Jim Butcher said it was a publishing decision to break apart Peace Talks and Battle Ground into two books due to length and the sharp turn between the two halves of the story. However, I’m not certain this was justified or needed. Last year I read two books that were longer than the combined length of Peace Talks and Battle Ground. And I suspect had the two been published together that the overall book would have been smaller, had the story not needed to be padded out to fill two novel length books. However, perhaps due to the length of books that Dresden readers are accustomed too, it would have been too daunting? Between the two books, I feel Battle Ground suffered the most from being stretched into novel length. It also contains the most shameful miss in editing I’ve come across, yet.
Top of page 52 – “The Erlking wore his helmet, and its shadows hid his face, but he was taller than human and lean in his hunting leathers and mail. Vadderung looked like an ancient seafaring captain gone corporate, with his scarred, lean face and his roguish black eyepatch paired with his excellent double-breasted suit. Both were there to fight.
Bottom of page 53 – Vadderung was still wearing his business suit. The Erlking was dressed in hunting leathers from somewhere before the Renaissance, under a suit of dark mail. He wore a hunting sword at his hip, and his usual horned helmet had been set aside.
I did a double take when reading the second passage, backed up and re-read, then burst out laughing. How this was missed through numerous rounds of editing is beyond me. In my opinion, if you take the description of Vadderrung in the first one and the Erlking’s description in the second, it would have been a perfect paragraph.
This time around, Dresden’s list of things to do is very simple, while there are some holdovers from Peace Talks, in Battle Ground it gets distilled to: Save the city, Stop the Titan, Don’t mess it up. And unsurprisingly, he succeeds! After all he is the Wizard of Chicago and Winter Knight, Harry Dresden. At this point in the series it would be a shock if he didn’t succeed.
However, this book exacted its most punishing toll to get to the goal. I cried at the main character death and had to put the book down right after reading the death scene due to needing a silly thing called sleep. The next day, when I was able to pick the book back up, I cried all over again because I hadn’t finished processing the death the day before. Due to the nature of this book being one long, epic battle scene, characters (and Harry in particular) didn’t have any time to grieve or process this death. I expect to see that in the next Dresden novel because this death has too many ramifications to not address it more fully. It also didn’t help that this death felt so felt so wrong. This wasn’t the death the character deserved, despite how it was spun regarding the afterlife of the character. In fact, I worry that it was done to give Harry extra motivation, and we don’t need more of that type of character death in fiction. Please stop fridging awesome characters!
This novel is one long, continuous battle and it starts to get old after a while. Things look grim, a new cohort from the Accorded Nations shows up! Repeat. Each nation gets a moment to shine on the battle field, and yes, coming at the enemy in waves makes sense, but it gets presented as the tide turning against our valiant heroes and the battle will be over shortly, but hark, look the X have now shown up and brought renewed vigor to the fight. This happens repeatedly, and since I knew the Accorded Nations and Harry would prevail in the end, it didn’t hold as much tension as it could have in a tighter narrative that didn’t have so many pages to fill.
Things I genuinely liked. Molly showing up as the Winter Lady and turning Chicago into a giant speaker to play Guns n’ Roses, “Welcome to the Jungle”. I love these moments when the Molly we originally met shines through. The Huntsmen! As a long time reader and re-reader of the Prydain Chronicles the first description of the Huntsmen had me on the alert and I was delighted to find that they are the Huntsmen from Welsh legends that I grew up fearing from Lloyd Alexander’s tales. The level of understanding that Harry and Mab seem to reach through this trial. Mab’s unicorn. Harry and Marcone’s encounter at the end of the Titan battle. Harry getting one over Marcone at the end of the book. There was a lot to enjoy but overall it dragged on too long and I feel this is due to having to become a separate book.
Between the editing and the dragging, I brought this down to a three star review. Is this a messy book? Yes. Will I pick up the next Dresden book? Also, yes.