There are certain moments in a story that are obviously the turning points, the hinges on which swing the doors that separate everything that has come before from everything that will come after. The two-part story of Jim Butcher’s Peace Talks and Battle Ground is one such obvious turning point for his ongoing series, The Dresden Files. So many earth-shattering events of pivotal and personal importance happened, and it was a gripping, thrilling, amazing ride.
Small wonder Butcher took so freaking long to publish!
Seriously, a large number of Dresden fans, like myself, have been waiting impatiently for years. It’s nothing compared to waiting on George R.R. Martin, but, still, we were kept waiting quite a bit longer than normal. Now, however, I have to say… it was worth the wait! 🙂
It bears mentioning, really quick, that if you haven’t read everything which precedes this two-part adventure, including the novels and the shorter stories and novellas, as found in Side Jobs and Brief Cases, you may find yourself missing a few things.
I will, of course, endeavor to skate around spoilers, because there are many of them, involving many significant things. And I once managed, in a moment of intemperate fanboy outburst, to spoil the end of Changes for my best friend, so I am rather hoping to avoid that from now on. That said, I am not always great at mentioning things in such a way that particularly intelligent, informed people would not be able to guess at anyway, so!
If ye hate spoilers, ye may want to turn around and come back later.
Peace Talks involves the intrigues in motion all around a summit of the supernatural nations, while Battle Ground chronicles the battle with an entity that crashes said summit. And when I say “battle,” I do not mean the sort of fight, or skirmish, or showdown that one has usually seen in these books. I mean outright bloody warfare, the first – and both sides mean it to be the last – exchange between entire armies that are filled with the mightiest powers we have yet seen in action. Every smaller skirmish in the battle would be a boss fight in the preceding books, let alone the actual slaughterhouse itself. All of this, while the curtain is slowly pulled back on the overall conflict of the series, on the identities of the true puppet masters and what they want, and why the protagonist is of such pivotal importance.
It is absolutely epic.
But that is just what the story involves. That’s what happens. And, while thrilling, that has never been what the Dresden Files has been about.
The story, as ever, is about the importance of family, and friends, and love, and doing what is right, right then and there, wherever you are, no matter how impossible it may seem and no matter the pain of what it costs.
As Harry Dresden narrates, as usual, we see him fight for what matters most to him. He fights to protect his family from anything, and thus he also fights to protect anyone else that he can. Also as usual, we see him face both the corrupt powers around him and the darkness within, but both in a much more profound way. In this story, he suffers losses unlike any he has yet endured, and it pushes him to the brink and beyond… which is where his friends come in to both support him, and to save him from his worst self. That is what friends do, fight side-by-side with you against all evil, and fight you when you begin to do wrong, to do evil, yourself.
These are the themes on which the plot ultimately turns in one direction or another.
In that vein, many important, poignant thoughts are verbalized in these two books, and some are simply shown in action, as secrets are revealed, realizations are felt, and the many nuanced limits of a number of supernatural powers are shown. One of my favorites is how a certain fairy queen apparently fails to comprehend anyone following another out of love and loyalty, instead of out of fear, obligation, or, at best, self-serving motives of one’s own. But more, I love the role that normal humans get to play, as the grain of rice that tips the scales, so to speak. And most of all, I love the discussion about the importance of a family choosing to be there for each other, in a variety of ways, and what happens when one fails to do so.
Overall, these two books, chronicling pivotal events, are also about Harry Dresden himself coming to find his own ground on which to stand again, with any who will join him. He’s taken the hits as they’ve come, and lately he’s been blown about, unable to find his own footing, but now he has finally, visibly, evolved, and he will come out all the stronger for it, I am certain.
In short, this was simply a fantastic story, filled with twists and turns most unexpected, powerful themes, great action, lovable characters, and so many moments of laughter and tears.
Rating: 9 stars out of 10.
Grade: solid A.