A Review of ‘Peace Talks’ by Jim Butcher

Spoilers Below! You’ve been warned.

I’ll give Mr. Butcher credit: after twenty years of writing this series, he’s maintained a consistent quality of writing. This book feels fundamentally like most if not all previous books in this series. All the characters have changed in subtle but profound ways- Dresden most of all. But even with that, the setting feels the same. Reading this was like returning home after a long trip. That said, at times I felt as though the series hadn’t changed enough.

With that said, let’s get the review started


CHARACTERS AND CHARACTERIZATION:

This is the story’s best aspect. Butcher has done an excellent job of maintaining consistent characterization across 15 books, while at the same time slowly developing all the major characters so they’ve changed both subtly and fundamentally. In ‘Peace Talks,’ Dresden himself at long last has to fundamentally come to terms with just what the word ‘family’ means to him. He has to worry about his daughter Maggie; he has to worry about his girlfriend Murph; he has to worry about his brother Thomas; he has to worry about his grandfather McCoy.

At the beginning of the series he was an orphan, alone. Over the course of the series his family has grown… and Dresden hasn’t quite adapted to what that means. He wasn’t raised in a healthy, functioning family, so naturally he doesn’t understand how to resolve family squabbles. Over the course of this book he has to learn just what it means to be a father, a brother, a significant other, a grandson. This is good stuff. I wish the author leaned into it a bit more, but as is the author explored the topic pretty well.

But I had a problem with this book’s characterization.

Dresden is (arguably) more horny than ever in this book. This is a first person POV book, so this bit of characterization is… a thing. If you’ve read prior books you’ve no doubt noticed how sexually focused Harry as a character is. Honestly? It’s getting a bit old. In book 16, it’s high time Harry had some character development to address this flaw. (He’s in his forties and a father! I’m a dude, and I think this is getting gross to read. I can’t imagine what a woman reading this would think. It’s high time Butcher stopped using this trope.)

Overall, I give the story’s Characterization a rating of: (B+)


PACING AND STRUCTURE

I’ve got to admit, Butcher is a master of tension and pressure. The author does an excellent job of grabbing the reader and refusing to let go. I can’t think of another author who is anywhere near as good as Butcher on this account.  For Pacing, I’d give this A+

But I had structural and style problems with this book.

  1. Once again, Butcher begins his book by infodumping exposition. He explains the Sight, the Never Never, the White Court/Winter Court/White Council, ectoplasm, yadayada.
    1. If you’ve read a couple Dresden books you know what I’m talking about. The author infodumps in the same way in almost every one of his books. I’ve read (and re-read) this series enough times that whenever the author infodumps like this, I get frustrated.
    2. I wish the author found an elegant way of providing this information without infodumping it.
  2. This is book 1 in a two book mini-duology set inside the Dresden Files series as a whole. The second half of the duology comes out later this year. Peace Talks feels like part one in a two part series. The end of this book had barely any emotional resolution to it.
    1. This book is all set up and no pay off- even the endings of this story is set up for future plot points. Upon finishing this book I feel mildly disgruntled. It ends on a massive cliffhanger- the biggest cliffhanger in the series by far. If it weren’t for the fact that the next book comes out in a few months I’d be pissed.

Overall, I give the story’s Pacing and Structure: (A-)


PLOT AND PROSE

I’m not giving plot details, so I’ll talk in generalities.

I liked the plot overall, I just wish the ending had more of an ending. I wish there were a few more twists and turns in the lead-up to the ending, but there weren’t. I wish this book stood more on it’s own. This is the shortest book in the series, and it feels as though stuff was left out. Just taking this book on it’s own, it wasn’t a completely satisfactory experience. I needed an ending. Again, there’s going to be another book out soon to wrap up all the plotlines started in this book. However if I’m judging this book on it’s own this book just doesn’t hold up.

Also, the villains sucked. They were motivated by… wanting to take over the world? Get some R.E.S.P.E.C.T? Put mortals in their place? Honestly the Formorians seemed all over the place. Honestly I don’t Corb and the Titaness. What motivates them? Where did they even come from? Their entire existence almost seems like an ass-pull by the author. I hope they get some lore in the next book, because in this book they don’t pull their weight.

You know how the theme of this book was ‘Dresden learning how to family?’ Well, ordinarily when you have such an obvious theme you have the villain reflect that theme somehow. Neither Corb nor the Titaness reflected that theme, which was a shame.

Overall, I give the story’s Plot: (B-)


SETTING AND WORLDBUILDING

Same ol’ same ol’ Dresden Files.

Honestly, it wasn’t very good. Dresden Files doesn’t have the best Urban Fantasy setting and worldbuilding- for me that award goes to McKinley’s ‘Sunshine.’ On top of that, Butcher didn’t introduce any new worldbuilding or lore in this novel for me to sink my teeth into. By now the Dresden Files’ cake is baked.

I give the Setting: (C)


SUMMARY

This was good. I had fun reading it. It was tropey in places, but not unpleasantly so. I think Butcher is still improving as an author, even decades into his career- which is a good thing! For the first time, I think Butcher has started really going deep on focusing on a central theme- in this case, what family means to orphan Dresden.

I felt a bit blue-balled by the lack of a proper ending, though. (Pardon my language.) If the next book wasn’t coming out in a few months I’d be pissed.

Honestly, if you’re a fan of the Dresden Files you should read this. I’d rate this in the top five or six Dresden books… but wait for Battle Ground to come out. You really should read Peace Talks and Battle Ground in quick succession. I’m now more than a bit angry about the fact that I have to wait to get resolution to this story. Cliffhangers suck.


Letter Grade: (B+)

STARS: 4 OUT OF 5 STARS (Everything above 1 star is a passing grade)

SCALE GRADE: Great

Overall Rating: Highly Recommended if you’re a fan of the Dresden Files. (If you’re not a fan, DO NOT START HERE. Start at Storm Front) (How I Rate Books)


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Genres/Tagwords: Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, Dresden Files, Noir, YeraWizardHarry,

Previous books by the author/in the series I’ve reviewed:

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