Anna (_ocelott_) wrote in genrereviews,

Hounded by Kevin Hearne

Series: Iron Druid Chronicles
Publisher: Del Rey, 2011
Genre: Fantasy
Sub-genre: Urban fantasy
Rating: 4 pints of blood

I quite like the cover art here. The cover model suits the character described in the book, the sword is significant, and I really love the warm colouring and the lightplay going on. In fact, I stole borrowed this cover to use in my comparisons between the treatment of men and women on book covers.

The book was on my radar before that photoshoot, but all the comparisons to Jim Butcher's Dresden Files put me off. I do like books that play around with mythology, though, and celtic mythology is not one we see too frequently, so in the end, I decided to give the Iron Druid Chronicles a go.

When Atticus O'Sullivan tells people he's 21, they assume he means 21 years, not 21 centuries. But that's hardly his fault. After all, can he be blamed for them not believing in druids, let alone expecting to meet the last one? For several years now, he's lived among the mortals, a quiet life that suits him, which means he's not pleased when the Morrigan shows up on his doorstep with a grim warning.

Aengus Og, the ancient Celtic god of love, has been after Atticus for ages and has discovered his hiding place. But there's more at stake than just an old grudge, and soon Atticus finds himself in the middle of a battle involving gods, witches, werewolves, vampires, and a host of other creatures, most of whom are interested in using him as their pawn. Atticus isn't keen on becoming the battleground, especially since most deities aren't too careful about the places their attacks hit, and if he wants to get out of this alive, he just might have to pick a side and fight.

First? This book was hilarious. I listened to it as an audiobook, and I'm sure there were several people passing by me on the street who eyed me warily, wondering why that crazy lady was snickering to herself. It's never farcical or sitcom-ish; the humour is in the voice and the characters. Atticus O'Sullivan has a wry sense of humour, and I fell in love with his dog Oberon, despite not being a dog person.

Humour aside, Atticus's voice is strong and engaging, enough to carry a reader through some fairly lengthy blocks of exposition. The first book of a new series always has some work to do to lay out the groundwork for the worldbuilding, establish the rules and the critters who live there, and while the explanations were forthcoming enough I never felt lost or overwhelmed, it has the potential to drag a bit for readers who aren't as taken by voice (or as enchanted by the dog) as I am.

The voice itself could go either way for readers, too. While Atticus's observations are given in a fun, relatable way, he never comes close to sounding like the 2100-year-old man he's supposed to be. He makes passing references to historical figures or events he's witnessed, and does have a couple of poignant memories about having lost people over and over again over the years. For the most part, though, he sounds much closer to the 21-year-old he pretends to be, and in his interactions this makes sense, but when the reader is inside his head, it might throw you out of the story when he starts throwing around modern slang or using reasoning that doesn't exactly smack of a much older character.

Clearly a lot of care went into the mythology used in Hounded. The figures who showed up were recognizable as the deities they were meant to be, rather than just random characters with familiar names. There was a nice balance hit for them being both a character we mortals could understand and someone distant and alien. Their priorities were not those of the mortals, but they did have motivations to driven them, even if those motivations weren't immediately recognizable. There's some beautiful twisting and turning as various mythological figures come in to toy with or try to manipulate Atticus to their own ends, and while the plot makes sense as you go along, a lot of what's going on beneath the surface doesn't become clear until the end of the book. Which is sort of a double-bladed compliment, really, because it's as much of a problem as it is a perk. The plot is wonderfully intricate, driven by the secondary characters attempting to push and prod the protagonist into the place they'd like him to be, which means Atticus doesn't have much time to actually be proactive. He spends most of the book reacting to things rather than driving the action himself, trying to mitigate damage instead of making deliberate decisions.

This is one of those books where mileage is going to vary a lot for readers, depending on what your reading sensibilities are. For me? I tend to listen to audiobooks when I'm out walking, and it's very rare for me to have any desire to listen to a book when I'm at home. Too many distractions, too many kids, too much noise. Easier to pull out an e-book or a paperback when I get a quiet moment than to pop in the earphones. With this one, though, I was delighted enough I couldn't leave it alone, and more than once pulled out my ipod so I could get another chunk of listening in.

Hounded is available in mass market paperback or as an e-book.
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Tags: 4 pints of blood, genre: fantasy, mythology, urban fantasy

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