Harry Dresden, practicing wizard and dogged detective is back. Now, Harry’s racing to save his vampire brother, rescue Chicago from a formidable foe, and, equally challenging for Harry, exercise tact at the supernatural peace accords.
Oh, Harry—I’ve missed you.
Peace Talks—Jim Butcher, 2020. Rating: 4.5/5
It’s been six years since Skin Game (2014), when we last had the unmitigated pleasure of watching Harry pull off a daring heist of Hades’ bank vault. Peace Talks picks up right where Skin Game left off. Life has quieted down (marginally) for Harry. He and his daughter are living safely with the svartalves. His relationship with his brother Thomas is good. His relationship with Murphy is great. But who needs stability, right? Harry’s grandfather warns him the wizard’s White Council is out to get him. The Wardens think Harry’s humanity has been…compromised…by Queen Mab. Thomas is accused of an assassination attempt. Mab orders Harry to do a favor for the sexy and fearsome vampire leader, Lara Raith. The police are on Harry’s trail for some run-of-the-mill (for Harry) mayhem following the bank heist. Oh, and the dangerous, watery Fomor produce a bona-fide Titan goddess who enthusiastically plans destroy all of humanity. Harry lives in interesting times.
Honestly, I’ve been both longing for and dreading a new Harry adventure. Dread almost won out: what if Butcher lost Harry’s mojo? What if Harry wasn’t, well, Harry? What if the plot got pretentious? Or moribund, like so many series that drag on past their prime? Essentially, what if the book sucked? I refused to read Peace Talks for a few weeks, I was that worried.
Peace Talks is everything I wanted and, frankly, needed right now: the rush of an amusement park ride, the familiarity of my most comfy chair, and a hero. Butcher got it all right. Harry is still Harry: battered but not broken, hard-nosed and soft-hearted, wry, and a little goofy. And he continues to grow. Harry’s newly developing intimacy with Murphy is tender and shy. Harry’s friends and enemies alike are equally complex. The Chicago Harry knows and loves is gloriously, grittily real. If I visit, I fully expect to run into Harry tooling around the city in his Munstermobile, or exercising on Montrose Beach. Returning to Harry’s world—chaotic, treacherous, violent, loving—is a joy.
Butcher brilliantly keeps a lot of balls in the air, ratcheting the suspense high, our anxiety higher, and the story flying. At 340 pages, the book was still too short, it was that good. The end of Peace Talks does leave the plot hanging off multiple cliffs. I’d be grumpy about this Empire Strikes Back finish, except the sequel is already out. Battle Ground. And I won’t be waiting weeks to read it. Insert sigh of happiness.