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

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Rating: 7/10

Synopsis

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: 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.

Review

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

I’ll admit that urban fantasy is one of the genres of speculative fiction that I am the least familiar with. For the longest time, I would see the covers in bookstores and just assume that they were like the fantasy romance novels that I grew up watching my grandmother tear through, one after another. I have since learned that this is not (always) the case. While undoubtedly Hearne’s most popular series, I initially found him through The Tales of Pell, a trilogy that he co-authored with Delilah Dawson, and then his epic fantasy series The Seven Kennings (both of which I actually liked more than Hounded).

Being an urban fantasy starring a millennia old magic user, you’re going to see a lot of comparisons made between Hounded and the immensely popular Dresden Files by Jim Butcher. Luckily for you, I won’t be making those comparisons myself because I haven’t read Dresden. Atticus O’Sullivan is the last of his kind, a 2100 year old Druid who is trying to live a quiet life in Arizona away from the meddling of the gods. Despite his advanced age and knowledge, Atticus manages to fit into modern America by taking on the looks and persona of the 21 year old owner of Third Eye Books and Herbs near the campus of Arizona State University. Hearne does a good job displaying the double life that the MC has to lead, with his internal dialogue being more closely akin to what you would expect of a someone who has lived since the Iron Age. Joining him in his (mis)adventures are Oberon (Atticus’ Irish wolfhound), his two Viking attorneys (one of which is a vampire and the other a werewolf), and a bevy of gods from the Celtic pantheon.

“Wow you need to get some sun.”
“Shut up. I’m Irish.”

The world that Hearne has setup is very interesting, in that seemingly every mythology and religion is true. There are vampires and werewolves, faeries, the Celtic pantheon plays an active role in the plot, and mention is made of other pantheons of gods, the Norse being the most prominently mentioned (Atticus’ attorneys are both mentioned to be hiding out from Thor). Hounded is very dialed back as far as the wealth of mythologies that are actually active in the story though, with most of the worldbuilding coming from the off hand mentions of other gods or mythological creatures. Predictably, Thor is widely known as a huge a**hole.

I found the magic system to be very interesting. I don’t know much about the Druids except that maybe they were old guys in white robes and maybe something about building a henge out of stone (what even is a henge?) and I know even less about the Celtic pantheon and mythologies. As part of his Druidic training, Atticus is able to collect and use energy from the Earth itself although this is limited based on the fact that he has to have direct contact with the Earth itself and that he cannot naturally store any energy to be used at a later time. I thought this was an interesting handicap to bring to what otherwise would have felt like an immediately overpowered MC. This energy in turn allows him to perform a wide varieties of magic, such as shapeshifting, control over organic material, and the ability to communicate telepathically with his dog, Oberon. There’s also the magic sword to consider.

“When you’re in the middle of a killing field and the f*cking Chooser of the Slain tells you to do something, you do it.”

Which brings me to my one major complaint with the book: Atticus is a total horndog most of the time. So much so that it felt like every time a female character entered a scene, Atticus had to think about how attractive she was and how much he wanted to screw her. Even characters who could almost be considered antagonists are not off the table. I don’t think there is anything wrong with having a healthy sex life, but seeing it come up so much in a 300 page novel that isn’t about sex just pulled me right out of the story. Even the dog is constantly thinking about boning!

Being able to pull from myths from all around the world opens up a lot of potential for future stories set in this world and I am very curious to see where Hearne takes us in the next book in the series. Hounded turned out to be a very fast read and was perfect for me to read in between some of the more complex and dense epic fantasies I have been reading. Even though this isn’t my favorite book of Hearne’s, I still thoroughly enjoyed my time with Hounded and I look forward to moving on to the rest of the series.

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