Review: PEACE TALKS by Jim Butcher

Publisher: Ace Books
Release Date: July 14th, 2020
Page Count: 340
Series: THE DRESDEN FILES, Book 16
Rating: 4/5 Stars – Really Liked It!

Warning: Possible light spoilers ahead for earlier books in the series!

Peace TalksHarry Dresden, Chicago’s only wizard detective, has entangled himself in a lot of alliances over the years.  So when the various powers signed to the Unseelie Accords call for a summit to negotiate a truce between various warring factions, it’s only natural that Harry’s life gets real complicated real quick – especially when a close friend makes an assassination attempt on a powerful leader on the eve of the summit.  With various sides demanding blood and the peace talks set to fall apart, Dresden finds himself navigating murky political waters to clear his friend’s name – and one wrong move could reignite a war that will spill over into the mortal realms.

Ah, it’s good to be back!  It’s been six years since the last DRESDEN FILES book, and I have missed this world!  Thankfully, PEACE TALKS serves as a bit of a check-in with the state of Harry’s friends and enemies.  As Harry tries to untangle the mess caused by the assassination attempt, he finds himself visiting quite a few allies and frenemies he’s made over the years, allowing us to be reminded of where things stand while Harry tries something he’s never been very good at: diplomacy.  It makes for a slightly less action-packed book than previous entries (though there are still a couple of big set pieces), but I enjoyed hanging out with characters I hadn’t seen in years.  Really, some authors underestimate how much we just like existing with characters we’ve come to love.  There’s a scene early on where Harry is home with his young daughter, supervising her very serious attempt to make pancakes on her own, and really, it was one of my favorite moments in the book.

But it wouldn’t be a DRESDEN FILES book if something didn’t blow up at some point (both physically and metaphorically), and you’ll find plenty of magic being slung around.  More importantly, these fights packed an emotional punch. It’s always fun to watch magic duels, but when the stakes are more personal than just “kill the evil demon monster,” it just hits you in the gut.  Harry (and the audience) know why he’s doing what he’s doing, but to old friends without all the information, his actions look sketchy at best.  It makes for some tense standoffs as Harry tries to keep from crossing a line he can never come back from.

I will say that I did eyeroll a little more than I have in the past at the way Harry notices the curves of every woman who enters his presence.  As it’s been a while since I’ve picked up earlier books, I don’t know if it’s more pronounced in this outing, or if I’ve just become more attuned to male gaze in books. I get it, there are White Court vampires running around messing with your libido, but I didn’t need to be reminded every ten pages.  Still, there are plenty of women in PEACE TALKS who pull their weight (and then some), so the writing does save itself from being completely sexist. For every femme fatale vampire, there’s a Karrin Murphy ready to drop kick Harry into the sun when he’s being an idiot – and she’ll do it with two limbs in a cast.

PEACE TALKS is the true calm before the storm.  With the next book (due in September 2020) entitled BATTLE GROUND, it’s not really a spoiler to say that things do not work out as intended at the summit.  And with all the lines drawn in the sand after Harry’s check-ins with the various magical factions, it’s time for the war to begin.  PEACE TALKS ends on a hell of a cliff hanger, and almost should have been labeled “Part One,” as numerous plot threads are left unresolved.  You can absolutely bet I am ready for BATTLE GROUND the second it drops!

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