Series: The Iron Druid Chronicles #1
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Published by Del Ray on 3 May 2011
I thoroughly enjoyed Hounded and quickly went out and bought the next few in the series. Atticus, the last of the Druids, lives in an occult bookshop in Arizona, because if you can brew up immortality, you might as well spend your life somewhere sunny. He might look like your average tattooed Irishman with a talking dog named Oberon but he has hidden depths. He can shape shift, gets power from the earth and can wield a magical sword called Fragarach. An angry god, Aenghus Óg who has been hunting Atticus for centuries has finally tracked him down and he wants the sword. Cue dramatic music.
Rather than limiting himself to just Celtic gods, Kevin Hearne has decided to make gods from all religions real, along with the usual vampires and werewolves. This can make the novel a bit daunting if you are not familiar with a variety of world religions and myths. Unfortunately Hearne info dumps quite a bit on you in the first few chapters to set the scene. Even if you get everything he throws your way, you have to grasp the concept that lots of goddesses have the hots for Atticus. Sure he is a tattooed Irishman with a talking dog named Oberon, can shape shift, gets power from the earth and can wield a magical sword but I don’t really get the fascination, particularly as his attitude can be downright immature for a 2,100 year old. Oberon however is an absolute treat and contributes to the humour that litters the pages.
Everyone in this novel has an ulterior motive, including Oberon who wants sausages and French poodles. Atticus is crossed and double-crossed until he is cross (sorry, couldn’t resist) by the gods, goddesses, witches and even the police force. The action scenes are entertaining and never really veer into gory territory. Atticus shows just how he was able to stay alive over the millennia through trickery, and hacking and slashing with Fragarach. He has a highly tuned sense of paranoia and innate ability to build a support crew that will support him in life-threatening situations, not just because they care about him, but because he is one hell of a negotiator. The scenes with the witches read much like a chess game with each side trying to work out how to exploit their opponent’s weaknesses. In this sense the witches are at a disadvantage because they are so much younger than Atticus, they couldn’t hope to have his experience. Hearne emphasises over and over the limitations of Atticus e.g. has to have his feet on the earth to draw its power etc. but we never really feel that Atticus will emerge as anything other than the victor. I hope Hearne doesn’t go overboard with.
Hounded is not without minor problems but the sophisticated world building, witty banter, effective characterisation and lively action scenes make it a rollicking good read.