Battle Ground by Jim Butcher, book seventeen in the Harry Dresden series, starts at the exact point where Peace Talks ends. In fact, my hypothesis that the two were essentially the same story split into two books ended up being correct, not only because of the lack of time separating the two stories. Harry’s actions in Peace Talks have direct consequences for the rest of the story.
If Peace Talks is the calm before the storm, Battle Ground is most definitely the storm. In fact, I am hard-pressed to remember a single moment of calm in the entire story. After all, if you are fighting an honest-to-goodness goddess and her army that she spent centuries building, there are not going to be many moments to catch your breath.
This means we get to see Harry at his best, in action, fighting for what he deems is right. In true Harry fashion, he personalizes every loss and deflects every win, making the battle as emotionally brutal as it is physically. And it is a physical battle. Even though you could probably say this about every one of Harry’s fights, I have no idea how Harry is still alive after everything he puts his body through. Fighting a goddess is a brutal business, and Mr. Butcher makes sure that we know that.
If I were a wise person, I would have recognized that my comments about Peace Talks were nothing but a foreshadowing for what occurs in Battle Ground. After all, everyone knows that one of the most common tropes is that something horrible will happen right after the heroes get a moment of respite and happiness. I should have known Mr. Butcher was going to tear out my heart and smash it to the ground. Except I didn’t even see it coming.
One of the best things about Battle Ground is that we get to see every one of Harry’s allies and foes fight on the same field for the first time – Sidhe, giants, werewolves, svartalves, the Knights of the Cross, White Council, White Court vampires, Black Court vampires, Huntsmen, Wee Folk, Einherjaren, Odin, Baron Marcone, and everyday humans. We see how they all fight separately and together, as the battle forces alliances where none should exist. The entire book is an epic battle that outpaces and outmatches everything Mr. Butcher has put onto paper to this point.
While I could say that there are several books in the Harry Dresden series that are game-changers, in that they literally change what we know about Harry or his world, to me Battle Ground is one of the biggest of them. You can’t have that many players on the field at the same time without something major happening afterward. Plus, there are some serious reveals in both plot and character that have to have major ramifications for Harry at some point in time.
Right now though, I have no idea where Mr. Butcher is taking his overarching story, nor do I have any sense where Harry will end up at the end of it. I can say with certainty though that whatever happens, Harry will face tests unlike any previously faced, will have to exert his powers beyond his current capabilities, and will face tragic losses. I can’t wait.