The wonderful surprise announcement of Jim Butcher’s Battle Ground, the latest in the long-running Dresden Files series, was a wonderful surprise earlier in 2020. The newest volume, continuing quickly on from Peace Talks a few months ago, and the fact that volume ended on quite a cliffhanger only heightened the desire for Battle Ground. The published volume is a stunning book which alters the setting noticeably, and moves the narrative forward in unexpected ways.
As happens so often with Dresden Files volumes, a strong semse of humor pushes through. There is a Ghostbusters reference in chapter 11 that will have any fan giggling with glee, and yet is quite situationally appropriate. Another comes in chapter 32. A bigfoot wearing a tuxedo appears, and proves to be immensely dangerous and yet thoughtful. An old friend and much loved character from the framchise appears once again.
The well known gangster Marcone proves to be exceptionally skilled in unexpected ways, and while he remains a corrupt gangster he proves to be an impressive man in his way. The reader experiences him using a variety of resources, from feeding and arming the general populace of Chicago to fighting enemy forces all the way to using stolen and aquired artifacts to characters who have not been seen in quite some time play their part, leaving the promises of Peace Talks fulfilled.
Indeed, the antagonist setup in that particular story proves not only formidable characters, but narratively interesting in her actions. Further, seeing an entire city under siege when the majority of it is unaware of that Seine is fascinating. She is a mythical Titan, and the various mystical characters discuss just how seemingly immune to harm this might make her. Further, her alliance with current antagonists the Formics is a dangerous one, and had been consodered the new primary antagonists prior to Peace Talks, and the impression characters have of them alters steadily as the book continues. They seem increasingly less competent, working out in the level of henchmen when previously they had been treated as terrors. This is not a problem for Battle Ground in and of itself, however it may have concequences in later books.
There is a short story included after the novel proper. It is much more lighthearted than the text of the rest of the novel, and is desperately needed in light of what happens. It addresses one of the major changes the franchise has undergone, although not all of them.
Once again particularly bad cops represent as much of a problem on a personal level as the supernatural does on a citywide one. It works fairly well, and is appreciated in a world dealing with police corruption and brutality in a more obvious form.
In the whirling maelstrom of the battle that happens over the course of a night in Chicago, the actions of a bad cop named Rudolph can barely be noticed, for many people. And yet, for those who have felt the horrors of the police doing the wrong thing, they remain a shining beacon of understanding from the author. Everything changes, and not for the better. Because of one cowardly, angry bastard with a badge and a gun.
Battle Ground is one of the better Dresden Files books in a long time. It is easy to recommend, heart-wrenching and exciting and at times giggle inducing. Do not start the Dresden Files with Battle Ground, or even the previous volume Peace Talks, but do read them.