Review: “Peace Talks” and “Battle Ground” by Jim Butcher

Release Date: July 14, 2020 and September 29, 2020
Series: Dresden Files #16 and Dresden Files #17
Publisher: Ace
Genre: Urban Fantasy

Description

Peace Talks: “When the Supernatural nations of the world meet up to negotiate an end to ongoing hostilities, Harry Dresden, Chicago’s only professional wizard, joins the White Council’s security team to make sure the talks stay civil. But can he succeed, when dark political manipulations threaten the very existence of Chicago–and all he holds dear?”

Battle Ground: “Harry has faced terrible odds before. He has a long history of fighting enemies above his weight class. The Red Court of vampires. The fallen angels of the Order of the Blackened Denarius. The Outsiders.

But this time it’s different. A being more powerful and dangerous on an order of magnitude beyond what the world has seen in a millennium is coming. And she’s bringing an army. The Last Titan has declared war on the city of Chicago, and has come to subjugate humanity, obliterating any who stand in her way.

Harry’s mission is simple but impossible: Save the city by killing a Titan. And the attempt will change Harry’s life, Chicago, and the mortal world forever.”

Review

I have been reading The Dresden Files, well, not since the beginning but for at least a decade. I’ve been through ups and downs, rush jobs and long delays. At this point, I tend to just by whatever book comes out without even needing to know what it’s about. I’m deeply invested in the characters and series. All that being said, the two most recent installations made me question my loyalty.

I don’t know how the decision was made to make Peace Talks and Battle Ground two separate books, but that was the first bad choice. Book 16 should’ve been Thomas’s plot and book 17 the Titan invasion. There was both not enough and too much of both plots, and spreading them out across two companion books didn’t work. At all.

Thomas’s plot from Peace Talks drops off the face of the earth once the Titan Ethniu shows up, and we don’t get resolution until the very end of Battle Ground. There is almost no connection between the two stories, and frankly Thomas’s story has no actual plot. Thomas does a bad thing, Harry pisses off Lara and his grandfather trying to clean it up, and a secret is revealed about Justine. As for the Titan, most of Battle Ground is literally just battles. Battle after battle after bloody battle. Two hundred pages of Harry and company wandering around Chicago kicking some ass and getting their own asses kicked. On and on. You can only read about someone taking a hit or hitting someone else so many times before it starts to blur together. By the halfway point I kinda wanted Ethniu to win just to get the damn plot over with.

There is also the issue of diversity and inclusion. For one, Harry Dresden (and by extension Jim Butcher) falls back onto racist, ableist, and sexist ideologies way too easily. He calls Butters “little guy” CONSTANTLY. He pulls his macho bravado on Murphy at every opportunity, even after she repeatedly tells him to stop. He describes BIPOC in ways that creep right up to the line of inappropriate (when BIPOC show up at all). And don’t even get me started on how he talks about disabilities. Ugh. Have the books always been like this and I chose not to notice or have they gotten worse?

SPOILERS

But the biggest problem is when Butcher fridges a female character. Her death is completely unnecessary and serves only to give Harry a reason to threaten to kill her killer. It was awful and gross and almost made me DNF the book.

END SPOILERS

Despite all that, I did generally enjoy the series. I think I feel about the Dresden Files the same way I feel about the Odd Thomas series by Dean Koontz. I like the characters and the plots, even if I dislike how the two are written. I’ll probably keep reading the series even with my complaints, but the returns are rapidly diminishing.

Buy Peace Talks at Bookshop.org (affiliate link)

Buy Battle Ground at Bookshop.org (affiliate link)

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