Peace Talks, a Quick and Dirty Review
I'm pretty passionate about the Dresden Files, and like a million other rabid fans, I've been waiting with bated breath for the newest book, Peace Talks, to come out. The moment it downloaded to my audible app I dove in (because Harry Dresden just isn't Harry Dresden if he isn't voiced by James Marsters), and over the next two days I scraped for every moment I could get to myself to listen. And here are my thoughts:
First off, and this is not a criticism, Peace Talks is really only half a story, and I think it feels very different from other Dresden books for exactly that reason. Reading it was like seeing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 or Mockingjay Part 1 in theaters: I went in strongly suspecting it was going to be a lead-in to the second Dresden book due out this fall, Battle Ground. And it is. By the end of Peace Talks, the big mystery isn't solved; in fact, part of me looks back and wonders if we've even started getting the answers to any of our questions, or if it's all questions at this point. The book has a beginning, middle, and end, but if you're expecting the kind of high-impact climax that gave us the famous zombie T-rex in Dead Beat or the heart-wrenching sacrifice of Changes, it just isn't there.
As I said though, it's not a criticism. It's the reality of a plot having to be split in two, and if all the hints we've gotten from Jim are any indication, Battle Ground will wrap up the story with an even bigger climax than we've ever seen before.
What excited me most about this book is the menagerie of characters and creatures who've come back. Of course we have our Queens of Faerie, Mab, Molly, and Sarissa, and we have good old Vadderung (always thrilled to see him). John Marcone, of course, and Lara Raith of the White Court... plenty of powerful supernatural friends and foes who are by now quite familiar. But, we also get a few old faces we haven't seen in a while, and if you're like me, you might have been wondering where they've been. River Shoulders makes an appearance and imparts some interesting info about the forest people we didn't have before (that's bigfeet to those who haven't read Jim's Working for Bigfoot Dresden novellas). Ebenezar McCoy, Martha Liberty, and Listens-To-Wind return again, and--my personal favorite--Ferrovax the dragon. What has this guy been up to? I've been waiting for him to show up again since Book Three!
And, we get to meet a brand new Big Bad that truly thrills me. Can't WAIT to see what she does next!
Another thing I loved about this book was some of the new background information we get on matters that were never explained before. The meaning of "starborn" is finally revealed, and the significance it bears for Harry's future; the Knights of the Sword noodle through a new revelation (which I personally love). A little bit more is discovered about Lara and Thomas, and their sibling relationship.
All in all, if you're like me and you love character and world building, this book is a feast of little treats and goodies.
I will note, though, that this book felt like it had a lot more "long talks" in it than previous books of the series. I've never before in a Dresden Files book found myself getting bored with the conversational parts and I must admit, in this book there were two significant parts where I did start to lose interest, and if you asked me to tell you what those sections were about I'm afraid I don't remember. Part of me wonders if, in splitting the book in two, Butcher had to flesh out a few parts and ended up with discussions that ran on a bit longer than they were originally meant to.
My one other criticism is the repetitive nature of McCoy hating on vampires. I mean, the guy hates vampires, we get it, and he has a good reason to hate them, absolutely. I wouldn't even say his hatred was the problem for me...it was the invasive nature of him reminding Dresden at every opportunity. He'd bring it up in moments where it really seemed unnecessary, distracting, and just not conducive to the situation at hand (during a running battle with outsiders, for example).
By the way, how do outsiders keep getting in? Maybe I've forgotten something from previous books but they sure seem to be showing up a lot lately.
Overall, though, a solid Dresden adventure, if one that is as yet unfinished. 4 out of 5 stars.
My Predictions on What Comes Next
(WARNING: Here thar may be spoilers!)
I love to make predictions when I read these books, to see if I can guess where Jim's going to go. So here are my predictions after reading Peace Talks: DON'T TRUST JUSTINE!!
Justine is on the bad guy's side, I'm sure of it. I'm not entirely sure if she's been possessed or infected by Nemesis and if this is a reversible condition, or if we're about to find out she's been playing the long con for years. In Peace Talks, Thomas tries twice to tell Dresden something about Justine, but due to injuries he can only just make out the first part of her name. Dresden assumes his brother is trying to ask him to take care of Justine, but I'm certain Thomas is actually trying to warn him. And somehow, it's taken me fourteen books to realize Justine is the feminine version of Justin. Could she and DuMorne somehow be connected?
MURPHY IS GOING TO DIE
I've been pretty certain that the instant Murphy became Dresden's confirmed love interest, Butcher would be issuing her death warrant. The events of Peace Talks make me even more certain. She starts out the book with heavy injuries from her fight with Nicodemus and Dresden even comments on the fact she can no longer be the warrior she once was. Like Michael, her fighting days are probably over. But when it's time to suit up and fight, Murphy cuts off her own casts, insisting she's going to come along into a den full of supernatural bad guys to help Harry carry out a dangerous and deadly plan. She's lucky enough to survive this installment...but I don't expect her to come out of Battle Ground alive.
As a side note, during the writing of these books Jim was asked where he was in the course of the plot, and he answered "Murphy's funeral". I think most people took this as an obvious deflection and I'm fairly sure Jim's been known to make wild claims about plot points which turned out -- perhaps obviously -- to be untrue. I wonder, though, if this time he wasn't being honest, and counting on his audience to assume it was a bluff.
EBENEZAR MAY DIE
Harry spends a good deal of this book arguing and fighting with his grandfather and for the first time, Ebenezar seems more inclined to take the side of the White Council rather than Harry's. I've suspected for a long time Ebenezar wouldn't survive the series, and now seems as likely a time as ever to get offed. A gloomy conversation with Murphy about never having had the time to say all the things she wanted to her father before he was gone seems to foreshadow Harry's similar fate, especially when she makes him promise to patch things up with Ebenezar and not let their disagreement drive them apart.