Fans of Jim Butcher’s DRESDEN FILES have been waiting for the sixteenth novel, Peace Talks (2020), for six years. It’s been so long that I actually had to go back and re-read the last few novels to get back up to speed on Harry’s life.
Was Peace Talks worth the wait? The short answer is “No.” Though it’s entertaining and shows us what Harry’s life has been like since the previous novel, Skin Game, it isn’t quite enough. By this point in the series, readers are expecting a thrill ride and life-shattering events with each new installment in THE DRESDEN FILES. And after we waited six years for this novel, Peace Talks feels like too little too late.
However, you know those infomercials on TV where they’ve got some possibly amazing product that you would really like to try if it wasn’t so expensive? Like those non-stick skillets that you can beat eggs in and then stick in the dishwasher and they’ll come completely clean with no damage? Or those three-winged light bulbs that will light up your entire garage or attic? And you’re thinking, I would kind of like to try that thing, but it seems a little expensive and I’m not sure it’s going to do what it promises … ” And then the infomercial guy, knowing exactly what you’re thinking, gleefully announces, “But wait, there’s more!” and throws in an extra one?
Peace Talks is a little like that. Because this time we’re getting a two-for-one special. The next novel, Battle Ground, will arrive next month! (“Just pay a separate fee.”) This fact makes all the difference because, while Peace Talks is a bit of a let-down after such a long wait, it ends on a cliffhanger and feels like the introduction to something that sounds like it’s going to be amazing.
I guess I should say a little about the plot of Peace Talks. As it opens, Harry is living in a new house (because this old house was blown up) with a daughter that he only recently found out he has. When Ebenezer (recently outed as Harry’s grandfather) shows up and tells Harry that he’s in some big trouble with the White Council and likely to get stripped of his title, Harry is encouraged to go out and do some glad-handing. But Harry, who thinks that the White Council is being directed by somebody on the Black Council, feels like he’s being set up to fail. The tension between Harry and Ebenezer is mounting. Ebenezer has kept secrets from Harry for years, and now Harry is keeping secrets from him. Their interactions are intense and emotional.
Meanwhile the Chicago police are hoping to bust Harry and Murphy for the events that occurred in the last novel, Skin Game. When Harry’s brother Thomas, a vampire, gets in some serious trouble, Harry, and some of the usual suspects, must go to his aid.
The rescue of Thomas is the story’s main plotline. By itself, it isn’t nearly enough to make up for the six-year wait, but throughout the story we get occasional glimpses of something even more sinister than usual going on behind the scenes, as well as some hints that Harry is even more Special than we ever thought. Then, in the last 20% of the novel, during the peace talks that the supernatural community is having to end hostilities between all their factions, an earth-shattering event occurs — an event that makes everything that’s come before, in the entire DRESDEN FILES, seem insignificant. Yikes!
Fortunately, we won’t have to wait long to find out what happens next in Battle Ground. If it was going to be another year or more, I’d feel very differently about Peace Talks, but knowing that we’ll pick up the story again in just another month, Peace Talks instead feels like a very long prologue, or maybe a drumroll — a chance to catch up with Harry and catch our breath just before taking a plunge into what looks like it’s going to be some extremely tumultuous waters. I can’t wait!
As I have said so many times before, the audio versions of THE DRESDEN FILES, produced by Penguin Audio and narrated by actor James Marsters, are some of the best audiobooks I’ve ever listened to. If you’re not listening to these editions, you’re missing something! Peace Talks is 13 hours long.