Hounded by Kevin Hearne (The Iron Druid Chronicles: Book 1)

8/10 Short, sweet and a lot of fun. A very competent debut.

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'm a big fan of the smaller urban fantasy novels that take a magically gifted character living in a mortal world while secretly interacting with a magical beyond normal comprehension. Harry Dresden and Frank Triggaltheron remain two of my all time favourite fantasy characters, and I am happy to introduce a new character into their esteemed company - Atticus O'Sullivan. Hounded by Kevin Hearne is a fun, witty, action adventure novel that despite some a few flaws managed to entertain from start to finish.

Hounded tells the story of Atticus, an Irish druid living in Tempe, Arizona with his faithful wolfhound Oberon, who runs his own apothecary of horrors and who just wants to stay out of trouble. The thing is, almost two thousand years ago Atticus stole a magical sword from the Celtic pantheon (the Tuatha Dé Danann) and they want it back, particularly Aengus Og, so when he is finally discovered hiding out in Tempe, it is all he can do to remain in control of the situation, let alone stay out of trouble. I liked the story here - it was light hearted, lots of fun, and complete with a few interesting subplots that progress the story and set up a bunch of material for the rest of the series. That said, there were times where Hounded read more like "a day in the life of" where Atticus just about his business day by day waiting for the next bunch of supernatural creatures to attack him. This meant that for the first half of the book, there was nothing really at stake, nothing driving the progression of a plot. While this time is well spent world building, and while all the little sub plots come together at the end, it took a lot of chapters before I became fully immersed in the story Hearne was trying to tell.

Though I found it hard to get into this story, the time spent world building at the start is fantastic and is what pulled me through those early chapters. I love this world that Hearne has crafted, the way that everything supernatural actually exists and that the strength of their manifestation is directly proportional to the faith of mortals. The idea that beings like the Christian god could not take a form in the U.S. because the mortals of the U.S. have so many conflicting ideas about the Christian god struck me as rather clever, and the same could be said about the rest of the world building. My favourite area of Hearne's worldbuilding is his focus on the Fae and Irish mythology - this mythology is fascinating to me with weird and wonderful names and places, gods that personify human emotions, and planes of higher existence. From what little research I have done, it looks as though Hearne has taken only a few liberties with regards to using Irish mythology to build his world, and it comes of as both authentic and wondrous at the same time.

Hearne's characters are well crafted and packed full of personality, helping to make this experience very enjoyable. Atticus is the witty 2000 year old druid who is the object of every females affections, mortal and god alike. You can tell he is a survivor, the way he talk and the way he acts presents an image of someone who knows what to do because he has been doing it for a long time. That he is still able to maintain a healthy dose of optimism with minimal cynicism makes him easy to relate to, but I would have expected Atticus to have more of a "I'm tired and getting to old for this" vibe around him. For a support cast, Oberon comes across perfectly as the dog who can barely keep a single train of though together before being distracted something shiny, the widow  MacDonagh is the nice quiet neighbour with a hidden wicked streak, and the relationship between Atticus and his werewolf / vampires lawyers makes for a lot of fun. The dialogue between the characters is also a big strength, the speech is funny and witty while remaining natural extensions of each character, and it is never used as filler material or for info dumping.

While the dialogue is pretty good, the overall writing is a touch on the sloppy side. Hearne sacrifices a lot of natural structure to increase the pace of this story, making it fast to read but quite stilted. His writing also suffers from being too precise, and Hearne ends up doing a lot of telling rather than showing. This is most evident during the action scenes, scenes that were conceptually well formulated but suffered in their execution. There was no sense of emotion, no building of suspense, just highly accurate descriptions of every single sword swipe and every use of magic. These are not big issues, but they are always present, always lingering at the edge of your mind, and it becomes hard not to notice them.

All in all Hounded is a very competent debut by an author who is rightly making a big splash in the fantasy genre. His issues with plotting and writing are minor issues that can be easily fixed, and are made to look even more minor by the strength of the characterisation and world building. It is easy to recommend this book - it is short, sweet, and you will have a lot of fun reading it.

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Kevin Hearne's The Iron Druid Chronicles series


The Iron Druid Chronicles: Book 1


The Iron Druid Chronicles: Book 7

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