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Literature / Peace Talks

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"I had that sinking feeling that life was about to get hectic again."

Peace Talks is book #16 in The Dresden Files.

The one where Harry handles security for a convention of some of the most powerful entities on the planet.

It's been a rough few years since Harry Dresden destroyed the Red Court. The death of such a powerful faction resulted in a massive power vacuum, and the monstrous Fomor have been trying to exploit it, seizing territory from others and abducting magical creatures of all types for their own evil ends. But now, after years of low-grade warfare, they say they want peace. They propose a series of talks to hash out their differences, and the other factions agree. In fact, Baron Marcone of Chicago does more than agree: he volunteers to host the talks right in his hometown.

And poor Harry Dresden winds up on the security team.

Once again surrounded by enemies, Harry must use all his skills to ensure the safety of himself, the other wizards, and the innocents of Chicago. But this time, even a wizard as strong as Harry Dresden might not be able to keep everyone safe.

The first six chapters have been made available to read on, which also has an official trailer for the book. You can also read an excerpt from a later chapter here. It released on July 14, 2020, and is part of a duology. The second part, Battle Ground, released on September 29.

Peace Talks provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Achievements in Ignorance: Harry manages to accomplish a Batman Gambit on Lara Raith entirely by accident. By putting Thomas Raith in stasis, Harry is the only person who can pull him out. As such, Lara Raith now must keep Harry alive in order to see Thomas ever released again. She believes it was a master stroke of manipulation when it was just dumb luck. Harry even lampshades it, wondering in his Internal Monologue if he's been hanging around Queen Mab too much.
  • Actually Pretty Funny: Harry calls Lara "an apex sexual predator," at which she smirks and says he's not wrong.
  • A Day in the Limelight: This book gives quite a bit of focus on Lara Raith as Harry has to repay Mab's favors to her, as well as work with her to save Thomas from the svartalves.
  • The Alliance: A consequence of Evil Cannot Comprehend Good in that the Fomor were sent to break up the Unseelie Accords by attacking Mab with their goddess Ethniu. What it did was unite all of them against them. It sadly may not be enough to defeat them.
  • Ambiguously Evil: Harry has been spending a lot of time concerned with the fact that Mab could get inside his head and push him over the edge to the dark side. In this book, he wonders if Demonreach, the other supernatural entity he made a compact with, might be trying the same thing. He realises it towards the end, when he has bigger issues to worry about, but the thought is still unnerving.
  • Ancient Evil: Ethniu and Corb are old enough that they remember when Mab was a child. The former further remembers Odin when he was far stronger and more on the divine-side of the scales.
  • Anti-Human Alliance: When the Fomor arrive, they essentially demand that the Unseelie Accords signatories become this (naturally meaning kicking Marcone out), saying they can join the Fomor in reestablishing supernatural dominance over humanity, or die.
  • Batman Gambit: Harry is getting remarkably good at these. He manages to survive Ebenezar's wrath by using a doppelganger created by Molly Carpenter that he projects his essence into. It distracts Ebenezar long enough to get Thomas to safety. Played with by Lara Raith assuming Harry imprisoning Thomas in stasis is one of these when it was really just the only way to keep him alive.
  • Berserk Button:
    • When sparring with Lara, Harry makes a remark that she can’t be bothered to help Thomas. In response, Lara throws him to the floor hard enough to see stars, jumps on top of him and threatens to cut his throat. She does not like people claiming she doesn’t care about family.
    • As if flagrantly mocking the Unseelie Accords and Sacred Hospitality wasn’t enough, Corb really pisses off Mab when he mocks how Merlin kicked her out and asks what the man would think of her now.
  • Big Bad: Ethniu the Last Titan, though oddly (due to the original plot getting split into two books) she doesn't show up and start putting her plans into motion until the last quarter of the book.
  • Big Blackout: Ethniu announces her intentions by unleashing a magical EMP that shuts down everything electrical in and around Chicago. Harry notes that there were nearly 1,500 automobile accidents in the single moment and scores of resulting deaths.
  • Bolivian Army Ending: Harry and Murphy as well as the entirety of the Unseelie Accorded races are going off to fight the Last Titan and the entire court of the Fomor. Harry and Murphy have some Artifact of Doom help as well as Demonreach but it does feel very much like a last stand.
  • Broken Masquerade: This is the ideal scenario according to Ethniu the Last Titan. She proceeds to smackdown Mab and begin an attack on Chicago to achieve it at the end.
  • Broken Pedestal: Harry's pedestal of Ebenezar was already broken by the discovery he routinely broke the Laws of Magic as the Blackstaff. However, it's almost completely destroyed when Ebenezar attempts to murder Thomas and ends up killing Harry's doppelganger.
  • The Bus Came Back:
    • Lara Raith, Ebenezar McCoy, Justine and Carlos Ramirez all play major roles. Carlos is still limping, thanks to the events of the short story "Cold Case," and is still bitter about it, indirectly calling Molly a monster.
    • The peace talks themselves include numerous characters who haven’t appeared in some time. Many amount only to cameos, but the list includes, in addition to the above, Marcone, Hendricks, Gard, Childs, Vadderung, Ferrovax, Ivy, Sarissa, Fix, Cristos, Martha Liberty, Listens-to-Wind, Wild Bill, Chandler, Yoshimo, the Redcap, and Gary the paranoid Paranetter. Even Mavra gets name-checked for the first time in a while when it’s mentioned she’s been seen recently, although she doesn’t make an appearance. The Genowskwa is likewise mentioned to be back, somehow.
    • Some characters from the short stories and comics are referenced too. River Shoulders, who showed up in the Bigfoot short story trilogy, is an important character. Gwynn ap Nudd, who appeared in the short story "Curses" about the Billy-Goat Curse, also makes an appearance. Riley from "Jury Duty" shows up as one of Lara's top bodyguards. Even Airavata, the naga from the obscure comic "Ghoul, Goblin" is here.
    • Sanya is in town as well, having had his flight cancelled seven times.
    • Marci the werewolf reappears briefly. She, Andi and Butters engage in three-ways now. Butters begs Harry not to tell anyone.
    • Unfortunately for all concerned, Rudolph also makes a reappearance, investigating the events of the last book.
  • Bus Crash: Gwynn ap Nudd, a baseball-loving fairy king whom Dresden met and befriended in the short story "Curses," was killed offscreen. His head is presented by Corb.
  • Calling the Cops on the FBI: Harry and Murphy discover that they're being tailed by several unmarked vehicles containing two Internal Affairs detectives and a surveillance team investigating her. At her direction, Harry puts on speed, then takes an off-ramp and turns their car invisible—to sight, but not to radar guns, which gets their various tails pulled over by an Illinois State Police speed trap at the bottom of the ramp.
    Harry: [admiringly] Oh. That's just mean.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: Ebenezar and Harry’s reunion ends with a very hostile comparison of their parenting styles. Specifically, Harry is still extremely pissed at Ebenezar's completely hands-off style that led to him leaving Harry in foster care after Harry's father died and then didn't even tell Harry they were related when they finally did meet (when Ebenezar stepped in to serve as Harry's jailor after he killed the warlock who became his mentor in self-defense). Ebenezar claims to have done it in order to protect Harry due to all the enemies who'd try to hurt Ebenezar by attacking Harry, and justifies his distant relationship to Harry's mother the same way. Harry angrily throws back that his actions didn't end up protecting his mother, nor did leaving Harry and Susan's daughter Maggie (who prompted the discussion) in others' hands protect her: the Red King got ahold of her in Changes and it was only due to his Bond Villain Stupidity that she, Ebenezar, and Harry are still alive.
  • Candlelit Ritual: Harry's Summoning Ritual for Molly uses a protective circle, a pentagram of candles that transform to Technicolor Fire when the spell begins, and an offering by each candle. He's done summonings differently before, so the candles are primarily an aid to concentration.
  • Cerebus Callback: The sixth book of the series started with the famous line “The building was on fire, and it wasn’t my fault.” The phrase is invoked here at the end of an early chapter with “The embassy was on fire, and my daughter was inside.”
  • Cliffhanger: The book ends with Harry and Karrin going out to fight a Titan who easily smacked down Mab.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • Harry is still driving the huge purple monstrosity of a car he got back in Cold Days. Mab has to remind Harry that the car is technically hers.
    • Harry uses the same obscurity potion he used all the way back in Fool Moon.
    • Hearing that Lara has three favors owed to her by Mab for previous deeds done, and that Mab has delegated two of them to Harry to fulfill, Harry grouses that all he got for his favor from Summer was a doughnut. Mab simply notes that Lara is using her credit more wisely than Harry.
    • When Titania needs to be told some information, Mab requests Fix play messenger because Titania is still not taking her calls.
    • Harry mentions that the last time he went to a party, "things went kind of sideways."
  • Contrived Coincidence: Lampshaded. Wouldn't you know it? Hours before a major gathering of Accord members, Sanya's plane is delayed in Chicago ... seven times. Surely he won't be needed. (No, the Knights of the Cross are not Accord signatories).
  • Cool Big Sis: Maggie has apparently taken on this role for Bonea; even though Bonnie has more knowledge, she’s still younger, as Maggie reminds her, and thus has less understanding than Maggie.
  • Crippling Overspecialization: Butters spars with Sanya with their Swords of the Cross. He discovers that the reforged Fidelacchius, which he turned into a lightsaber-like weapon when he took it up at the end of Skin Game, can no longer cut mortals (at best it might give them a minor burn), which they guess comes with significantly increased effectiveness against supernatural threats. Sanya suggests a Kalashnikov as a solution.
  • Cruel to Be Kind:
    • Harry’s grand plan to save Thomas and make sure he can’t be traced is to put him in a cell on Demonreach, a side effect of which is to be confronted with all the pain he has inflicted on others.
    • Ebenezar promotes this trope in regards to parenting, and given what happened in this book and previous books, he's got a point; Harry, however, is right that Maggie being with a foster family didn't save her from the vampires, just as foster care didn't save Harry from Justin trying to turn him into a magical enforcer and Ebenezar staying away from Harry's mother didn't save her from the White King.
  • Dangerous Forbidden Technique: Casting magic inside a ring of fire is actually banned by the White Council for non-Wardens. Not because it's Black Magic, but simply because it both amplifies the power of any spell exponentially and renders the effects dangerously unpredictable.
  • Danger Takes a Backseat: Harry is about to get the car going when he finds two monsters—Mab and Lara Raith—have teleported into the backseat, scaring the hell out of him. At least the encounter ends non-fatally for all involved.
  • Decapitation Presentation: Corb enters the meeting chamber and the first thing he does is fling Gwynn ap Nudd‘s head into the middle of everyone. Mab is less than pleased with this.
  • Destructive Savior: Ferrovax is still a major power. When he joins the alliance, he notes that he'll need to contain his own power or he'll wipe out more of the city than Ethniu and the Fomor will simply by showing up.
  • The Determinator: While naturally a part of Harry's character from the beginning, this book actually takes a long time to both be a Reconstruction as well as reconstruct what it means to be one for Harry. Both his allies and enemies are stunned that Harry is perfectly willing to die for someone that they think is a Friendly Enemy at best. Not realizing that Thomas is Harry's brother.
  • Dirty Coward: Marcone asks Carter LaChaise if he’s one and states if he and his kin run, hide, and refuse to honor the Accords' mutual defense pact then he’ll be seen as one to the entire supernatural community.
  • Disposable Decoy Doppelgänger: Harry ends up battling Ebenezer McCoy over what can charitably be described as a big misunderstanding. Ebenezer doesn't realize that Harry was using a doppelganger until it was in the process of dissolving after a lucky shot when the battle was basically already over. For bonus points: Harry was casting magic through the doppelganger, at a distance from it, across water, all of which reduced the effectiveness of his spells. He's effective enough — even with Ebenezer holding back — that Ebenezer still had no idea during the battle itself.
  • Double Standard Rape: Female on Male: Part of The Plan involves Harry and Freydis pantomiming him groping her breast while dancing with her, which, as intended, pisses off everybody present (Harry has to briefly break character to assure Mab that it wasn't real and that he's doing her will). Later Lara uses her succubus power to seduce and then drain an Einherjar to unconsciousness, which is more or less passed by.
  • Eldritch Abomination: Cornerhounds are a type of Outsider, so they automatically qualify. Specifically, they're horse-sized quadrupeds covered in tentacles (including a mass of them in place of a head) and with small mouths covering their bodies' lengths, each pack is actually a single being in multiple bodies, and they can emerge from any right angle.
  • Empathic Environment: Harry stomps on Ebenezar's Berserk Button by implying his hands-way-off parenting led, at least in part, to Margaret Dresden's death. When he does, the sky above them gets darker with the old man's rage.
  • Empathic Weapon: Not only is each of the Swords forged with a nail from the True Cross in the hilt, those nails each contain the consciousness of an angel. This explains how Fidelacchius was turned into a lightsaber. The angel inside saw that its sword was broken, cast about for a way it could still do its job, and saw the idea in Butters' head when he caught it.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good:
    • While never evil, Ebenezar has always been far more down the Antihero scale than Harry. He doesn’t understand why Harry would defend Thomas even if it means turning against Ebenezar, and it results in Ebenezar killing Harry's doppelgänger. Justified as every other vampire is a ruthless monster.
    • Lara Raith has similar troubles with Harry when they ally to rescue Thomas. She assumes every action Harry takes forces her to support him if she wants to save her brother. Harry tries arguing but only ends up digging himself deeper, at which point Lara invokes the trope directly by stating that if he's really telling the truth then she doesn't understand him as well as she thought she did.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Lara notes that she might be a monster, but she has limits on what she will do against certain foes. Most of those involve a person's family.
  • Exact Words:
    • When Harry arrives at the svartalf embassy after the attempted assassination, he realizes he’s being covertly interrogated by Etri's sister as she takes him to retrieve Maggie. They’ll keep track of everything he says and will not like any discrepancies with his first story, so he ends up giving them a bare bones statement omitting things like his encounter with Mab.
    • A sidhe noble tries this in defense of one of her comrades' actions in putting a whammy on Warden Yoshimo. The female sidhe tries to argue Sacred Hospitality isn't violated as no one is hurt. Harry, having already kicked the offender into a stone wall and broke some ribs, flash freezes him. Molly then backs Harry's actions by having the offender set as an ice sculpture on the buffet table and will have him stripped of his title and holdings.
    • Harry uses this to explain what he's doing with Thomas. He has to "stay on the island"—locked in one of the cells to preserve his life and protect him from tracking magic. Harry doesn't explain this fully to Lara because he doesn't feel there's time to argue with her about it, and she takes this as a means of gaining leverage over her when he really was just trying to do his best for Thomas.
  • Famed In-Story: It turns out that Vadderung (already an example of this trope) has another name: Beowulf. Yes, that Beowulf.
  • Fantastic Racism:
    • Ebenezar can't comprehend that a vampire of any Court can be anything other than a scheming monster. He'll kill one at the slightest excuse, even his own grandson. In fairness, 99% of the vampires we meet are scheming monsters, and it's not as if Thomas himself hasn't pulled off some impressive schemes of his own—they just usually have goals like "protect my family and lover" and "keep me from being a complete monster."
    • Odin's employees view all of the Forest People as monsters because Grendel was one of the Forest People who took to war against them. River Shoulders at one point takes an Einherjar aside and tells him Grendel was a loony and that the rest of the Sasquatch bear the Norse pantheon no grudge over it. Later, Harry has to reinforce the point when the Valkyrie Freydis Gard says some insulting things about River.
  • Fate Worse than Death: At least some of the cells in Demonreach turn out to not just be a stasis prison for its monsters, but closer to Physical Hell. The monsters are tormented perpetually as both a way to enact revenge but also prevent them from escaping.
  • Fictional Disability: Harry develops "conjuritis," a disorder where an image in his head becomes real when he sneezes. Ebenezar and Lara give him odd looks and claim it usually hits magically-gifted adolescents.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • The Giant Footprint Reveal comes back in the next book.
    • Harry and Lara are, at worst, foulweather enemies on friendly terms. Partly because of the Winter Mantle (probably), they are noticeably friendlier in this book. Later on, Freydis provides cover for Harry and Lara during their rescue of Thomas, by conjuring an illusion of them getting busy in the gym of Marcone's castle. An Einherjar sees it, and Freydis mentions that the rumor mill will have it that they're an item before the end of the peace conference. This turns out to be quite prophetic, but not in the way that's expected.
  • Friendly Enemy: Harry says that Lara Raith is his favorite frenemy. She, in turn, seems genuinely happy for him and Murphy on learning of their Relationship Upgrade.
  • Friendly Fireproof: In its new form, Fidelacchius is incapable of harming mortals (with both inanimate objects and monsters remaining fair game). While this means Butters can swing it around pretty freely, it also means that, like the Carpenter house, he's vulnerable to attacks from vanilla mortals (whether working for the bad guys or not).
  • Genre Savvy: Harry wonders if telling Ebenezar that Thomas is his other grandson might help improve their relationship, but decides that McCoy's long history with the White Court wouldn't be patched that easily, and it may even backfire and make things worse. Sure enough, McCoy goes through a lot of emotions at once when he learns the truth, but seems even more determined to kill Thomas out of horror and disgust.
  • Giant Footprint Reveal: From the end of the first chapter:
    I turned and studied it as the sun began to come up in earnest and I could finally see clearly.
    I’d been standing in a humanoid footprint.
    It was well over three feet long.
    Once I looked, I saw that there was a line of them, with several yards stretching between each one and the next. The line led toward the water. The rising lakeshore breeze was already beginning to blur the footprints’ outlines.
  • Given Name Reveal: River Shoulders reveals that “Genoskwa” is a title for warlike people of his kind, and the one Harry met is really named Blood on His Soul.
  • Godzilla Threshold: Harry gets Demonreach prepared to trap an Elder God while he gets an athame heavily implied to be made from the head of Longinus' spear and the placard of the Crucifixion in preparation to battle Ethniu. Using both these artifacts is considered the equivalent of arming yourself with two nuclear weapons, and even Demonreach itself is disturbed by the implications.
  • Happy Ending Override: Karrin is now under investigation for her role in the Skin Game bank robbery, especially since it resulted in an innocent bystander being killed.
  • Heroic BSoD: When Harry realizes how driven by hatred Ebenezar was, how out of control he became, and how if Harry had actually been there and not secretly on the boat, he really would have died by Ebenezar's hand, he has a breakdown, knowing that things will never be the same between them.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: This is how Austri's death protecting Etri is seen. Dying in defense of his sovereign (and the fact that he was a close personal friend of the royal family) means that the assassination attempt is an offense beyond what weregild can smooth over.
  • Heroic Wannabe: This is how Harry portrays Senior Council Cristos to Lara, noting the man as a statesman variant looking for peace to broker between different sides. Harry further suggests using this aspect when Cristos is seen speaking with Etri on the first night of the Peace Talks. While neither man likes Lara or the White Court, she can use Cristos' desire to make peace and Etri being blinded by rage as a chance to make an opening to either save Thomas or some other opportunity that isn't open to Lara right now.
  • Holy Hand Grenade:
    • Fidelacchius' upgrade to laser blade is revealed to allow the Sword to no longer bear a threat to mortals. The light passes through them, but it will smite the evil in monsters.
    • Harry grabs one at the end. It's Spear of Destiny and the Placard of Christ in order to fight Ethniu.
  • Hostage Situation: An accidental one by Harry towards Lara. He imprisons Thomas in one of the crystals on Demonreach, which keeps him safely beyond the reach of the svartalves and keeps Thomas's hunger from devouring him. But this also means that if Lara wants Thomas back she'll have to keep on Harry's good side, since he's the only one who can release Thomas from his imprisonment. Harry had not realized that particular point until Lara pointed it out.
  • Hypocrisy Nod: When the Wardens announce their suspicion that Harry has gone sinister and is lying to them, he points out that they only tracked him down to begin with because Ramirez lied to Harry and used an underhanded trick to keep tabs on him. Chandler, at least, concedes the point.
  • Hypocritical Humor:
    • Harry makes a mental note that the Paranet refers to White Court vampires as "Whampires" but he refuses to sink so low as to do so. This coming from the guy who referred to Black Court vampires as "Blampires".
    • Later, he notes that pissing off his grandfather is an incredibly stupid thing to do—and that he'd just spent the last ten minutes arguing with him and implicitly blaming him for Margaret's death.
  • Imperiled in Pregnancy: White Court Vampire fetuses are notoriously dangerous to bring to term. Thomas says that, based on his studies, Justine has about a 50-50 chance of dying in pregnancy just from the baby feeding on her.
  • Info Drop: Harry finally gets an explanation of what it means to be "starborn." Harry was born when "the stars were right," an event that happens once every six hundred and sixty-six years. This allows him to use magic on Outsiders without slowly going nuts. It's implied that this also makes him immune to infection by Nemesis.
  • Instant Turn-Off: Harry and Karrin get frisky while he's visiting her early in the book, only for their movements to inadvertently aggravate one of the injuries she incurred from Nicodemus's beating in the previous book. Harry's arousal vanishes almost instantly. (They try again at the end of the chapter and apparently use their imaginations to figure out ways around the issue.)
  • Internal Reveal:
    • When Harry meets Lara in her training dojo, they both get a reveal from the other. Lara learns of Justine's pregnancy and Harry learns Lara has known since his birth of Thomas being Ebenezar McCoy's grandson.
    • Harry reveals that Thomas is Ebenezar's grandson to Ebenezar himself. That bit of news goes down like a lead balloon.
  • Intimate Healing: The only way to save Thomas as his demon is devouring Thomas' body to survive the torment put upon him is for Lara to give Thomas some of her own reserves, which involves them being naked and her holding him close.
  • Irony: In Cold Days, Harry pursued Ebenezar's style of hands-off parenting, only for Thomas and Murphy to tell him it was a bad idea to stay completely away. Instead of just visiting regularly, he then takes Maggie into his own home. This backfires just as badly.
    • Given that every other vampire we've seen in the entire series is entirely willing to murder their own family with the right motivation, Ebenezar isn't wrong to be suspicious. It's just that Thomas is the one vampire who actually does have a functioning moral compass.
  • It's Personal: When Harry flat out asks Ebenezar what his problem with vampires is, Ebenezar says they took someone from him. Harry asks “Mom?” and McCoy replies “her too.”
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Ebenezar may come off as very harsh for his knee-jerk reflexive hatred of the White Court and the way he lectures Harry for allowing Thomas to know about Maggie...but he does have good reason to hate the White Court, and given that they're a race of mind-benders who've enslaved and feasted on countless people for centuries, he's not wrong to worry about their influence on his grandson and great-granddaughter. All Harry can say in Thomas's defence is 'He's my friend, he's different, just trust me!' Which, as he correctly notes, is what abuse victims always say. note  There's also the fact that Thomas is the son (and spitting image) of the man who raped and murdered Ebenezar's own daughter. He is also not wrong that Harry has an impressive Rogues Gallery, most of whom Would Hurt a Child to get to him. In fact, that's exactly what happened in Skin Game, not two months previous, when Nicodemus tried to kill Maggie in order to get vengeance on Harry. And the next best thing happens later in this book, when the svartalfs try to take Maggie hostage after Thomas attacks and tries to assassinate Etri.
    • Harry is utterly disgusted by the idea of leaving Maggie with the Carpenters, arguing that it didn't save her from the Red Court, him from Justin, or Margaret from the White King. Ebenezar, however, counters that the Carpenters' home is much safer than a random foster home (especially one in the middle of Red Court territory). Between Michael's team of guardian angels, Michael and Charity themselves, an archangel-empowered safe room, Mouse, Molly's Sidhe guardians, and a threshold that could probably hold off an army, as he notes, it's just about the safest place in the world outside of maybe Edinburgh.
  • Join or Die: Ethniu and Corb tell the assembled Unseelie Accords nations to either stand with them or burn with humanity.
  • Kansas City Shuffle: Harry's father used this, as part of being an illusionist—the audience expects misdirection, so you have to be good at having them look one way while you do something in another direction. Harry uses this when he has to retrieve Thomas from the basement of the BFS castle, and uses a combination of a veiling potion and a distraction.
  • Left Hanging: As a result of the original book getting split into two, several of the plot threads are left unresolved:
    • Randolph's investigation into Murphy and Dresden's involvement in the events of Skin Game, and the question of who put him onto them.
    • Harry's standing with the Council, and if he'll be cast out.
    • Who threatened Justine in order to blackmail Thomas into attacking Etri, or if that's even what happened.
    • Who sent the cornerhounds after Harry and Ebenezar.
    • And of course, the big cliffhanger itself, Ethniu and Corb's pending invasion of Chicago.
  • Let's You and Him Fight: This is part of Corb and Ethniu's plot. If the villains succeed in razing all of Chicago to the ground, then it will draw the outrage and notice of the entire mortal world, which will make war on all the supernatural nations. And while they fight, the Fomor and Ethniu will watch safely from under the seas.
  • Locked Out of the Loop: Molly still hasn't told her parents about her new role as the Winter Lady. Harry insists she tell them at some point, which she agrees to, but other matters get in the way.
  • Love at First Punch: Murph was partially crippled by a beating she received from Nicodemus in Skin Game. Freydis the Valkyrie questions her usefulness on their mission to rescue Thomas, and Murph shows she's still got it, physically attacking her and getting a gun under her chin. In response, Freydis propositions her (and later even suggests a threesome involving Harry).
  • Magical Gesture: In the climax of the story, Ebenezar rides to a confrontation on a large flying boulder that he keeps in the air with his fingers crooked in what Harry refers to as a "mystic sign." Harry further describes it as a "mystic shorthand" for the spell keeping the boulder aloft.
  • The Man Behind the Man: Ethniu turns out to be the true mastermind of the Fomor.
  • My Instincts Are Showing: When Ferrovax is pissed smoke will blow from his nose, much like from a dragon's snout.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: Peace Talks was billed as the bloodiest entry in The Dresden Files to date. Numerous of Marcone's staff are slaughtered, but the only named characters who die are either introduced in this book and have only a single, relatively unimportant scene, or are from a short story rather than the novels themselves. This is probably because the book grew too long and was split into two, with the latter half being the one the trailer refers to. And the implied body count of unnamed, offscreen civilians is immense.
  • Nice to the Waiter: Harry has made friends with Austri, one of the svartalf guards at Molly's apartment, and plays cards with him sometimes. Austri's kid is a friend of Maggie's.
  • Noodle Incident:
    • Exactly what did Lara do for Mab that led to the Queen of Air and Darkness owing the Queen of the White Court three favors? She claims to Ebenezar that it involved "visa issues."
    • McCoy and Etri already know each other somehow. Given that they've both been around for centuries (possibly even longer in Etri's case), this isn't surprising.
    • Harry comments that the last time he went to a party, things went kind of sideways. McCoy says, "me, too."
    • Maggie Sr wasn't the only person close to him that Eb lost to the White Court, though he declines to elaborate.
  • "No. Just… No" Reaction: Ramirez's reaction when Harry asks if the Council is requesting he serve as their representative at the talks.
  • No-Sell: Ethnui, the Last Titan breaks the magical defenses Marcone placed into his castle with as much effort as walking through a spider's web.
  • Not Helping Your Case: Harry gets into a row with Ebenezar, defending his decision to allow Thomas to know about Maggie. Then Thomas attacks the svartalf embassy, which immediately puts Maggie in danger.
  • Not Quite Dead: River Shoulders reveals that the Genoskwa survived the events of the last book and escaped from Hades’s vault, and advises Harry to keep a sharp eye out for payback.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: Ebenezar admits that he doesn't know what the cornerhounds do with the people they carry off, which Harry finds more terrifying than a straight answer.
  • Nothing Is the Same Anymore: The ending of the book results in the Unseelie Accorded Nations all forced to engage in open warfare against the Fomor, meaning The Masquerade almost certainly will be irretrievably shot.
  • The Oathbreaker: The Fomor all become this as they break their oaths to abide by the Unseelie Accords after Ethniu humiliates Mab with a single blow.
  • Offing the Offspring: When Ebenezar discovers that Thomas is his grandson, he immediately begins a spell to destroy the boat. Harry stops him, and the spell appears to kill Harry instead. For a moment, we see Ebenezar completely break down as he realizes that he's just murdered his grandson, although it's unclear how much it's sunk in that this happened while trying to kill his other grandson.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business:
    • Harry is freaked when a cornerhound shows up. Not because of the hound itself, but because its appearance results in Ebenezar exhibiting fear.
    • Harry notices that Alfred Demonreach shows concern when Harry decides that he will need both the Spear of Destiny and the Placard of Christ to fight Ethniu.
  • Parking Garage: Harry and Ebenezar fight a pack of cornerhounds in one, mainly to keep the potential collateral damage down. It's mostly empty, but a truck's gas tank provides a fuel source for the ring of fire needed to banish the hounds.
  • Peace Conference: The titular peace talks are a gathering of the Unseelie Accords signatories to finally hash out an arrangement with the Fomor. Except the Fomor and Ethniu are really just gathering everyone to announce their intentions to wage war on humanity, and to tell the signatories to Join or Die.
  • Persona Non Grata:
    • While the vote hasn't happened yet, there’s a very strong chance that Harry could suffer this from the White Council and be stripped of his title of Wizard because of his various actions in the past books, including a fear of his dual loyalty to the Council and Mab as her Winter Knight.
    • Assuming he survives the beatdown and flash-freezing Harry deals to him, the sidhe noble who placed a mental whammy on Warden Yoshimo is banished from Winter lands and holdings by decree of Winter Lady Molly.
  • Poor Communication Kills: Harry really should have picked an earlier moment to tell Ebenezar that the White Court vampire he's so trigger happy towards is also his own grandson. On the other hand, given Ebenezar's hatred for White Court vampires, which Harry repeatedly compares to his own regarding ghouls, he might not have reacted very well at any time; this is why Harry didn't tell him earlier.
  • Power Incontinence:
    • Harry's "conjuritis" results in the involuntary conjuration of whatever was in Harry's mind when he sneezes, including metaphors.
    • It comes up via Lara sparring with Harry that while she can turn on her lust-induction power whenever she wants, she can't always turn it off when it's unwanted.
  • The Power of Love: Harry learns that his sex with Karrin early in the book has cloaked him in Love's protection, which Lara finds out when she is burned by him while breaking Thomas out of Marcone's cells. This also means that Karrin has a similar protection now too.
  • Present-Day Past: Based on the timeline, the book takes place around 2015. However, Harry mentions the Notre Dame fire, which happened four years later.
  • Put on a Bus:
    • Considering the whopping number of characters for whom The Bus Came Back, it’s worth noting that this is the first full novel without an appearance of Bob the Skull.
    • Daniel Carpenter is living on an army base somewhere and is expecting a child with his wife.
    • Ivy appears without her erstwhile bodyguard Kincaid for the first time. A short story posted online reveals she fired him after he agreed to assist in Harry's attempted suicide, as Harry is her only other friend.
  • Relationship Upgrade: After many, many books. Harry and Karrin finally get together and have sex, as well as declare their love for each other.
  • Rhetorical Question Blunder: Harry asks the svartalf on guard at his and Molly's apartment if it would kill him to let them in without going through the security passphrase procedure. The svartalf, Austri, just stares at him and says that it potentially could kill him, being a security procedure and all.
  • Right for the Wrong Reasons: Given what Lord Raith did to Maggie Sr, what Thomas very nearly did to Molly and Lara did to Madeleine, combined with the White Court's history of seduction and mind manipulation, and the fact that 99% of vampires are ruthless predators, Ebenezar has every reason to be suspicious of how Thomas is much closer to Harry than any occasional ally should be. It's just that he doesn't know about the fact that they're brothers and that Thomas genuinely does care for his family.
  • Sacred Hospitality: "Guest-right" comes up repeatedly.
    • The svartalves are very insistent on enforcing guest-right, even castigating Ebenezar McCoy and Harry when they get into a public argument about whether Maggie should be fostered (Ebenezar's position, thinking to protect her from threats) or stay with Harry (who notes doing so never seems to have helped anyone in their family avoid trouble before). Later Thomas very severely breaks guest-right by attempting to assassinate the svartalf king, killing one of his bodyguards in the process.
    • When Harry meets with Lara at her house, he makes sure to ask directly if he is her guest every time to keep her and him working under the protections of this concept. When she requests that he indulge her in helping with a training session, Harry notes internally any injury or even his death could be excused as a "tragic training accident".
    • All the guests and attendants to the Peace Conference are expected to abide by these rules. Those who don't will suffer Mab's displeasure. Harry realizes that as Mab's Knight, he will be her man in doling out that displeasure unless the person is out of his league. So, when a sidhe noble uses a charm whammy on Warden Yoshimo with his fiddling as another tries to claim no actual harm had been done, Harry kicks the charmer into a stone wall, breaking many bones, and then flash-freezes him. If he survives being an ice sculpture that night, Lady Molly will have his title stripped and he will be banished from Winter's domain for his actions.
    • The first thing Corb and Ethniu do upon entering the peace talks is to murder all the valets and workers outside, claiming that since they were contract workers, the pair weren't really breaking the laws of hospitality. Shortly after, they dispense with the pretense and outright attack Mab.
  • Secret Secret-Keeper: Lara. As it turns out, not only does she know that Thomas and Harry are brothers (as she has for a while) but also that their grandfather is Ebenezar McCoy and apparently has since Thomas was a baby. According to her, listening is an underrated skill in her family.
  • Sensory Overload: When up against enemies that have an echolocation similar to bats, Harry briefly stuns them with a spell he'd been saving to prank Butters: the sound of a Tyrannosaurus rex roaring the tune of "Happy Birthday" at 160 decibels.
  • Series Continuity Error:
    • Harry claims that Butters doesn't know about the Black Council... despite Harry discussing it with him and several other characters in Cold Days.
    • Harry mentions he's never been in the Brighter Future Society's headquarters before, outside of being a ghost; the end of the previous novel, Skin Game, had him go there to pay a wergilt to Marcone.
  • She's All Grown Up: Harry isn’t comfortable noting that Ivy is now old enough for prom. He also acknowledges that Hope Carpenter is old enough for Michael to officially be worried about her dating life, and realises it won’t be long before he’s in a similar position with Maggie.
  • Shipper on Deck: Despite the fact that it gives him a magical protection that burns her to the touch, Lara is genuinely pleased to learn that Harry and Karrin have finally gotten together.
  • Spanner in the Works: Ethniu is a god above Mab and more powerful than the entirety of the White Council as well as other Unseelie Accord members put together. There's no possible way to fight her and doing so is a Bolivian Army Ending everyone agrees to. The thing is she doesn't know that Harry has access to both the Athame and Placard stolen from Hades, and control of Demonreach.
  • Spoiler Title: The title of the follow-on book Battle Ground (2020), announced so quickly after this one came out, makes the outcome of the titular peace talks rather obvious.
  • Stating the Simple Solution: Harry asks Butters for help with his conjuritis. Butters just tells him to get some basic cold and flu medication. Harry is a little bothered by this.
  • Stealth Pun:
    • How many angels can dance on the head of a pin? Well, if the pin is one of the nails from the Crucifixion and incorporated into a holy sword, the answer is now canonically one.
    • When he's summoning Molly, Harry uses a teen pop magazine, a can of Dr Pepper, a watermelon Ring Pop, a jar of Nutella and sandpaper. It stands out as weird... until you remember that her surname is Carpenter.
  • Surprise Pregnancy: White Court Vampires aren't totally infertile, but they have a hard enough time conceiving that nobody was really expecting Justine to get pregnant.note  Thomas also says they were using protection just in case, so it's even more unlikely to have happened.
  • Taking the Bullet: Austri, the friendly svartalf, dies offscreen protecting his king Etri from an assassin early on.
  • Tempting Fate: From the trailer:
    Ebenezar: Boy, tell me you ain't dumb enough to try this.
    Harry: Oh... [plants staff on ground, glowing spell-work appears] I'm more than dumb enough.
  • Threesome Subtext:
    • Butters is implied to now have two werewolf girlfriends, though he refuses to go into specifics.
    • Freydis would love to bed Murphy ... and Harry at the same time, if she's had a few drinks first.
  • Two-Part Episode: With Battle Ground (2020). Apparently, one of the reasons Peace Talks took so long to be released was that the initial draft turned into a David Eddings-level Doorstopper. The publisher gently suggested to Butcher that perhaps it would be better served as a two-part story. Butcher split up the character developments, came up with a second Action Plot and re-wrote both parts into the final Peace Talks and Battle Ground.
  • Van Helsing Hate Crimes: A Downplayed Trope with Ebenezar as he considers Thomas Raith to be a monster by virtue of being a White Court member. Normally, he'd be right but Thomas is a Friendly Neighborhood Vampire and unknowingly Ebenezar's grandson.
  • Unprovoked Pervert Payback: Invoked by Freydis as a distraction.
  • Unspoken Plan Guarantee: Harry plan to steal, er, Thomas goes off without a hitch, using the "tell the audience as we go" technique. What happens immediately after screws up everything, but it's just a coincidence, and the confusion would actually make it harder to identify the thief. However, Ebenezar figures it out and tries to stop Harry. Which is something Harry planned for.
  • Villain Team-Up: Harry and others in the know realize that the Outsiders massing a large assault on the Outer Gates at the same time that Ethniu declares war on the world is no coincidence, and must mean that they're working together.
  • War Arc: The peace talks are meant to finally end the mostly offscreen conflict with the Fomor that's been happening since the aftermath of Changes. Instead, it acts as the prelude of an outright invasion of Chicago that will continue in Battle Ground.
  • Webcomic Time: Due to the six years between the release of Skin Game and Peace Talks. The previous books occurred more or less in real time, released yearly with in-universe intervals lasting between six months to roughly a year. This book takes place at most several months after Skin Game; Karrin Murphy is still recovering from her injuries and Harry is settling into a routine as Maggie's dad.
  • We Need a Distraction: Harry recalls that his father Malcolm once told him the key to a good illusion is a great distraction. This will draw the attention of the audience away from the sleight-of-hand Malcolm does. When Harry is preparing to sneak Lara, an unconscious Thomas, and Freydis out through the party while using the obscurity potion, he tosses a second potion onto Rameriez's cloak. This creates a gale-force wind and throws him about. It draws everyone's attention save Ferrovax and Vadderung, but before the former can reveal the trick Vadderung draws his attention with an unspoken message, "Reveal them and I will fight you." This allows the group to bypass the pair.
  • Wham Episode: Thomas is arrested for trying to kill Etri, and in the process of trying to save him Harry potentially gets himself kicked out of the White Council, gets into a fight with Ebenezar that not only ruins their relationship but results in Ebenezar finding out Thomas is Harry's brother, and in the end has to seal Thomas in Demonreach to save his life. Meanwhile, Ethniu the Last Titan is revealed to be The Man Behind the Man to the Fomor, and after smacking down Mab and blacking out Chicago as a show of force, announces her intention to raze Chicago in the opening move of a war against all of mankind.
  • What the Hell, Hero?:
    • The Chicago Police have this for Murphy, believing that she must have been corrupted due to the events of Skin Game. Rudolph, of course, is happy to believe she's a Dirty Cop and doesn't care about the truth. He just wants to bring her down.
    • Ebenezar is more aghast than we’ve ever seen him when Harry reveals Maggie is living with him. He claims Harry has made her a target to anyone who knows about her, which he notes already includes the svartalves and one White Court vampire. Later, he attempts the same when Harry kidnaps Thomas from the conference. He assumes the White Court must have something on him and is stunned that Harry is willing to die to protect Thomas.
    • Harry fires back at Ebenezar, criticising his own parenting skills and pointing out that his approach of keeping Margaret Dresden isolated didn't work (and implying that it contributed to her death), and his leaving Harry to the foster system (which Harry is clearly bitter as hell about) didn't work out either. Plus, Susan already tried hiding Maggie, and that didn't turn out so well (though as Ebenezar points out, the Carpenter home is much safer than a random house in the middle of Red Court territory).
  • The Worf Effect: Ethniu makes her presence unambiguously known by smacking down Mab and then saying that they must destroy The Masquerade. Mab's defeat immediately demoralizes everyone present except Ferrovax, and Ethniu even manages, by force of will, to choke Ferrovax mentally so he can only speak when she allows it.
  • You Can't Go Home Again: Harry experiences this twofold. After the svartalf embassy burns and Thomas is responsible, he knows he'll have to move out of there. Then he has to enter Marcone's castle—built on the remains of his old boardinghouse—and experiences pangs of homesickness, cursing Marcone for taking his home away (while still acknowledging the Red Court were the ones who actually destroyed it).
  • You Owe Me: Lara's part of the plot kicks off with her calling in this to Mab. She did something impressive enough to be owed three favors from the Queen of Air and Darkness. She is being paid back one by Mab herself, with Mab forcing Harry to fulfill the other two.
    Queen Mab: I expect her to show respect for my Court and my resources. I expect her to ask nothing of you that she would be unwilling to ask from me. Within those constraints—yes... [If she asks you to steal something, then] I expect you to acquire it...[If she wants you to burn down a building, then] I expect a mountain of fine ash... [If she wants you to kill someone, then] I expect their corpse to be properly disposed of.