Thursday, February 25, 2016

HOUNDED: A REVIEW

Hounded (Iron Druid Chronicles #1)
Written by: Kevin Hearne
Paperback: 292 pages
Publisher: Del Rey
Language: English
May 2011
Genre: Urban Fantasy/Series

Atticus O’Sullivan has been running for two thousand years and he’s a bit tired of it. After he stole a magical sword from the Tuatha Dé Danann (those who became the Sidhe or the Fae) in a first century battle, some of them were furious and gave chase, and some were secretly amused that a Druid had the cheek to defy them. As the centuries passed and Atticus remained an annoyingly long-lived fugitive, those who were furious only grew more so, while others began to aid him in secret.

Now he’s living in Tempe, Arizona, the very last of the Druids, far from where the Fae can easily find him. It’s a place where many paranormals have decided to hide from the troubles of the Old World—from an Icelandic vampire holding a grudge against Thor to a coven of Polish witches who ran from the German Blitzkrieg.

Unfortunately, the very angry Celtic god who wants that sword has tracked him down, and Atticus will need all his power, plus the help of a seductive goddess of death, a sexy bartender possessed by a Hindu witch, and some good, old-fashioned luck of the Irish to kick some arse and deliver himself from evil.


+++++++++++++

I have been looking for a new urban fantasy series to read for a while now. While I love going on adventures with Toby, Harry, Kate, and Mercy, I needed something different. Someone recommended the Iron Druid series and so I figured I would check it out. Fey…check (a big weakness for me since I grew up on tales of the sidhe from my mother), Hero with a sense of humor…check. Adorable dog…check. I had to give it a shot.

It’s hard not to draw comparisons between Harry Dresden and Atticus O’Sullivan. For me, I found Atticus to be the secret Druid lovechild of Remy Chandler (the angel P.I. from Thomas E. Sniegoski) and Harry Dresden (the wizard from Jim Butcher’s series). Similar to Harry he can be snarky, is magically gifted and trying to live a fairly normal life. Like Remy he is older than he looks and has a very special relationship with his dog whom he can communicate with. And yet he is different than both of those characters.

Atticus O’Sullivan has been trying to live a fairly normal life in Tempe, Arizona. He runs a bookstore/apothecary shop, makes sure the nice widow’s lawn next door is always taken care of, and makes sure his loyal wolfhound Oberon gets his exercise. He is also an Irish Druid who is several centuries old, but his boyish college boy looks and mannerisms tell another story. Atticus wants to stay out of trouble and live a quiet life. Unfortunately two thousand years ago The Celtic love god Aengus Og, thinks he stole a magical sword from him and has been hunting him ever since. Atticus thought that living in Tempe, Arizona might afford him some peace from the Celtic pantheon of his past since there is very little Oak, Ash and Thorn for them to come through. He was wrong. Siodhachan O’Suileabhain is in trouble.

Atticus is attacked on his way to work and before he can plan his attack or retreat The Morrigan arrives. They aren’t friends by any means and yet she warns him, as a friend, of the impending doom headed his way. Aenghus wanted the sword back and he wants Atticus dead. Now Atticus will have to rely on a few centuries worth of experience and his friends to help him finally end this feud.

Things I liked: I like Atticus. I like that he has learned to survive by adapting and evolving to the times. It helps him blend in and keep him under the radar. Sure, sometimes he comes off a bit too flippant and snarky, but I like snark in my heroes. He’s also very much a survivor. While he doesn’t seem to have the weight all of all of these centuries on him as many would like or expect, I feel like Atticus has learned to survive his own life as well. Ah but the things he must have seen and learned all of these years.

What I really love is that he is a bit of a rogue and while a good guy, he definitely had some shades of light grey if need be. I like that. I like my heroes a bit tarnished and muddy. I don’t want him to be a boy scout. I want him to be lovable and loyal, but not someone you dare to cross. I think I may have found one of those again in Atticus. Of course I also have some big misgivings and disappointments with Atticus as well, but I will get to that in a moment.

Of course the real hero in this book is Oberon though, the wolfhound. Through his bond with Atticus, Oberon steals the show with his fascination for poodles, Genghis Khan, and hunting bighorn sheep. The dialogue between them is perfect. While his attention span is short, his humor matches that of his friend and owner. Apparently he even has his own twitter account which I will be checking out shortly after finishing this review.

Beyond Atticus and Oberon, I enjoyed Mrs. MacDonagh, the widow Atticus looks after and his lawyer friends. While none of these characters are really flushed out, I am excited to see some character development hopefully in the next book.

I love the world building. Similar to Gaiman’s American Gods, the deities from many pantheons still exist and their power is largely attached to belief. The idea that the Christian God can hardly manifest in North America due to the many conflicting believers have is quite amusing. It means that this world can not only have the fey, werewolves, vampires, but a wide pantheon of beasties and gods. It may be kitchen sink urban fantasy, but I think I am okay with that.

We know right away who the villain is and that eventually there will be a showdown. I can also understand how pompous Aenghus is. He is a god after all. He is brash, power hungry, and in search of someone to punish. Not exactly what you picture in a love god. The one thing I did like is that I had no idea where the other gods would side. I couldn’t tell if they were all out to manipulate and deceive or that Atticus may have found some allies during his long life. It kept me guessing.

The book was fun, interesting, and a quick read. It has plenty of faults to be sure, but ones that I expect to be remedied as the series continues. This is a debut after all. But as I said there are some faults which made me give it a lower score than I expected.

Things I didn’t like so much: There is nothing really at stake in this book. There is never a moment that you think that Atticus won’t win. He is almost too powerful and there are no real consequences or ways to balance him out. Sure there are things like mortal law and such that have to make him wary, but he is too damn awesome it seems. This means there is never any suspense, no thrills. Atticus wins and there is no real cost physically or mentally or emotionally. It made it a bit boring and that is a damn shame. Sleeping on the grass unmolested isn’t a cost, it’s called camping and something I would love to do right now.

Atticus can also be a bit of an ass. Wedgies to paramedics and suing a police department when you know that the good detective was being manipulated by magic? You’re not a hero then. The same anger he felt when he realized that poor Oberon had been manipulated into killing a man should have been the same anger he felt knowing that an innocent man had been manipulated into harassing and shooting him. It just felt and read wrong.

I will forgive each of the lady deities falling for Atticus’s charm and boyish good looks. He has survived this long and evaded gods, so I can see him being quite intriguing and sexy. What I did want from them is some stakes. I wanted these gods to pose a serious threat. But I always knew Atticus would win and like I said that was frustrating. Anyway…

The pacing is a bit too fast and the story and its characters suffer slightly for the breakneck pace. It also makes it a bit fluffier than I wanted it to. There are some minor plot holes which will have you shaking your head. Unfortunately the author also does a lot of telling rather than showing, but again this might be a more rookie mistake. It resulted in everything being too precise, just one more thing that Atticus was supremely awesome at. Seriously, you might as well make him a new Celtic god.

My last gripe was with the women characters in general which I hope will be remedied. The women are witches and therefore evil, cute little walking wet dreams with an eagerness to impress, or dead sexy goddesses who also want to jump his bones. Boring. Mrs MacDonagh is wonderful but I fear we will lose her to a lady in the refrigerator syndrome. I hope that I am wrong. I really want Granuaile to be awesome and hold her own.

Buy or Borrow: Buy. Or at least pick it up from the library and give it a go. It has some faults, but overall it was a quick fun read and I look forward to reading more adventures about Atticus and Oberon.

Part of: A series

Also Recommended: For more magical heroes please try Harry Dresden series by Jim Butcher, the Remy Chandler series by Thomas J. Sniegoski, Felix Castor series by Mike Carey, the Jonsthan Swift series by Gate Griffin, and John Taylor’s adventures from Simon Green’s Takes from the Nightside series.

3.25 out of 4 happy bibliosnark bookmarks 

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