Title: Battle Ground
Author: Jim Butcher
Publication Date: September 29, 2020
Format: Signed Hardcover
Rating: 3 or 4 stars (undecided)
Warning – if you haven’t read Peace Talks or Battle Ground yet, there are likely to be spoilers ahead. I usually try to avoid them in my reviews, but I don’t think it will be possible this time since my feelings on Battle Ground are very tied to one specific HUGE spoiler.
I have been a devoted Dresden Files fan for more than a decade. I’ll recommend the series to anyone who’s looking for a good urban fantasy or grown-up version of Harry Potter. I love it. So naturally I was super excited to hear we would be getting not one, but TWO new installments in 2020. Aside from my wedding and the birth of my nephew, this was what I was most looking forward to last year.
Maybe it was the fact that we had waited so long between books, or that I was so highly anticipating this book that nothing could live up to my expectations, but Peace Talks was “just ok.” There were some aspects I loved – especially finally getting to see Harry interacting with Maggie and being Daddy. But overall, it suffered from “Two Towers Syndrome.” This book was all rising action and really only existed to set up Battle Ground. It became apparent (at least to me) by the end that the likely reason we were getting two novels in one year was because this manuscript was originally one Brandon Sanderson-sized novel split into two installments. While Peace Talks wasn’t bad, it also wasn’t what I hoped it would be after such a long wait.
And then came Battle Ground. I held off on reading this for several months, despite my impatience, because I wanted to spread them out a little. I knew that it would likely be years before we see Dresden again after this double shot, so I wanted to make it last as long as possible. So I decided to wait until at least 2021 to read Battle Ground.
I have so many mixed feelings about this book. On the one tentacle (sorry, couldn’t resist), it was a good Dresden book. It picked up right where Peace Talks left off, with Harry and Murphy on their way back to the city (after leaving Thomas in cold storage on Demonreach) in order to join the forces preparing to defend Chicago against the Fomor army and the Titan Ethniu. The action escalated quickly and never really let up until the end of the novel. The overall tone seemed a little darker and more somber than usual, but still had plenty of Harry’s trademark wit. There were several shocking revelations, a few threads tied up and others left dangling in the enticing manner (I’m getting almost as impatient as Harry is to learn more about this whole “Starborn” business). This is more the novel I would have anticipated following such a long hiatus. This novel lived up to my expectations.
** Warning: Major Spoilers Ahead**
Marring my enjoyment of this novel is the fact that Butcher committed one almost unforgiveable sin halfway through the book – I say “almost” because I haven’t yet decided whether or not I’m going to forgive him. I knew it was coming. I had this horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach that it was going to happen. I was bracing myself through the entire first half. And then it happened. And I was so angry and upset that I seriously considered setting the book aside, at least for the time being. It wasn’t even so much what happened as how (although I’m pretty angry about the what as well).
I love Murphy. I love her strength, her fierce loyalty, and her inability to back down from any fight. Though she was small, she was Fierce. And she deserved better. She killed a freaking Jotun with a grenade launcher only to be shot by Rudolph? Freaking RUDOLPH?!? Come on!! I understand Butcher was trying to up the stakes. We’re heading into his endgame – if his own statements about how long he plans to carry on the series are to be believed – and he wants to make a statement that nobody is safe. I get it. But this was one step too far. It honestly killed my enthusiasm for the rest of the novel – so much so that I almost didn’t finish it. But my curiosity got the better of me and I had to see how it ended.
Butcher tried to redeem the situation in the end, by revealing Murph had been taken to (I can only assume) Valhalla, and would one day return as one of Odin’s warriors (though apparently not until everyone has forgotten her). Given this is a supernatural series, it’s very likely she may return sooner – perhaps even as early as the next novel – but I’m still angry.
Then, to make matters worse, Justine is possessed. Has been for years. Tricked Thomas into conceiving a child with her. I won’t even go into how many ways that’s just gross and disturbing and a complete violation of Justine.
And for added fun, the dust has barely settled and Harry is ordered to marry Lara Raith. Um, WHAT?!?!?
Maybe it’s a good thing there’s likely to be a long wait until the next installment, because it may take me that long to move past this enough to read it.