BATTLE GROUND By Jim Butcher
Orbit Books, h/b, £20.00
Reviewed by Matthew Johns
During a year, unlike any other, when we in the real world face an unusual enemy – the coronavirus – that unites us all, it seems fitting that Harry Dresden should do the same. Quite the opposite of our microscopic enemy, Harry’s is a Titan – Ethniu. A nine-foot-tall goddess with strength and resilience far beyond that of mortals, armed with the Eye of Balor’s destructive power, and partnered by the Fomor, an ancient water-dwelling race of rather unpleasant amphibians that despise all within the mortal world.
Chicago faces a threat unlike anything that has come before. It is inevitable that immense losses will be incurred by all, as the rampaging Titan brings her army of darkness to destroy the city and all who dwell within. It is also inevitable that things will be forever changed as a result of this conflict, as mortals join forces with supernatural entities to defend their homes and families. Will Harry, his friends and family, survive the coming apocalypse?
Butcher’s writing is, as always, a pleasure to behold. He brings the battle of Chicago to life on the page, building tension as the forces of light prepare to fight. He gives real depth to his characters, amplifying the pathos as Harry faces Ethniu’s forces, as people fall around him, and he feels each and every person that fights for him – their pain and their deaths. The battle scenes are tense as members of both the Summer and Winter Courts join with other signatories of the Unseelie Accords – the Sidhe, the White Council, the White Vampire Court and more, all assisted by the mortal denizens of Chicago heavily armed thanks to Baron Marcone’s weapons caches.
With high losses, there was never going to be a truly happy ending to this story – no happily ever after for Harry, but Butcher places the foundations for many more adventures in a Chicago forever altered by the battle.
As a nice touch, there’s an extra short story at the end of the book, titled “Christmas Eve”. Unsurprisingly set on Christmas Eve, it is a true delight and sees Harry preparing for the festive day. As Harry is visited by both Mab and Kris Kringle, it has scenes that will bring a lump to the throat of even the most hardened of readers, as well as a hearty chuckle or two. Another triumph from Jim Butcher, this deserves a place on your bookshelf alongside his many other novels.