Okay, so I know Jim Butcher’s latest installment of The Dresden Files came out only yesterday, but I devoured the whole thing by this morning, and I really want to talk about it, so in case the HUGE CAPITAL LETTERS weren’t enough, I want to make it really clear to everyone choosing to read further that there will be HUGE AMOUNTS of spoilers below.
Okay, if you’ve got this far and haven’t chosen to turn back…
Too late, here they come.
All right, so what I suspected about this “book:” since seeing that we were getting two of them this year was correct: PEACE TALKS is not a book. It’s the first half of a book. At best, we get the second half in BATTLE GROUND later this year. At worst, of course, we get part two of three or more. But Butcher is a good guy and hasn’t left us with that kind of cliffhanger since the end of CHANGES.
So, there are a LOT of questions unanswered here, and the biggest one is this: Why did Thomas Raith decide to attack King Etri of the Svartalves, causing a lot of trouble for Harry and Mab? This question is unanswered in the book, a lingering mystery.
First of all, what are the possible reasons?
It is heavily implied, and Harry acts on the assumption, that Thomas was being blackmailed into the attack on Etri by someone who could credibly threaten the love of his life, Justine. This is made more serious by the fact that Justine is revealed in the opening chapter to be — very improbably — pregnant.
But there’s a few serious problems with that. Firstly, who would want Etri dead and have the ability to threaten Thomas to the point of making him carry out a near-suicidal attack? White Court vampires aren’t supposed to operate that way even if they are good at it. Furthermore, Justine is guarded by several formidable security teams. Harry’s hiring of Goodman Grey is very nearly redundant. Thomas had to know Justine was guarded by the full force of the White Court. But she’s also being watched by hired Monoc Securities guys, the cops, Feds, Goodman Grey and Paranoid Gary. And Thomas, whose brother is Harry Dresden and the Winter Knight, didn’t go to him or his sister, the White Court ruler, for help? Especially if Harry is right about his supposition that Justine is being threatened by one of her “guards?” The only credible threats of those mentioned (against Thomas) are the White Court and Monoc. Neither have an interest in killing Etri OR destabilizing the Accords.
Secondly, what was the effect of the attack? Who benefited from it?
Well, you could argue that no one did, because the attack failed. Okay, sometimes the bad guys fail. But Etri’s death has no obvious consequences besides making the svartalves even more angry with the White Court.
Very well, was that the goal? If so, the Fomor and the Outsiders — who are obviously working together — are the obvious suspects. There’s only one problem with that: it didn’t work. By betraying the peace talks, the Fomor and their patron Titan simply forced the svartalves and the White Court to work together in spite of their issues. That’s also dumb.
So, if that makes no sense, why else would Thomas attack the svartalf king? Were the svartalves threatening Justine? Why? It would be utterly out of character for them to attack or threaten a guest.
No, there’s a much more sinister plot that’s possible here. The person who was influencing Thomas to attack the svartalves was… Justine herself. Or, more accurately, something pretending to be Justine.
Consider these hints:
- Justine should not be pregnant. Thomas and Justine can barely touch, they’re using contraceptives, and White Court vampires are almost infertile.
- Justine surprises Harry by her reaction to the news of Thomas’s attack and capture. Rather than falling apart, she asks if Lara knows. Her first reaction is to seek intelligence on Harry’s actions and Lara’s knowledge.
- Thomas is conveniently unable to talk to Harry after the attack. He manages two words: Harry’s name, and then, three attempts at a word starting with ‘J.’ Harry assumes he is trying to say “Justine” and means, “Protect Justine, Harry.” Each time Harry promises to, though, Thomas breaks down crying. Harry thinks he’s desperate to protect Justine. But what if Thomas is trying to protect Harry by warning him about Justine? Thomas says “Junghg. S’Jnngh.” Suppose what he was trying to say was “Justine. It’s Justine?” He cries because not only is the real Justine in danger, but now so are Harry, Lara, and everyone else who believes they are guarding the real Justine.
- The one player we haven’t seen in PEACE TALKS is The Black Council, whose man Cristos they elevated to the Senior Council back in TURN COAT. The Black Council is known to be able to exercise mind control powers, and the Outsiders are known to be able to infect humans and fae with a seemingly unbeatable mind-control effect.
- Finally, Harry orders up and uses an ability to cast a doppelganger that fools even Blackstaff McCoy.
So, taking all these things together, I hypothesize the following:
The Black Council has taken the real Justine and done something to her. Possibly they are simply holding her under threat, and possibly she is taken by the Outsiders’ mind control. In either case, they simulated her pregnancy and are continuing to simulate her. Sometime after Thomas revealed Justine’s “pregnancy” to Harry, she revealed her true nature and demanded that Thomas attack Etri and the svartalves. The goal of the attack was to get Thomas out of the way and distract Harry Dresden. Which means that something happened while Harry was away from the Peace Talks or on his way to the island, and that Justine is an entirely new front of the Black Council/Fomor/Outsider alliance, ready to strike at either the White Court, Monoc, the svartalves as a false flag, or Harry himself or any combination as opportunity presents itself. The worst thing would be if it could similarly infect others.
Okay, once you’ve read the book and this, explain to me why I’m wrong.