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Peace Talks
Dresden Files #16
by Jim Butcher
Ace, $28.00, 352pp
Published: July 2020

Well, it’s been six long years waiting for something more substantial about Harry then short stories.  It’s so good to have Harry Dresden back, even if he isn’t quite the same happy-go-lucky wise-cracking wizard for hire that he once was…

Harry still wears the Winter Knight’s mantle; meaning most of the supernatural world now believes he’s Mab’s bitch.  He still has his daughter, Maggie, and they live within the protection of the Svartalf embassy in Chicago.  And life has settled for a bit; but we wouldn’t have a story if something didn’t upset Harry’s applecart.  At the end of the last book, the supernatural world was still reeling from the complete destruction of the Red Court and the unexpected appearance of the Fomor; an undersea race of particularly nasty creatures who hadn’t concerned themselves with the surface world for millennium.  As this story starts, the Fomor have asked that all the supernatural powers host a peace talk.  This is welcome news to everyone but all involved understand that all sorts of possibilities could come out of this sort of convocation.  Harry has been ordered by the Council to attend to help with security.  He’s not thrilled but he expects this is something he can handle.  He’s actually a bit more worried about his brother’s news – Justine is pregnant and she has only a 50% chance of surviving the pregnancy since the baby has the Hunger.  After all the things that have changed and shaped Harry, his love and loyalty to his brother, Thomas, is constant – which is what really influences all the subsequent events.

Preparing for the peace talks involves having conversations with his grandfather, the most powerful wizard on the planet: Ebenezar McCoy, a man with no patience for vampires and still ignorant of his relationship with Thomas.  And, as always, it’s family relationships that try Harry the most. He starts the story with a bit of conflicting feelings about Karrin; which she has to try and resolve, perhaps at the expense of her own life.

Everything spirals out of control when Thomas tries to assassinate the leader of the Svartalfs, right in the embassy where Harry and Maggie live.  Both the Svartalfs and Lara Raith, the Queen of the White Court and Thomas’ half-sister, have serious questions to put to Harry about his part in the attempt.  Thomas is apprehended and imprisoned; the Svartalfs determined to try and execute him at the earliest possible moment.  And the game is afoot… Despite everything stacked against him and he being the only person in the world who can save his brother which will certainly pit him against…well, just about everyone including Mab, there’s no way that Harry won’t do whatever he can.  And the players and the stakes are so much higher that his usual support structure really can’t provide much of anything.  But he does have Karrin, and a surprising ally.  It’s just really, really questionable whether saving the life of one person can balance the loss of thousands of lives when Chicago is threatened; even Harry can’t be in more than one place at the same time.

The plotting is superb.  Just. Superb.  While the flavor of the story is much more mature and darker than ten books back, showing both Harry’s maturing and the weight of all those years and decisions, Harry still has a way of looking at the world with wry cynicism and humor.  I doubt the author is going to jump the series a hundred years or more to show us the results of those years and losses; I have to hope, for Harry’s sake, that he won’t become the bitter man his grandfather became.  Harry may piss off just about everyone from time to time, but his inherent sense of justice is what really makes him a hero and deserving of respect, however grudging.

There were some lovely tidbits of information about many significant characters which I expect will come to fruition sooner or later.  And lest the gentle reader think they can lean back after this story is done to meditate on it; think again.  Butcher, diabolical writer that he is, has left Harry and all of us swinging in the wind…waiting for the next book. But to make up for the six-year-drought, the next book is due out the end of 2020 so we won’t have to suffer for long. ~~  Catherine Book

For other titles by Jim Butcher click here

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