Harry Dresden is Chicago’s only wizard in the phone book. He specializes in finding things. He once ran a detective agency but now has a less-than-voluntary gig with the Mab, the Fairy Queen of Winter. This gives him certain powers and protections, but it also leaves him in Mab’s obligation.
The book opens with Harry, his dear friend and love interest, Karrin Murphy, and a few others, returning to Chicago by boat. They expect the invasion of the last Titan, Ethniu, who is armed with the ultra-destructive Eye of Balor. Supporting her are allied peoples and beings of the sea known as the Fomor. They are all hell-bent on the destruction of Chicago, Harry’s hometown.
Chicago is darkened because Ethniu has already disrupted the power grid in the preceding book, Peace Talks. Harry is approaching the dock in his brother’s boat, The Water Beetle, running—slowly—without lights to avoid detection by the Fomor. At one point, the boat stops moving forward, but not because of engine malfunction. Has he run aground? Harry steps out of the wheelhouse to inspect the foredeck. He almost trips over some cables… those aren’t cables, but tentacles. A kraken is squeezing the ship, about to make it scrap wood.
The party isn’t even started.
A couple of personal issues arise. Most serious is brought up by fellow wizard Carlos Ramirez, a Warden of the White Council who wants to know about the company Harry keeps—vampires, werewolves, and fairies.
This is book seventeen in the Dresden Files. The books generally do not make good stand-alones and should be read in order. If you have not read any of the Dresden Files, this is not the place to start. Further complicating matters, it’s the conclusion of a storyline begun in Peace Talks. A whole cast of recurring characters fills the book.
What makes the series interesting and entertaining is Harry Dresden himself. In general, urban fantasy is not high on my list of things to read, but I have enjoyed the Dresden Files for years. Harry has a wicked sense of humor. He’s an animal lover and has a soft spot for kids. He’s good at what he does but knows he’s not the best. With Ethniu—a Titan—it’s apparent to all he’s punching above his weight class, but then, so is everybody else. Harry has a few tricks up his sleeve, but will they suffice? How are they going to defeat her? Can they kill a Titan?
Usually, I can blaze through one of these books in a couple of days. They’re fun and silly without being trivial. Harry often gets his rear end handed to him. Good thing wizards recover quickly. He has friends, not sidekicks.
This book, however, was a bit of a slog for me. It is mortal battle starting from Harry tripping of the tentacles on the Water Beetle nearly to the closing pages, almost without a break. If Harry isn’t participating, he is narrating what he sees. He never uses the phrase, but it occurred to me at nearly every new chapter: “What fresh hell is this?”
The book also includes a short story, “Christmas Eve,” which takes place after the battles of the book. On the long night before the big day, the mechanically-challenged Dresden assembles a bicycle for his daughter, Maggie. A couple of visitors stop by, including Kris Kringle, who is not Santa Claus. It’s cute and sentimental, in complete contrast to the battle narrative.
Having said that, will I read the next book? Oh, stars and stones, yes. Harry and his world are just too much fun.
Title: Battle Ground
Series: Dresden Files
Author: Jim Butcher
Approx. 500 pages
Genres: Mystery, Fantasy Fiction, Urban fantasy, Contemporary fantasy
First published: September 29, 2020