into the fairies better.

And the side characters. Lord, there were a lot more than usual thrown at us, and we had to keep up with a lot of them without many tags to go off of. Billy was an interesting character to bring back, but I wasn’t sure he served as good of a balance to Dresden as Michael did. Maybe because Billy is so gun-ho about being beside Harry instead of advising caution in some cases. It was frustrating, since Dresden tends to jump into things headfirst. And the various members of the White Council–including Dresden’s second teacher–were just…paper dolls that had words to say and otherwise weren’t really as influential as you would think they are since they earned names and vague descriptions.

Mentioning side characters gets us into the rant. I about said, “Screw it,” and announced that this was going to be the last book I reviewed in this series, that’s how frustrated I was about this book. For those who read last week’s post, I was begging for a strong female character to balance out Dresden, even citing that Murphy had potential, if Butcher wanted to go that way. And with a book featuring so many fairy characters, many female, there was a chance for this to happen, maybe even with human characters as the book went on.

It started off bad. The first Winter Queen that Dresden meets is described in nothing but sexual metaphors. Now, whether this is supposed to be comments on her fae nature, I don’t know, but the problem is at first, she is a mortal woman. A potential client. And Dresden is so blase about the fact that he looks at her in a sexual way, despite the fact that he is supposed to be fretting himself to death over his ex-girlfriend.  Then Mab goes all fairy, and that appears to be the end of it. But she is only the beginning. Every single fairy is described the same way, making them into sex objects rather than actual characters.

These are the fairies, and I’ve already said he has problems with them in Grave Peril. That should be the end of it, right? Not too bad? Oh no. Because now we meet the mysterious Elaine from Dresden’s past. We’d gotten enough of an idea of her over the course of the last two books, but much like the ending of the previous book, a lot of that is thrown under the rug with what appears is going to be the Butcher equivalent of the DnD phrase, “A wizard did it.” And again, she is described as a sex object. Which I guess I am supposed to excuse because she and Harry used to have a relationship? Yeah, that doesn’t fly for me. I’ve put up with the stupid version chivalry that Dresden follows (which isn’t the real version, I would know), but this is enough to take the cake.

Oh yeah, speaking of that form of chivalry. Remember Murphy? The potentially powerful female character who I had my hopes pinned on for her being a good balance to Dresden once she got brought completely into the loop? Shot to friggin’ dust bunny HELL in this book. Not literally, but I’m beginning to see signs that Butcher is going to utterly wreck her and there is nothing I can do but whine about it (so I shall). The Murphy we’d met in all the previous books wouldn’t mix drugs and alcohol. And while she might struggle with things that go bump in the night after the previous book, she’s seen too much over the last few months with Harry to completely fall apart like she has in this book. Butcher tries to bring her back during a shoot-out in Wal-Mart, but it doesn’t work for me. She shouldn’t have fallen that hard in the first place, and now that she has, I bet he’s going to just make it worse.

At this point in the series, there is no arguing that you can pick up a book and understand them completely. They are starting to rely too much on the reader reading the previous books to know about the events Dresden has faced recently. Which, with a long-running series, I guess I shouldn’t be too upset about him making it (sort of) to Book 4 before reaching this point. But then I think of several series that I’ve read over the years that manage it for much longer, so… I don’t think I can. Here’s on to the next. Hopefully I can keep these reviews going.

By they way, thank you all for being patient on this post. My wrist needed to be iced down before I could even write the announcement yesterday. And then again before I could go to sleep. Hopefully the new brace I ordered will help it from continuing to be a problem.

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Tabletop RP: Favorite Classes

Anyone who has played any kind of tabletop RP knows that there are a plethora of classes (or types, for those non-versed) of characters to play. You can sometimes mix and match, take on a more specialized class, or completely wreck anything that class is actually intended for, but some are more fun for others. For example, I am AWFUL at any kind of spellcaster that requires me to prepare my spells the night before. I just feel cranky having to pick spells, or needing a spell at a particular moment, but derp, didn’t pick it “last night,” so now we have to wait for me to rest 8 hours. I also haven’t ever played a straight fighter, so I don’t know how well I’ll like playing one. I’ve also been dabbling in the d20 Future stuff (no matter how derpy it is at times), and have an idea on my favorites there too.

To begin with, my baby. The girl who started it all. The one who had two wanted posters out for her at the same time, one labeling her human and female, the other half-elf and male. I’m sort of an archer-fanatic, so I guess it isn’t a surprise that my first character was a ranged Ranger (yeah, it’s a thing), who eventually became a modified-from-3.0-into-3.5 Deep Wood Sniper. I really liked my near invisibility status and the ability to almost take down a minotaur single-handedly with two arrows fired at the same time, thanks to their tips being poisoned and him failing most of the Fortitude checks. The animal companion aspect didn’t come into play much, but that’s another story. I also never really had a use for my spells, but then, we had a cleric in the party most of the time, and the rest of the time I couldn’t be hit so I didn’t care. The only real downside was when I was hit, I was nearly killed far too easily. And then don’t get me started on how low the will saves for rangers/deep wood snipers are. It’s sad, and led to much brain washing on my part.

Another sort of mixed feeling class is my Favored Soul. On one hand, I love playing Anna, and when I came into this campaign, I sort of accepted I was going to be like 60%-75% health battery. I discovered I much more liked the way I can just cast any spell I know, and her stats, at least in the early days, weren’t completely sucky. But for those of you who haven’t looked at Favored Souls, about level six (if I’m recalling right), things get ugly. You stop getting almost any bonuses for leveling up. Now, this is done on purpose. Those are really the levels where your DM gets to step in and start doing things to your character involving your deity that’s favoring the character, giving them the power boost that way. Only, my DM wasn’t. And he was doing a “I level you when it’s time for you to level for story reasons, rather than by experience,” way of things, so I was stuck in one of those sucky levels for what felt like forever. So there is my word of warning. I would take Favored Soul over Cleric, and I think it can be a fun class. But make sure you have a DM who knows where your levels of suck are and how to help your character not get vastly over powered by the others in the process.

My favorite class so far has got to be War Mage, but that might be because of how pseudo-overpowered it feels to me. You get all of the offensive spells, you auto-know them when you level, so no worries about picking out huge lists of spells, and then every few levels you get to pick out a new spell to add to your repitoire. You also get to do more damage based off of your Intelligence score, and then, as if that isn’t enough, you can add more with feats. Best part though? No squishy wizard affect! That’s right, war mages get to wear light and then later medium armor, and can go all the way up to heavy with another feat. Or you can do what I’m doing and get a heavy armor made out of mithril so it only counts as medium and just say, “Screw ALL ya’ll!” The saves aren’t great, but they aren’t awful either, and while you don’t get a lot of skills or skill points, what skills you do get are relevant to the character, and it’s still easy to really make your character your own. Yun has been a ball to play so far, and I don’t see that changing.

As I said at the beginning, I’ve been dabbling in the d20 Future. And while the first campaign crashed and burned, the second is setting itself up well enough that I think I’m going to like what I’m doing. The key I’m thinking is that while I have technically picked one particular type of Hero Class, I was able to toggle with both my ability scores and my starting occupation (and take some cross-class skills) to give my character traits from a different one without taking multi-class levels. And really, I think that might be the best way to play this version of tabletop RP. Yes, pick a class and take everything it offers to you, but also take bits and pieces that lets you round out so you aren’t so heavily specialized that all it takes is one situation and you are screwed. I’m so excited to play Birdie, and I know some of that is me getting to surprise my fellow RPers and the fact I get to be more than just my starting class.

Now for the bad side of the coin. One of my least favorites was actually a gestalt character, a combination of Ninja and Wu Jen that was oh-so-fondly dubbed, the Wu Jinja. While the character herself was both a pot of crazy and a lot of fun, I gotta say, I hated the classes. By themselves, the ninja was like playing a low-level wizard after he ran out of spells, and the wu jen WAS a low-level wizard, and we’ve already talked about my feelings on that kind of spell caster. They sort of saved each other enough that I no longer hated them, but I definitely wouldn’t pick them again unless I knew there was going to be a large party to help protect my character’s scrawny butt until she got more powerful spells/abilities.

So, let me throw this out there. What are some of you guys’ favorite classes, or least favorite? What do you like about them?