Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Iron Druid Chronicles - Hexed by Kevin Hearne

Hexed is the second book in the Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne.  If you are interested, you can check out my thoughts on Hounded, the first book here. Let me start by saying that just like Hounded, you should probably buy two copies of Hexed, one for you and another to give to your friends.  Hearne has proven that he is an excellent storyteller and someone to most definitely keep your eye on. 

As with Hounded, Hexed is extremely heterosexist and able body centric. The erasure is absolutely complete; however, unlike other books in this genre, there is no homophobic or disableist language.  The characters are again largely White, though the Native American trickster Coyote and an Indian witch do make a very interesting appearance. I must admit that I was worried when Coyote made his appearance, because he is known to be a trickster, and few writers have the talent to pull off a decent portrayal, but Hearne hits it out of the ballpark, as well as making great reference to the near genocide of First Nations people, thus making the book political as well. This was not simply inclusion for the sake of cookies, but inclusion meant specifically to challenge racial privilege. As we have discussed many times on the podcast, quite often characters of colour are included in the urban fantasy genre, they are devoid of cultural markers, or are written based in stereotypes, thus making them cardboard cutouts when juxtaposed to either the protagonists, or other characters in the story.

Once again Hearne made great use of my favourite characters in this series - Oberon the Irish wolfhound and the widow. With each page the characters became more and more real.  I loved their absolute irreverence and witty humour.  Oberon steadfastly desired to stick it to the man, but not Morrigan because he was deathly afraid of her, and the widow wanted something to confess at church on Sunday. They had me in complete stitches throughout the entire story. It is a difficult task to make the reader not only love the protagonist, but the side characters as well.  This is what creates true investment in a story.  I often found myself wondering if Hearne laughed while he wrote, because I could simply not stop laughing as I read his book?

For a brief section of the story Hearne placed his characters in WWII setting.  At first I was concerned, because I thought he was going to go down the road of Forest Gump, but he deftly stepped away from that, thus making the historical inclusion realistic and in some places extremely passionate.  I absolutely believed Atticus played a role in the French resistance, and ferreted Jews to safety to avoid the gas chambers.  Not only do Hearne’s characters act, they act with great political autonomy and with a strong sense of moral fiber.

This is a difficult review for me to write, because I do not want to give the story away and yet I cannot stop singing its praises.  Very seldom am I willing to stay up until 3AM to finish a book and that is exactly what I did for Hexed.  It is official, Hearn has turned me into a fan poodle, and even now I find myself in absolute misery waiting to find out what will happen in Hammered, the next book in the series.  Unfortunately, it is not due to be released until July 5th. I will simply say, that if you are looking for a great urban fantasy book, that is witty and brilliantly written, this is the series for you.

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