Author: Kevin Hearne
Publisher: Del Rey on April 19, 2011
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.
While some things about Kevin Hearne’s debut novel irked me, it also pulled me out of a brutal reading slump. Is Hounded a perfect book? No. But it’s fairly original, clever, and witty enough to make me commit to a series that already has six books out. I think that’s saying something.
The primary magic system in this Urban Fantasy (UF) is not the usual fare: protagonist Atticus O’Sullivan is an iron druid, drawing power from both the earth and pieces of iron. His foremost adversary is the Celtic god of love, who’s kind of an asshole. Depending on your perspective, this is either ironic or very fitting. I’m guessing Hearne was aiming for ironic.
In fact, every god from every pantheon is a real deity in Hounded, and they wreak just as much havoc in its universe as they do in classic mythology. Atticus mostly interacts with Celtic gods and goddesses, many of whom hold a serious grudge against our wily druid. I thought it was very realistic that these figures were so duplicitous, and I especially liked that despite their godly status, they were not infallible. That said, Atticus defeats a certain god with a little too much ease, if you ask me. It’s not exactly a fair fight when you’re wielding an unbeatable magic sword.
Atticus was so clever and he won so often that he occasionally came off as a bit of a Gary Sue (see what I did there?). And what was with all the women in this book trying to sleep with him? These women are powerful witches and goddesses, for crying out loud! They were well-matched with Atticus, I suppose. That guy sure has a healthy sexual appetite. This lady could make my head explode with magic? Damn, she’s sexy! This woman’s a death goddess? Oh goody, she’s humping my leg!
The female characters in Hounded weren’t the only ones doing a little bit of leg humping: Atticus’ Irish wolf hound Oberon provides hilarious commentary and comedic relief throughout the novel, particularly his infatuation with French poodles. Oberon and Atticus have a psychic connection that allows them to communicate. They strategize, banter, and discuss the historical figures that Atticus has encountered in his 2,100 years of living. The cheer and good humour that Oberon brings to this debut are best illustrated by his tendency to imitate these historical figures, especially Ghengis Khan. There were a few moments when I literally laughed out loud at something Oberon said or did; I thought he stole the show. I’m a sucker for strong relationships between human and animal characters, and the friendship between Atticus and Oberon was beautiful.
This is a surprisingly well-researched book, with a wealth of Irish lore influencing Hearne’s descriptions of both deities and ancient battles. I personally really appreciated the pronunciation guide that he included – despite that one Irish history class I took a few years ago, I definitely wouldn’t have known that “Granuaile” is pronounced GRAWN ya WALE.
Despite the few reservations I had about Atticus’ being too slick and female characters being too sexualized, I still found myself really enjoying it. With Granuaile Hearne is clearly working to establish a strong, smart, independent (and of course, hot) female character, so I have hope for future installments. I’ll definitely be giving the sequel, Hexed, a read.