Book Review: Hounded
Del Rey 2011
Kevin Hearne’s immensely winning new fantasy series, “The Iron Druid Chronicles,” jumps right into the middle of things in its first volume Hounded, in which we meet Atticus O’Sullivan, the proprietor of an occult bookshop in Arizona. On the surface, Atticus appears to be a scruffy, tattooed hipster of the type one often finds in catch-all deathtraps like Arizona – but his surfaces are deceiving: he’s actually 2,100 years old, the last living Druid and a stalwart, if laid-back, defender of mankind against the predation of Fae (“each of them as likely to gut you as hug you”), the faerie-folk who live outside the borders of steadied modern reality.
Atticus is attacked by a group of such Fae on the open street in broad daylight (Hounded‘s various supernatural creatures employ ‘glamours’ to hide their true actions from the sight of the non-supernatural schleps all around them) not two pages into this book, and after a couple of quite well-done and fast-paced pages of action, our hero emerges victorious and a crackling sharp series has taken off. Atticus, it turns out, has sequestered himself in Arizona to duck out of his centuries-long battle with the dark god Aenghus Og, who covets Atticus’ magic sword Fragarach, and although that combat is carried over straight from ancient times, Atticus himself is a fun mixture of age and youth. When he defeats an adversary at one point, for instance, he thinks:
I could have left it there. He was disarmed and no danger to me now, and if any of the Fae had been around to see him fall flat on his ass, he would be shamed in a legendary fashion. Except that he had tried to kill me with a glamour. He would never fight me fairly, because he could not win that way – he’d never been much of a terror on the battlefield. If I let him live, then he would send a series of assassins my way…
Plus, in the parlance of our times, he was a douche bag.
Half the fun of this book (the cover of which, for reasons surpassing poor mortal understanding, features a picture of somebody who looks a lot like the highly talented country music singer Dierks Bentley – only grasping an enormous sword, something no sane person would ever let the real-life Bentley do) comes from just that juxtaposing of the everyday real world with the far more ancient realities Atticus knows so well. At one point he himself tries to explain this to a feisty Irishwoman who’s just had a nasty encounter with some werewolves:
“The point is, Mrs. MacDonagh, that 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 possibilities. You have just received some sensory input that suggests it’s bigger than you previously thought. What are you going to do with that information? Will you deny it or embrace it?”
Readers are encouraged to embrace this particular new world. More volumes cannot come quickly enough.