PEACE TALKS By Jim Butcher
Orbit Books, h/b, £20.00
Reviewed by Matthew Johns
You can’t go wrong with anything by Jim Butcher. The Dresden Files is a hugely popular and long-running urban fantasy series, and this 16th novel does not disappoint. Like a comfortable, but thrilling pair of slippers (perhaps a pair that deliver the occasional electric shock?!), it is a piece of cake to slide into Butcher’s writing and the world of Harry Dresden.
Dresden is a wizard living in contemporary Chicago – he used to have a listing the phone directory as “Wizard” offering his services for hire, but as the years have progressed and telephone directories have gone the way of the dinosaurs, one can only assume that perhaps he now advertises online. These days though, he’s no longer a lone wizard for hire, he’s the Winter Knight – the enforcer for Mab, the Winter Queen. Granted enhanced strength, endurance, speed and ice-based powers, he serves Mab and uses his powers as she dictates, despite not always liking her demands.
The titular peace talks are between the supernatural nations of the world – all meeting together in Chicago to negotiate an end of any hostilities between them all. Harry Dresden joins the White Council’s security forces to ensure nothing goes too awry. However, when Harry’s vampire half-brother kills a svartalf, thereby breaking the peace accords, suddenly his world turns upside down, and he finds himself under suspicion, battling political machinations as well as magical foes.
As ever, this is a real page-turner – even after 16 books, there is still much that we (and Harry himself!) don’t know about Harry. His grandfather (a very powerful wizard) hints at things from his past, and Harry must try to work out why his brother committed murder, to rescue him and of course save the world while protecting his friends and family and trying not to get killed himself.
Family is a theme that runs throughout Butcher’s writing – exploring the complicated nature of families (particularly Harry Dresden’s). His battles both verbal and magical with his grandfather, his vampire half-brother, his daughter – despite clashes, Harry always tries to do what’s right for the people he loves even if it puts him into a tough situation and inevitably leads to trouble. Peace Talks is another thrilling read and introduces a new adversary that may end up uniting the supernatural and magical nations if it doesn’t wipe them (and humanity) from the face of the planet first.
Whether you’re new to the world of Harry Dresden or a long-time fan, this book can be picked up and enjoyed – it will grab you by the eyeballs straight away demanding that you finish it before doing anything else.