So, I have to admit, it has taken me a good long while to gather my thoughts on this one. So sorry if it comes across as a bit disorganised. What I am confident in through is my assertion when reviewing Peace Talks that we were only getting only the one story across two books. And after reading both, I’m still not sure that this was the best idea.
The two books cannot be read as stand-alone. At all. The books share the structure of one book, slit in half. In Peace Talks, we got most of the build-up. In Battle Ground, we get a massive fight and the climax.
And that’s the whole book. It’s mostly fight scene upon fight scene. Chicago is under attack from the powers of both Fomor King Corb and the Last Titan, Ethniu. Corb, dickhead as he is, is actually a fairly formidable foe on his own. But Ethniu? She’s insanely overpowered. And it’s up to the acordees of the Peace Talks to band together to fight them off.
I have to hand it to Butcher, most of the fights are really well done. The issue is that we’re thrown from confrontation to confrontation with very little in the way of breaks. It is slightly exhausting, to be honest. And this brings me back to the choice to split the book into two: in my opinion, Peace Talks and Battle Ground are sort of lacking the polish of a lot of other previous instalments of the series. This is especially stark when you compare them to their immediate predecessor, Skin Game, which was very well put together on the first read but became even better the second time around, thanks to a clever little reveal near the end. It kind of makes me wonder whether it was possible to eventually get a much tighter single volume. But I guess after five years of writing, maybe Butcher and his editors just found the whole thing a bit too daunting.
Despite this though, I think Peace Talks and Battle Ground are important books coming up to the later part of the series—perhaps more so than Changes. There is no way anyone can hide magic from the general public anymore, not after the Battle of Chicago. I just cannot conceive it. The people of the city get involved. I mean they really get involved. They make themselves part of the fight. There is no way this can be rolled back.
Battle Ground is also likely to be one of the most divisive books in the series as well, and this is all down to certain death. The death, in and of itself, was hardly a surprise: if you had asked most readers to place bets on who would be most likely to bite the dust in the Battle of Chicago, our payouts would have all been slim. The contention though is entirely over how they died. I’m not 100% happy about how things went down, and I don’t think I’m the only one. But I’m willing to see how this plays out in later books before making a final judgement.
There are a number of points of character development that arise both between and after the fighting. I am still not fond of Mab, and I certainly don’t trust her 100%. But I have a greater appreciation of her. Lara surprised me as well. But what I’m most interested in is what’s going on with Johnny Marcone. I don’t think I’ve ever given myself such a strong case of self-inflicted whiplash when reading as I have with regards to Marcone. I’m not going to state flat out what the man does, but my initial reaction was a visceral ‘I hate it!’ But one of two cups of coffee later, I had flipped from hate to eager anticipation. With only a little bit of extra thought, a move that I initially thought was horribly, horribly wrong, suddenly flipped to horribly, horribly right. And an absolute gamechanger to boot.
But what about poor Harry though? I think it’s going to take him a very long time to get over the events of this book, even more so than the events of Changes and Ghost Story. Those books altered everything for Harry on a personal level. These two books though? They’ve altered everything for Harry and everyone else.
As for where the series goes from here, I’m actually really curious. But I would be happy if the rest of the books stay single volumes and not split.