Back in 2018 I did a review of Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files urban fantasy series. In that review I enthusiastically recommended the series but noted that the last installment was released back in 2014. This year Butcher published the sixteenth and seventeenth volumes in the series, “Peace Talks” and “Battle Ground.” Somewhat unusually these two books comprise a single story. So that means that the ending of Peace Talks is a great big “to be continued” notice. Normally that would be extremely annoying but because the two books were released back to back it’s tolerable. Another unusual situation is the fact that I haven’t read a Dresden Files book in several years. For that reason, I’m having trouble deciding if the “voice” of Harry in the book is the same as it used to be. I’m going to say that it isn’t the same. Part of this may have to do with the changes in Harry’s status since his last story. Now he is the “Knight” for Mab the dangerous Winter Queen and also the father of a young girl, Maggie. I’ll have to go back to the previous book but I believe they have tamed down Harry quite a bit.
If you haven’t read the earlier books then you don’t want to jump into the series at volume sixteen. Read my review of the series and decide if you want to start up with this very long but very good urban fantasy series. If you have read the earlier volumes then I’ll report that the series is shaping up to be just as chaotic and crazy as ever. As is Butcher’s way, the story starts out with an existential crisis developing in Harry’s life and then blossoms into the apocalypse. Whenever something really bad happens the scramble to avoid catastrophe leads to a crisis that is orders of magnitude worse. I will say that the pacing of the initial crisis seemed a little slow in spots based on my memory of how Butcher did these things. And maybe that has to do with this being a two-book story. But by the end of the book things were falling apart very nicely and Harry was right in his sweet spot, trying to save the world without any reasonable hope of even saving himself. All his enemies were his only possible allies and all of his friends were alienated and hostile. I won’t throw in any spoilers. All the old characters are back and we see some of the damage done in the last book is still haunting the characters here. Murph is seriously injured in a leg and arm. She is no longer with Chicago PD and is awaiting additional surgeries and rehab to partially recover from her injuries. Molly Carpenter is now the Winter Lady, Mab’s lieutenant and she has used her connections to provide Harry and his daughter with a home. It is an apartment that is contained within a sort of embassy building owned and run by the Svartalves (dark elves) who are very serious about security. This was necessary because in the last book the Red House Vampires finally burned Harry’s crummy home to the ground. And his Volkswagen Bug was also finished off. Now he’s driving a reconditioned and ancient hearse that he calls the Munstermobile.
I will say that the annoyance of having the book end in the middle of the story is acceptable because having Harry back is worth it. I expect really good things from Battle Ground and if you’re a Dresden Files fan you have no choice but to jump in and enjoy the wreckage that Harry drags in his wake. Highly recommended.