When the Supernatural nations of the world meet up to negotiate an end to ongoing hostilities, Harry Dresden, Chicago's only professional wizard, joins the White Council's security team to make sure the talks stay civil. But can he succeed, when dark political manipulations threaten the very existence of Chicago - and all he holds dear?
Following the events of Skin Game and "Jury Duty", Harry Dresden has finished settling into Molly's apartment and has a relatively stable life for himself and his daughter. One day, while on a run with Dresden, Thomas Raith reveals to him that Justine is pregnant. Moreover, Carlos Ramirez soon arrives to inform him of his upcoming assignment to defend the Senior Council while they attend peace talks ; talks arranged with the Fomor for a cessation of hostilities, hosted by Baron Marcone. Worse still, the White Council will soon be holding a vote about whether or not to expel Dresden himself, which he cannot easily contest due to his duties securing the Senior Council, nor can his supporters on the Council be of help to him in blocking a wider vote, because they are also at the peace talks. Things stack against Dresden further when he comes into serious conflict with his grandfather, Blackstaff McCoy, over his decision to associate with the White Court and to keep his daughter close to him.
Worse, during his visit to Karrin Murphy, who is still recovering from her injuries, detectives Rudolph and Detective Bradley arrive at her house to question them both regarding the events of Skin Game; namely, the death of Harvey Morrison and the death of some security at the Capristi Building heist. They believe they can convict Dresden and Murphy, but they refuse to cooperate, and have sex after they leave. The next morning, things still haven't let up as Dresden finds Lara Raith and Mab sitting in the back of his car: Dresden now has to pay back any two favors Lara wishes, on behalf of Winter. When Dresden finally does return to the Svartalf Embassy, he finds it on fire, with Maggie inside.
In the aftermath of what was apparently an explosive assassination attempt by Thomas Raith against Etri, Dresden manages at length to get through to Molly's apartment and secure his daughter and Hope Carpenter, her babysitter. However, he cannot secure Thomas, who was captured after the assassination attempt and rendered helpless, barely able to convince Dresden to check on Justine. He takes his daughter to refuge at the Carpenter home, which is protected by guardian Angels and Unseelie guardians. He assures his daughter that, should he die, she would have help: the Carpenter family will take care of her; Mouse will always protect her; his shade, which is well versed in how to use power as a ghost, would protect her and be kept sane by Uriel; and she would have a master if she developed supernatural powers.
Following his brother's wishes, Dresden checks on and reassures Justine before searching the area around her apartment for any surveillance. He finds none, but does encounter Ebenezar. The two nearly come to blows yet again, but are interrupted by the arrival of Cornerhounds, forcing them to work together. Ebenezar reveals to Dresden that, as a Starborn, he can banish Outsiders directly without suffering any lasting damage to his mind, so they trap the Cornerhounds in a circle of fire and send them back to the Outside. Though they are successful and barely survive, they part on bad terms. He gets medical help from Waldo Butters afterward, learning that he's in an three-way relationship with Andi Macklin and Marci, and then goes to the Raith estate to get answers from Lara.
Dresden gains admittance with some difficulty, meeting Freydis Gard, Lara's new Valkyrie bodyguard from Monoc Securities. He spars with Lara while brainstorming ways to free their half-brother, and finding none, he departs. However, while leaving he is accosted by Wardens Ramirez, Yoshimo, Meyers, and Chandler, fearing he had been subverted by the White Court. They force him to submit to examination by Yoshimo, and upon discovering that he recently had sex (with Murphy, but they couldn't tell) their suspicions increased, especially because Dresden refused to reveal his private life to them. Even so, they allowed him to leave. Beset by enemies on all sides and paranoid, Dresden then summons Molly Carpenter, whose mantle of power has so fundamentally intertwined with her that she can be summoned - and cannot cross a closed circle, as mortals can. He strikes a bargain with her: he will become indebted to her as a faerie, and she will create a defensive silk suit and a ring that will allow him to project his consciousness into an ectoplasmic construct, an identical decoy of himself.
After dropping Molly off, Dresden spends the night at the Carpenter's, promising Michael Carpenter to get Molly to reveal her new status as Winter Lady to her parents. He also hires Goodman Grey to protect Justine, discovers with Waldo Butters that Fidelacchius will now only cut non-mortals, and then goes to the first meeting of the peace summit at the Brighter Future Society castle. The peace talks themselves included all the usual suspects of the Unseelie Accords, including even Donar Vadderung and Ferrovax the dragon. He manages to wipe out one of his two favors that he must repay to Lara Raith by introducing her to Gregori Cristos and Etri, to help smooth tensions. He then meets River Shoulders, learns from him that the Genoskwa is still somehow alive and free of Hades, and then goes at Molly's behest to freeze a Sidhe who mentally assaulted Yoshimo, after which point said Sidhe is banished by Molly. Dresden manages to convince Molly to reveal herself to her parents during the fuss, and then leaves with Lara afterward, who now has a plan to save Thomas - Lara's second favor will be for Dresden to assist her.
With Thomas having been transferred from Svartalf custody to Marcone's, the only concession Lara could get from Etri, Murphy decides she will help Dresden despite her injuries and his protestations, cutting her way out of her cast to do so. They go to Lara Raith's to plan, but are followed by three cars, so Murphy has Dresden speed away while under veil - a veil not powerful enough to to block radar. Police see the speeder on radar but only see the followers, and arrest them, although one manages to escape. The final follower catches up to Dresden and reveals himself as Goodman Grey, reporting on the number of surveillance crews watching Justine. Grey then departs and they reach the Raith estate, with Freydis quite impressed by Murphy's ferocity and offering to have a three-way with her and Dresden. After Murphy declines, they continue to Lara Raith, who is outside to avoid the bug in her office. There, Dresden proposes that they extract Thomas via stealth, and take him to a place where none of the Accorded nations, not even the White Council, can reach him - Demonreach. With him gone, the Svartalves would have no choice but to accept a steep weregild.
The plan is put into motion the next night. As Dresden and Carlos entered, Dresden broke an ampule of liquid onto Carlos' cloak to tag it with a spell. He then briefly danced with Freydis until she stage-slapped him across the room, feigning retaliation for sexual assault. Mab then pretends to send him after her, and Lara, to supposedly make amends and allow Lara to gain influence over Dresden. In reality, it left everyone clear of the party long enough for Freydis to summon an illusion of Dresden and Lara having sex (something that could not actually happen, due to Dresden's love and protection from Murphy), while Lara and Dresden truly slip down through a clothes chute down to the subbasement to retrieve Thomas. Lara distracts an Einherjaren guard while Dresden does so, but Thomas is in a state of near-death, his Hunger completely depleted and now feeding on his own life force.
I have stood by doing nothing for too much of my life. I have watched holy place after holy place fall to the mortals. Forest after forest. Sea after sea. They dare to walk where they were never meant to walk. And as they do, the divine retreats, withers, dies. They grow more numerous, more petty, more vicious, while they foul the world we helped to create with their filth, their noise, their buildings, and their machines.
This ends. Tonight.— Ethniu
Everyone then leaves under the protection of Dresden's blending potion. Alone it could not succeed, but Dresden activates Carlos' spelled cloak, causing it to fly around (dragging Carlos with it) and distract everyone enough for it to succeed — mostly. Two individuals saw through it, Ferrovax and Vadderung, but Vadderung prevented Ferrovax from revealing their location long enough for them all to reach Murphy's escape car. Before leaving, they witness the arrival of Listen, King Corb, and Ethniu as they kill all of the mortal guards outside the castle. They pass within the Brighter Future Society castle, killing human attendants as they go, with Dresden staying to witness while Murphy and everyone else flee toward Demonreach. Dresden witnesses Ethniu, the last Titaness, strike down Mab with ease and then declare war on Chicago and any Accorded nations who attempt to stop her. This coincides with a fierce attack on the Outer Gates.
In the aftermath of Ethniu's departure, leaving no power to the city, Marcone rallies the Accorded nations to defend it even as Dresden sprints for the marinas. He arrives just in time to prevent Blackstaff McCoy from burning down the Water Beetle, as he was under the impression that Lara had subverted Dresden. Before Ebenezar can bear down on everyone on his flying rock, Dresden sends his consciousness into Molly's ectoplasmic construct, and steps forward before Ebenezar. The two duel, Ebenezar winning, so Dresden reveals that Thomas is his grandson in order to distract him. This enrages Ebenezar, but before he can blast a comet of fire at the fleeing Water Beetle, Dresden jumps at Ebenezar and takes the shot instead. Horrified, Ebenezar holds Dresden's body long enough for the Water Beetle to get out of range, at which point Dresden releases the construct, causing his body on the dock to dissolve into ectoplasm as he returns to his own body on the Water Beetle.
Murphy makes Dresden promise to talk to Ebenezar afterward, and they then arrive at Demonreach. Lara used her own reserves to keep Thomas alive during the trip, so Dresden brings Thomas to Demonreach, where he consigns him to the Well below, keeping him protected against his Hunger while in the stasis of the prison. Lara misunderstands this and attacks Dresden, but he disables her and Freydis, at which point she accuses Dresden of holding Thomas hostage. Dresden disavows doing so and they come to a mutual agreement to fight Ethniu, with Demonreach revealing that he can trap Ethniu in the Well below — if she is brought to the shores of Lake Michigan, and Dresden uses the Athame from the armory. Dresden and his companions then return to Chicago to defend against an invasion of Fomor and a bonafide Goddess.