After I read Peace Talks, I had to wait just a month for Battleground to be released. I’m sure he wrote them as one book, but they are published in two volumes. There was a natural break between the first and second, so it feels natural. If you have not read the rest of the Harry Dresden series, this is not the book with which to begin the series. Nor is Peace Talks. If you don’t want to go back to book 1 (Storm Front), at least go back to book 3 (Grave Peril) or book 4 (Summer Knight). These will let you follow Harry’s progress, how the various relationships grow and change. If I had to give advice, I’d say start from the beginning.
I keep talking about this because it is a rare thing in a series author. To me, it’s the difference between a great series author and all the others. In the “great series” category, there are the Dave Robicheaux books by James Lee Burke, the Felix Castor novels by Mike Carey, The Hollows by Kim Harrison, The Davis Way Capers by Gretchen Archer, and The St. Mary’s Chronicles by Jodi Taylor. I’m sure there are others, but these are the ones that have stuck with me. There are other very good ones and a pile of not bad series, but these stand out. For me.
Jim Butcher has a character who grows emotionally, and “professionally.” This is, of course, assuming wizarding is a profession — which I think it is. Harry Dresden is just past his teens at the start of the series and while he isn’t an old man, he has been through a lot. From his terrifying and dysfunctional childhood to his misunderstood adulthood, nothing in his world is ever easy. He isn’t rich, he doesn’t “hang” with the upper class of wizardry. He is, in fact, unique. Never trained in a normal way, there’s a lot of “the finer points” of wizardry he never learned. He never went to college and has a GED from high school. Yet in most ways, he is brilliant. He reads. He remembers. Fatherhood has changed him. He is involved.
Taking a break from commissions for an hour or so to do some more live inking on this piece of @HarriedWizard at Mac’s. instagram.com/swarddraws at 8pm (cst)
He has spent many of the previous books learning to control his temper, to not charge into every situation with a loaded gun — or charged (magical) staff. He makes no secret of what he is and is the only Wizard listed in the yellow pages. There is also something about him, something about his birth that we don’t know yet. Harry doesn’t know yet, either. He was born under a special configuration of the stars and thus is meant to do special (but what does this mean?) things.
In Battleground, Harry Dresden leads the war. Embattled are the Fey, the Baron of Chicago, the head of the faery hunt (who is also Santa Claus), a few Angels (from heaven), werewolves, at least one fallen angel, a Yeti, plus a wide range of non-humans, sort-of humans, and wizards battling the last of the Titans for possession of Chicago. I don’t live in Chicago and don’t personally know the city, but if you live there, I’m sure you can follow the story even better.
I read the book twice. I think I need to read it one more time. It’s not hard to understand, but there is a great deal going on. Just following the battle lines and who is fighting where in the city requires memory and alertness. Battleground is action from start to finish. I really can’t tell you much more without giving a lot of it away. Suffice to say, it doesn’t go where you think it will and it pretty much guarantees there will be at least one more book. I’m hoping for many more though I’m not expecting more than maybe two volumes.
If you’ve read the rest of the books — including Peace Talks — read Battleground. Don’t read Battleground if you didn’t read Peace Talks and at least half a dozen other books in the series. The characters have all grown from earlier books. The stories will lack context and many characters won’t make sense without their history. Some were actually children when the series began and my, how they have changed. I can’t begin to tell you how much I love this series. it is exciting, witty, sometimes downright funny. Scary, magical — and it feels so real. If ever in my life I wanted magic to be real, now is that time.
Jim Butcher writes a lot on Twitter, often in the guise of characters from the Dresden series. I follow him when I can. When he disappears from Twitter, I figure he’s writing. Meanwhile, if you’re stuck in the house and you like this kind of book, the series can keep you busy for quite a while. If I have to be stuck at home with a wizard, I choose Harry Dresden!
The whole series is available as paperbacks, hardcovers, Kindle, and in Audible.com. I admit I also have many first-editions of the hardcovers. About ten or eleven them, but I usually listen to the books as audiobooks. The narrator is excellent.
For a list of all the books in the series (to date), see PEACE TALKS BY JIM BUTCHER.