Friday, June 3, 2011

Thoughts On The Iron Druid Chronicles

Unfortunately, I don’t remember the name of the person who recommended Hounded for our little book club, but I would officially like to say thank you on behalf of Sparky, Tami, Dan and myself.  It was an absolutely awesome read from the very first word, and I cannot say that about a lot of the urban fantasy books that I have read recently.

Hounded, which was released May 3, is the first in the Iron Druid Trilogy by Kevin Hearne.  Hexed, the second book in the series is due out June 7 and Hammered, the third book in the series is due to be released June 28. I am already counting down the days until Hexed is available.

Unlike many books in this genre, not only is the author male, but the protagonist is as well. Atticus O’Sullivan is a 2000+ year old druid, who draws his power directly from the earth, and lives with his Irish wolfhound Oberon.  This is going to sound weird, but Oberon is one of the best characters that I have come across in a very longtime.  He is able to communicate with Atticus through a psychic link and is absolutely hilarious.  He goes from an obsession with Genghis Khan, to wanting to get it on with French poodles.  He is without doubt comic relief and is given some of the best lines in the book.  I found myself wishing that I could talk to my dog the same way.

Hearne has created an incredibly vast world, and as you know, for me, this is always a sign that book is going to be interesting and potentially really great.  In this instance, Hearne delivers and then some.  He starts with the premise that all of the Gods that mankind have created from various cultures are real.  Hearne then expands upon that to imbue these Gods with extremely interesting personalities that are in some cases sociopathic and downright crafty.  When three men decide to sexually harass the Morrigan, a death goddess, she quickly decides that death is the punishment for their disrespect. Atticus later express irritation with the Virgin Mary, who refers to him as a child, though she is younger than him.  Throughout the book we are told that Thor is deemed an asshole and hated by many of the Gods.  If the book were only based upon the different mythologies that would have been enough to draw me in, but Hearne’s world includes, vampires, werewolves, fae, and witches.

The story centers around who will have possession of a magical sword that forces people to tell the truth and is able to cut through any kind of armor.   Atticus  stole the sword and has been running from Aenghus Og since.  Og had originally wanted the sword to unite the Irish kings, but his goal changed over time to gaining control over Tir na nOg.  To accomplish this, Og enters into an alliance with witches, demons, the Christian God of death, and even be-spells members of the human police force.  The final battle comes down to who has access to the most power.  Will a druid aligned with a single witch, a wolf pack, and his dog prevail, over a God who has lived for thousands of years and his co-conspirators? I won’t spoil it for you though.

I have become so accustomed to seeing fail in the genre that I kept thinking Hearne would at sometime join the fail club; however, he managed to do a fairly decent job.  Various races were represented with a witch from India, Coyote, a Native American trickster, and several mentions of Kali a Hindu Goddess.  The characters were decidedly heterosexual, which was a bit puzzling, because they came from a time when the kind of sexual taboos that we have constructed in our modern era did not exist. There were no disabled characters; however, there was no disableist language.  Erasure is in and of itself a form of failure; however, when I put this up against some of the massive failures perpetrated by Charlaine Harris, Stephanie Meyer, or Cassandra Clare, Hearne’s mistakes seem minor indeed.

It is not often that I wholeheartedly recommend a book, but in this case not only should you buy a copy, you should buy one for your friends.  You can thank me later.