Hounded (Iron Druid #1)

End Date:  May 27th

Author:  Kevin Hearne

Published:  2011

Genre:  Urban Fantasy

Pages:  320 (paperback)

Selected By:  BillMo

Average Review:  Scoring Liked Book

“Atticus O’Sullivan, last of the Druids, lives peacefully in Arizona, running an occult bookshop and shape-shifting in his spare time to hunt with his Irish wolfhound.  His neighbors and customers think that this handsome, tattooed Irish dude is about twenty-one years old – when in actuality he’s twenty-one centuries old.  Not to mention that he draws his power from the earth, possesses a sharp wit, and wields an even sharper magical sword known as Fragarach, the Answerer.

“Unfortunately, a very angry Celtic god wants that sword, and he’s hounded Atticus for centuries.  Now the determined deity has tracked him down, and Atticus will need all his power – plus the help of a seductive goddess of death, his vampire and werewolf team of attorneys, a bartender possessed by a Hindu witch, and some good old-fashioned luck of the Irish – to kick some Celtic arse and deliver himself from evil.”

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Gigglemug Reviews

BillMo:  Scoring Liked Book

This book really wasn’t bad.  I enjoyed the story even though the writing was not as fluid as some of the other books we’ve read.  The main character, Atticus, was fun, and I did like him… but he was awfully lucky.  There were times that he would get into a situation that would seem impossible to escape from – and of course that’s not possible, since there are more books in this series – but all of a sudden some random magical act would happen or someone would just show up on the scene, and… there ya go, he’s perfectly fine.

Underneath their human guises, they looked like the typical faery – that is, no wings, scantily clad, and kind of man-pretty like Orlando Bloom’s Legolas, the sort of people you see in salon product advertisements.

I didn’t really like the author’s depiction of werewolves and prefer those written by other urban fantasy authors.  To me, Hearne’s pack seemed like overly-sensitive mancubs with giant egos.  Give me quick-tempered werewolves with dominance issues any day.

The saying in my time was, “Storm clouds are thrice cursed,” but I can’t talk like that and expect people to believe I’m a twenty-one-year-old American.  I have to say things like, “Shit happens, man.”

The author mentioned Coyote, which got me really excited early in the story for his appearance.  I love the Mercy Thompson series and was really hoping to get a glimpse of another author’s take on that mythology… but no.  I was denied and, therefore, disappointed in that regard.

If it pleases me, then it is good and I want more; if it displeases me, then it must be destroyed as soon as possible, but preferably in a way that enhances my reputation so that I can achieve immortality in the songs of bards.

I did think it was pretty great that the Tuatha de Danann took pleasure in the little things, because they’ve lived so long that nothing was all that surprising to them anymore.  For example… smoothies.  🙂  I also liked how the author depicted an iron elemental, especially their speech pattern:  “// Druid calls / Faeries await / Delicious / Gratitude. //”  I thought that was very original, and it gave me a real giggle or two.

It was an amusing habit of his: Oberon had, in the past, wanted to be Vlad the Impaler, Joan of Arc, Bertrand Russell, and any other historical figure I had recently told him about while he was getting a thorough cleansing.

The Morrigan was pretty bad ass and made me wish I could fly around in the form of an all-powerful raven who happens to collect the dead.  That’d come in pretty handy in the event someone, oh, let’s say someone insults me, and then – BAM, I’m a raven, and BAM, you’re dead, and I’m carting your sorry butt off to… wherever it is dead Celtic people went.  BAM BAM BAM!  Mwahahaha!

Those used to be almost impossible for me to summon, I admit, until I watched Field of Dreams.  When Kevin Costner asks his dad at the end if he’d like to have a catch, I just completely lose my shit.

I’m pretty interested to find out what develops with Laksha / Granuaile, and I hope that is covered in the next book.

It is fine to be sporting when we hunt.  It is ridiculous to be sporting in war, and often fatal.

In the end, I do have to give the author credit for being very creative and that, despite any issues I had with his style, he did continuously introduce interesting characters.  I would recommend this book to those interested in urban fantasy and Celtic myths, and I may read the next one in the series in the future.

A few additional quotes I liked a lot:

You just try to kill the other guy before he kills you, and “winning ugly” is still winning.

She must use that Oil of Olay stuff.  I wonder if it would get rid of the wrinkles on a shar-pei?

The things that werewolves attack are usually the ones whimpering in dismay – shortly before they expire from an acute case of missing jugular.

Druid’s Log, October 11: “Never make Laksha mad.”

“Yeah, but jeez, they have such fragile egos.  You wouldn’t think they’d be so sensitive.”

… o’ersized with coagulate gore.

And my personal favorite that I plan to use on a daily basis so I never forget it (and which is the equivalent of saying someone had a cow):

“…nearly shat kine.” 

BillMo’s Favorite Character(s):  Oberon.  The author did a great job of getting into a dog’s head and interpreting how that dog would translate casual human conversation.  He was a lot of fun, and I wish more of the characters could have been as believable and enjoyable as he was.  I really liked that he wanted to become people he read about and wanted to completely immerse himself in everything that had to do with them and their time period and culture.

BillMo read the Amazon Kindle version of this selection.

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Lady Esbe:  Scoring Liked Book

When Elle Tea gave me the plot of this month’s selection ahead of time, I was game.  However, as I started reading, I was slightly intrigued but more baffled as I read (I’ll explain later).  In general, I can say, I enjoyed the plot, but the delivery was a bit too forced for me.

We all know I prefer to focus on characters, their development and motivations throughout a novel.  I can say that the writing style distracted me from that this time around.  What I mean by this is that the story pushed me along, it is a quick read, once you get past the awkwardness of the style.  I get that the author is trying to make a twenty one-hundred-year-old character believable.  Of course, it is the young person with the old soul adage.  However, the author tries very hard to make us think of Atticus as old in age from speech, to his knowledge and behavior in general.  That didn’t bother me.  What bothered me was the extremely weird paragraphs that had no speech in them but had to be read two or three times to become somewhat clearer.  I admit, I read tired at times but even on a good day (at the beginning of the book), I found myself stuck on a page for far longer than needed.  Another issue I had with the writing was that the forced attempts at humor were clumsy and exactly as I said, forced.  This was particular to the main character and some of his “human” consorts.  However, the only character’s who humor wasn’t so forced was that of the wolfhound, Oberon.  The simplistic and straightforward comments were logical, yet funny at the same time.

The repetitive nature of some of his comments drove me nuts as well.  I mean, I got it the first three times you indicate that Thor is a dick or that Atticus doesn’t trust witches.  I wanted to bang my head against the wall at each instance where we had the same thought repeated to us again and again.  It would be one thing to state it and again, I wondered if it was an attempt to reemphasize Atticus’s age by saying “old people repeat themselves over and over”.

My final pet peeve with the writing is the mechanical feel of some of the action.  It felt like a second grader making their first attempt at writing an action piece.  “I put my hand up, he slapped my hand with his hand, my hand flung down and it hurt.”  Seriously?  Come on dude.  He did such a beautiful job in explaining the methodology of the magic and lore to come up short with an automaton explanation of a fight/action sequence. Maybe he spent so much time getting the lore right, that he was just brain dead when it came to the actual action sequences correct.

As for the characters, Atticus is likeable enough.  He is definitely wise and tries to plot his next moves as clearly and methodically as possible.  I appreciate that the author took the time to explain some of the Irish lore.  I also like that he explains the basis of the magic, why it is clean or why it could be harmful through the eyes of Atticus.  As the last Druid walking the face of the earth, Atticus has seen quite a lot and has been exposed to so many varieties of magic and supernatural beings, that he is able to take that knowledge and do as he needs with it going forward.  He has a strong moral compass, especially when it comes to the earth/nature since that is where he draws his power.

I did enjoy his relationship with his attorneys who are all Viking superaturals, be it vampire or werewolf.  I especially enjoyed the pack’s action leading into the final battle.  The focus of the pack bonds was nice and reminiscent of Patricia Brigg’s pack relationships in the Mercy Thompson series. I wouldn’t mind finding out more about this part of Atticus’s life.

The relationship with the Widow MacDonough was sweet, yet fell in the lines off the forced portion of the novel.  I’m sure she was meant to be comic relief, but I found the interactions to be a bit tedious and at times amusing.  I especially liked the werewolf pack interaction.  Whether in her drunkenness she knows no fear or the fact that she’s staring at the “hot bodies” that suddenly begin to change into werewolf form that takes her off guard but puts her on the offensive was amusing.

The list of villains and enemies are extensive.  However, no one person has a true motivation, other than Aenghus Og.  He wants the sword Fragarach. However, the devices to achieve his goal is the same as any pantheon that doesn’t mind using mortals in their sport. The murkier of the villain/compatriots of Brighid, Morrigan, Flidais and Lashka is just that, unclear and I guess a issue for another day.  I also get that because the focus is supposed to be Irish. . . every female character but the Morrigan was a ginger?  Come on dude, pick another color.  It was clear the witches are a perceived enemy from the source of their magic to their general use of treachery.  Oh wait, that is all female characters in this book but the Widow MacDonough.  While we are dealing with the supernatural, are you telling me everyone woman wants to fall into bed with this guy and slit his throat?  It was a bit much.

All in all, it was a fast flowing story when you could get past those awkward parts.  I genuinely enjoyed the lore and the plot.  However, I cannot say that I’m on the train to read the next installment.  It was entertaining enough to warrant a three, but the execution at times made me want to drop it to a one or two.  Enjoyable despite the issues.

Esbe’s Favorite Character(s):  Oberon.

Lady Esbe read a hardcover version of this selection.

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Elle Tea:  Scoring Liked Book

I was both impressed and disappointed by this selection.  Not a heartbroken-teenager sort of disappointment, but a milder sort of “Meh” feeling when I compare it to other urban fantasy novels I’ve read.

“Quite right.  So after I killed him and stowed his body next to the doe, I sampled his smoothie concoction in the parking lot and found it to be quite delicious.”

Let’s start with the good: Hearne has done his homework, and I’ll give any author props for that.  He’s pulled the heaviest hitters of the Celtic pantheon out of their bogs and marshes over the pond, plopped them in modern America, and allowed them to retain their rather human natures, which is something that is lost in a lot of modern depictions of them; much like the gods and goddesses of the Romans, Egyptians, Greeks, and Vikings, those of the Celts were great and powerful, with inhuman skills in magic, warfare, healing and enchantment… but they could be serious assholes when they wanted to be, not to mention jealous, scheming, manipulative, seductive, and sometimes downright cruel.  I’m a fan of history, including ancient religions and folklore, and getting this small glimpse of how Hearne might handle the Celtic deities going forward leaves me with a lot of hope for an under-represented ancient pantheon (the series has been going strong for six years now, so I’ve no idea if he maintains this or not… but this first book made it seem this way).

< You’ve been kissed by three goddesses in as many days, > Oberon said once Brighid had left, < so I think you owe me three hundred French poodles.  That should make us about even. >

The author did a good job of surrounding the protagonist, Atticus, with a strong cast of supporting characters, so much so that I would almost say Atticus is propped up by these more believable, more vibrant characters (more on this in a moment).  Atticus has two attorneys, one who works during the night (Leif Helgarson, a vampire) and one who works during the day (Hallbjörn “Hal” Hauk, a werewolf), and as interesting as that seems, it was truly the appearance of Hal’s Alpha, Gunner Magnusson, that rekindled my dwindling interest a little around the halfway mark of the story and gave me a few of the much-needed chuckles Hearne had tried so hard to grab early in.  Flidais’s stoic, stuffy approach to modern conveniences gave me a laugh, the Morrigan’s wily neutrality and sly demeanor was a perfect interpretation of her, and Brighid’s confidence and leadership brought a sense of calm and direction at just the right moment in the tale.

As a male citizen of America, I’m entitled on Sundays to watch athletic men in tight uniforms ritualistically invade one another’s territory, and while they’re resting I get to be bombarded with commercials about trucks, pizza, beer, and financial services.  That’s how it’s supposed to be; that’s the American dream.

Which brings me now to Atticus himself, and here’s where things get a little ugly.  I wanted to like Atticus – hell, I was quite prepared to crush just as hard on him as I do Harry Dresden, because, hey, hot old-young tree-hugging Druid with a sword who loves the earth and talks to his dog… what’s not to like????  But I just didn’t believe in him.  Oh, sure, I believe he’s living in a house across from some crazy Lebanese guy who’d like to see him deported, and I believe he’s in his twenties and running an esoteric sort of occult shop.  But I don’t buy that he’s over two-thousand-years old.  I just don’t.  We spend the entire story in Atticus’s head, and while he reminds us repeatedly that he is over two-thousand-years old, he seems more like the twenty-one-year old he pretends to be.  I get that he has to speak in a certain way in order for people around him to believe he is what he appears to be… but he wouldn’t be that way in his own head, would he?  He’d be older, wiser, more mature.  I would hope after that much time dealing with gods and goddesses and humans and all of the supernatural denizens of the world that he’d be better prepared, more in tune with how others think, what they expect, how they work.  I would have liked to have seen two versions of our hero: the one who speaks to his modern associates with one voice – that of the twenty-one-year old – and the other the internal voice that shows us that Atticus thinks like the ancient and worldly relic of a bygone age that he’s supposed to be.

… the universe is exactly the size your soul can encompass.  Some people live in extremely small worlds, and some live in a world of infinite possibility.

I think, honestly, that the biggest issue I had with this novel was the way in which it was written.  Besides the lack of development with Atticus, the choppy explanations of the minutiae of every area and each fight scene drove me absolutely barmy.  Instead of showing us Atticus’s house and shop, instead of allowing us to stand there with him and view it on our own, we are carefully, methodically fed every single morsel.  If I were to translate a fight I had with my brother when we were children in the same style as the fight scenes in Hounded, it would go something like this:  “He hit her with his hand, in the back of the head.  She turned.  She grabbed his hand and slapped it with her own.  Then her other hand came up and slapped him in the forehead.  He screamed and kicked her.  She screamed and jumped on him.  He fell to the floor, taking her with him.  They rolled about, pulling hair, slapping, and biting.  That’s when the phone rang.”

If I were to die tonight, then it would be a death any Druid would be proud of – not fighting on behalf of some petty Irish king’s wounded pride or his yearning for power over a small island in the great wide world, but fighting on behalf of the earth, from which all our power derives and from which all our blessings spring.

That being said, I will also add that I actually gave this book a pass on finesse since this was Hearne’s first published novel.  But I couldn’t give it a pass for the jokes scattered throughout its pages, which were dated and unnecessary.  They were quips, one-liners that I heard in high school, and I actually caught myself sighing audibly and rolling my eyes when I came across one; they pulled me away from the story and made me notice them instead, which is the mental equivalent of Hearne sticking out his foot and tripping me right when I really get up some momentum.  I do plan to read the second installment, Hexed, since this first book did have promise, but if the writing doesn’t improve, then I’ll know that the issues I had with Hounded were not due to a lack of experience and polish and are instead Hearne’s style, and I’m just not into it – clearly his style works for a lot of people, since this seems to be a pretty popular urban fantasy series, but it’s not my cup o’ tea.

< She called me impressive, which showed great judgement, and she also gave me a belly rub.  If you see her again, remember she likes milk and honey in her tea. >

So, to sum it all up, I’d recommend this novel to fans of urban fantasy, especially those with an interest in Celtic mythology and folklore.  Just leave any expectations from Harry Dresden and Mercy Thompson in Chicago and the Washington Tri-Cities where they belong, and let Atticus have Tempe to himself.

Elle’s Favorite Character(s):  Oberon, hands down; while Hearne failed in making me believe that Atticus is an ancient Druid, he excelled in making me believe in that glorious, ridiculous giant dog.  I have to give Laksha an honorable mention, as well, for having had the most efficient and overall bad ass killing method in the book.  🙂

Elle Tea read the Amazon Kindle version of this selection.

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