Book Review: Battle Ground by Jim Butcher
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Book 17 of Dresden Files
Publisher: Ace Books (September 29, 2020)
Length: 418 pages
Published within mere months of each other, Battle Ground follows hot on the heels of Peace Talks, though in truth the two can probably be seen as Parts I and II of a single volume. I guess that’s what happens when you’re dealing with too much epicness for one book to handle—and that’s no exaggeration. This novel can only be described as non-stop explosive action, the kind that never lets up.
Even summarizing the plot will be difficult, because it’s honestly little more than a series of battles coming one right after another as Harry Dresden and his allies unite for a final showdown against an all-powerful enemy bent on destroying Chicago and killing everyone in it. And when I say “unite”, I do mean that everyone who has ever featured in a Dresden Files novel in the long history of the series seems to make an appearance. And then they fight. And they fight. And then they fight some more. After a while, everything starts to look less like a war and more like a chaotic game of Super Smash Bros.
In other words, there’s not much of a story to speak of at all.
I’m thinking that’s probably why I didn’t enjoy this one as much as I should have. Battle Ground is proof positive that you can indeed have too much of a good thing, and while I enjoy action as much as the next person, I can only take it up to a point. Once the conflicts start becoming a little too repetitive, I actually get bored, which was not something I ever expected to happen to me with a Dresden Files novel, but there you have it.
With hardly any downtime in between all the excitement, I found I had to make do with creating my own breaks, which is probably why I took so long to read this book because I would be putting it down all the time. Mind you, it wasn’t because I thought all the action was bad, because on the contrary, Jim Butcher is a genius when it comes to writing fight scenes of all kinds, from your sweeping battle sequences right down to your one-on-one magical duels. But you know, there’s just so much stimulation I can take. I really did want to get onboard with the with all the excitement and thrills, but at the same time I need balance, which requires actual storytelling and character development.
Which brings me next to my mini-rant. Credit where credit’s due, Butcher did try to inject moments of profundity and depth from which our titular protagonist can learn and grow. In fact, there is one MASSIVE plot point which served to accomplish this. And I hated it. I hated the fact it was done for the sake of making Harry hurt. I hated that it was used as a set up for future installments. Thoughts like “Why can’t Harry ever be allowed to be happy?” and “Deserved better” were raging through my mind even as I struggled to come to terms with the fact that what I read actually happened, and that it actually happened in the cheap, crappy way it did. I suspect it was also a huge factor in the more negative reviews you see for this book, and I’m sure some of them will reveal what it is so you can go find out from them if you really want to, but I’m not going to spoil it here. All I’ll say is that I was pretty upset by it, and I can’t bring myself to give this book a higher rating because of the indignant anger and sadness it caused. That said, no one can deny that it was a bombshell which will forever change the course of the series, and I’m willing to see if Butcher will in fact do something meaningful with it. Granted, it will take a lot, but in spite of everything, I still want to give him the benefit of the doubt.
As you can see, if the ultimate goal of this book was to get the reader all amped up and hot and bothered, it certainly succeeded. Now, whether you will be affected in a good or bad way is a question that’s more contentious. While some might be invigorated and inspired by all this relentless action and the numerous changes, personally I was left feeling mentally and emotionally exhausted. Of course, I’m still glad I read the book because it’s the Dresden Files, and come hell or high water I’ll be seeing this series though to the end, but a part of me still felt immense relief following the end of Battle Ground. Despite its epicness, this installment doesn’t rank anywhere near one of my favorites, and I’m actually kind of glad that it is behind me now so I can look forward to a new era for Harry Dresden where anything can happen next.