Yeah, BATTLE GROUND isn’t out yet. So I can’t spoiler it.

So, obviously, Jim Butcher has a lot of fans, and I have gotten more hits off my last Jim Butcher post about my theories of what’s really going on in PEACE TALKS and I think I’ve figured out something.

If you go back and read my last post, you’ll know that my major theory is that Justine is a lot more than she appears to be in the story. Even Harry notices that Justine’s first question is not about Thomas, but about what Lara knows. Add to that that she is pregnant, which she really shouldn’t be. But mostly, there’s Thomas’s repeated attempts to say something that sounds like “Justine,” and each time, Harry takes it as a plea for him to help Justine. Each time he does this, Thomas breaks down.

And the whole theme of the story is misdirection: Harry is warned repeatedly, even by himself, that he is being betrayed. And yet, by the end, no betrayals have happened. Eithniu’s appearance unites the Accorded Nations. Not even the ghouls dare betray it. So where is the betrayal coming from? The only betrayal we see is Thomas’s attack on Etri, which apparently fails, and before that, Thomas says to Harry that he has “a solution in mind.”

I have already theorized that Thomas is trying to warn Harry about Justine, not ask him to protect her. So who could imitate Justine so well that it would fool Thomas, and possibly become pregnant all at the same time? Where have we seen an enemy that can imitate others at will, down to the smallest detail? Who is expert at offering the solution to impossible problems? And who has a great interest in hurting Harry?

I suggest that “Justine” is Hannah Ascher and Lasciel. She, possibly at the bidding of the now-discredited Nicodemus, possibly as part of a bid to replace Anduriel as Captain of the Fallen, has replaced Justine and seduced Thomas into impregnating her, possibly using her powers to ensure a viable pregnancy. Presumably, Lasciel would be able to ensure that Hannah lived through the pregnancy.

There are now two possibilities that explain Thomas’s “attack” on Etri, the details of which we know very little: only that he “entered under false pretenses” (Evanna) and was caught “on camera” (Lara).

  1. Thomas tried to get help from the svartalves, possibly seeking to pay them with the “third favor” that Mab had already done for Lara. We know faerie favors can be held and traded. Lara may have “spent” it by giving it to Thomas. “Justine” accompanied him, but veiled herself to everyone else. She then attacked Etri, and Thomas tried to defend him. To Etri and everyone else, it would have appeared that Thomas launched an attack.
  2. Alternatively, “Justine” may have exposed Thomas to a coin (maybe even her own), in which case he has a piece of a Fallen, like Harry did with Lasciel. Lasciel in that state projected herself into Harry’s mind and made him believe he was talking to someone who wasn’t there. This fragment may have imitated “Justine” and taken him to the svartalves and launched an illusory attack, with the same results as above.

Either way, Thomas now knows what “Justine” is, and wants to warn Harry, but can’t. And Justine is now guarded by the FBI, cops, Goodman Grey, and Lara, a seemingly helpless, loyal spider at the heart of the White Court, defended by the very people she is plotting to destroy.

Let me know what you think, readers and fans!


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.
That’s dumb.
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:

  1. Justine should not be pregnant. Thomas and Justine can barely touch, they’re using contraceptives, and White Court vampires are almost infertile.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.