Friday, June 1, 2012

Hounded by Kevin Hearne

When Hounded; the first of Kevin Hearne's Iron Druid chronicles first hit the shelves last year, to be quickly followed by Hexed and Hammered, it created a bit of a stir. This technique had worked with a couple of epic fantasy trilogies, the most notable being Brent Weeks' Night Angel. I have to admit I liked what I heard about Hounded, and the idea of an ancient druid masquerading as a twenty something hip Irish lad in Arizona was pretty clever and appealing. Various things prevented me from reading Hounded until now.

I'm very glad I took the plunge, though. Atticus O'Sullivan, the hero of Hounded, and the Iron Druid of the series title is not dissimilar to Jim Butcher's wise cracking wizard Harry Dresden. On the face of it the two are vastly different. Atticus is over 2,000 years old and he seems to have a better handle on his magic than Harry Dresden ever has, he also runs an occult bookshop, not a magical detective agency, but they do have a lot in common. Mostly it comes from the pop culture references, which Hounded is littered with, and something that I've always appreciated about the Harry Dresden books.

The story is a lot of fun, too. The sword Atticus wields; Fragarach, is coveted by the Celtic god Aenghus Og, and he'll stop at nothing to get it. The easiest way is to kill Atticus, and it's going to take every dirty trick the druid has up his sleeve to get out of this one alive. Fortunately he's got allies like the Morrigan, a law firm composed of vampires and werewolves, a Hindu witch of great power and his wolfhound Oberon.

There's a lot of set up in Hounded, as you'd expect from the opener in an urban fantasy series. I actually kind of preferred Atticus' stories about his past, complete with references to Thor as a 'major asshat', and his interactions with the Morrigan, Flidais, the sexy possessed bartender Granuaile and of course Oberon (in fact I think Oberon is my new favourite urban fantasy sidekick) to the actual story about Atticus' fight with Aenghus Og and his attempts to hang onto his sword. Honestly, Hexed could be entirely about Oberon and there'd be no complaints from me. It's also kind of different for the wizard/witch to have a dog familiar rather than a cat, and it may appeal to me because I am very definitely a dog person.

The book has a few problems, at times some of the situations Atticus found himself getting into and out of verged on the farcical, and there was a feeling that the author was stretching credibility to breaking point and a little beyond on at least one occasion involving a shooting. Some of this is expected of a debut novel, and it was easy enough to get past, although it wouldn't want to become a trend.

Kevin Hearne's got me in and I'll be looking for Hexed once I've kicked a hole in the TBR pile. If you like Harry Dresden and you're looking for something to pass the time in between installments, then make the acquaintance of Atticus O'Sullivan.

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