Friday, August 17, 2012

Tricked by Kevin Hearne

The fourth instalment of Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid Chronicles actually begins with the ‘death’ of the main character. Fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and James Bond know that a good creator will never truly let their title character kick the bucket unless they’ve got a good out.

It’s certainly an audacious way to begin a book, and the shocks continue to come throughout the narrative. Hearne put it into 4th gear and left his foot pressed to the floor the entire way through Tricked, and there’s rarely a chance for the reader to draw breath. Once Atticus is ‘dead’ he’s got the Norse gods off his back (they’re still ticked off about the whole Thor and Odin thing in Hammered), but he’s had to relocate and a key component of his ‘death’; Native American trickster god Coyote (hence the book’s title), wants a favour, and this is something that draws Atticus, Oberon and the druid’s apprentice Granuaile into what is possibly the most dangerous escapade of all four books.

I’m going to split this review into two sections: The Good and The Not So Good, because that’s largely how I read this. Half the time I was grinning and chuckling, and the other half frowning and shaking my head. It’s highly likely that because I’ve ‘shot gunned’ the Iron Druid’s I’ve od’ed a little, and that’s coloured my view of Tricked.

The Good:
Lots of Oberon, the witty wolfhound was absent for a lot of Hammered and my enjoyment of the book suffered as a result. More Oberon, always more Oberon. In fact on his behalf I’d like to know why these books aren’t called The Irish Wolfhound Chronicles?
More of Granuaile. I really like Atticus’ apprentice, and since being introduced in Hounded, she seemed to be sidelined in Hexed and Hammered on the grounds that she can’t necessarily protect herself. In some ways she’s more dangerous than Atticus himself.
Coyote. I like the trickster god and his habit of referring to Atticus as Mister Druid and Granuaile as Miss Druid, not to mention bringing sausages for Oberon is highly endearing.
The use of Native American mythology. One of the series’ strengths is Hearne’s way of viewing the better known mythologies and his willingness not to confine himself to those. I haven’t read a lot of urban fantasy that strays too far from the European mythologies and this was a welcome change.
Some of Atticus back story. One thing that has bugged me about the earlier books was that for a 2,100 year old man Atticus doesn’t seem to have much of a back story. He sprinkled famous historical names about the place, but that was about it. His story in Tricked actually allowed readers to get to know him a little better and that was appreciated.

The Not So Good:
Oberon got hurt L.
I don’t like what’s happened to Leif, and unless it pays off in a future book I’ll be asking myself why this was done.
No, Mrs McDonagh. Okay she was in it, but in a vastly altered form, and I liked her before.
I always thought Atticus’ cranky arms dealing neighbour Mr Semardjian had comic potential, but he was pretty much dropped in Hexed and hasn’t returned, although he was mentioned in Tricked.
Atticus himself bugs me a little. The Irish college boy humour and manner worked in Hounded, and to a lesser extent Hexed, but it’s becoming rather tiresome now, and I prefer reading about Granuaile and Oberon.
Atticus’ character inconsistencies remained.
I’d just gotten used to him being based in Tempe, Arizona and then he ups stumps to Kayenta.
Atticus is becoming a little too indestructible.
I think my biggest issue with Tricked is that at only 4 books in the books are becoming a little formulaic. However Tricked does seem to be an end to the opening character arc, and the sneak peek I read of Trapped confirmed this and I think it may take the series in a slightly different direction.

I once said this about the Dresden Files, and I think it applies even more here. The Iron Druid books are a little like the literary equivalent of fast food. They look appealing and they’re easy to digest, fine in moderation, but you wouldn’t want a steady diet of them. Despite my criticisms I am hooked, and by the time Trapped appears on book shelves I’m sure I’ll be ready for some more of Atticus and Co.  

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