Peace Talks (The Dresden Files #16), by Jim Butcher

Peace Talks by Jim Butcher

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Here we go again… Yet another Harry Dresden and yet it’s both more of the same as well as different.

The first nine books were all mediocre to me – three stars because I felt generous – and ridiculously stupid for reading nine ok’ish books in a row till the Stockholm Syndrome set fully in with book 10.

So, we’re at number 16 (!) now and most series have become bland, boring and/or been warped beyond recognition (cf. George’s Lynley!). In fact, it’s somewhat similar with respect to the “beyond recognition” part:

Harry Dresden, who used to be a “a male chauvinist pig; […] a misogynist arse” by my own words, has turned into a mostly-decent human being. A very long-lived human being (think centuries!) and a wizard to boot.

It’s not about who they are,” I said quietly. “It’s about who I am. And the example I’m setting.

Maybe it’s all me who enjoys a Dresden who – in the midst of a pitched battle – thinks that “Sometimes the best defense is a T. rex”. Comic relief, hilarity ensuing while the forces of the unlikely good and the most-definitely evil battle it out. That too is Harry Dresden.

Or maybe it’s Butcher who – by now in his mid-forties – still looks like an irredeemable nerd but has grown together with his wizard hero into something that not only other nerds can respect.

How could I not love someone who explains “home” like this:

But there’s a deeper meaning to home. Something simpler, more primal. It’s where you eat the best food because other predators can’t take it from you very easily there. It’s where you and your mate are the most intimate. It’s where you raise your children, safe against a world that can do horrible things to them. It’s where you sleep, safe. It’s where you relax. It’s where you dream. Home is where you embrace the present and plan the future. It’s where the books are. And more than anything else, it’s where you build that world that you want.

Apart from all that, my four stars are still generous because this book feels like Butcher tried (successfully!) to become reacquainted with his characters himself – they’re all there: Murphy, Molly, Mouse, Maggie, Michael, Lara, Thomas – pretty much everyone makes a (more or less) short cameo appearance.

Don’t get me wrong: You’ll feel right at home with this book if you like Dresden. It’s just that “Peace Talks” feels a lot like a transitional book; at its end, nothing is resolved. It’s not a horrible cliffhanger either. It’s just that once you’ve read the final sentence, you’ll realise you’d have been ready for the main action. Which is likely what’s coming up in “Battle Ground”. While it’s not a huge deal, it’s sad that we have to wait yet another few months.

Even worse, though: Having everyone meet Harry again – who is sorting out his legacy anyway already – is a bit like having his life pass by… It feels slightly as if Butcher is working up courage for Harry’s endgame. That, too, could just be me again.

Either way, this book most likely won’t sway you in either direction: If you liked Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden before, this book won’t change that. It might, in fact, inspire more sympathy for Harry.

On the other hand, if you don’t like Harry (yet), you won’t be convinced by reading this book. It doesn’t lend itself to be a starting point for the series either – you’ll hardly know who’s who and why they are as they are, as “Peace Talks” is about how all the Houses, factions and monsters we all know come together to make peace – or shoot to kill?

Secondly, “Peace Talks” is probably some slight nod to us, the readers, who (mostly) held our peace for those six long years after its glorious predecessor, “Skin Game”, was published.

I have high hopes for Dresden, Butcher and, most of all, “Battle Ground”. I just hope that won’t be Harry’s last dance…

Promise me you’ll fight smart,” I said. She bumped her head against my arm and said, “How would you know if I did?

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