Monday, May 09, 2011

Review: Hounded by Kevin Hearne

Have you ever daydreamed about what it would be like to have cool magical powers and become a hot immortal forever in their 20s? That is exactly what Kevin Hearne does with his debut novel, Hounded, the first in The Iron Druid Chronicles (Book Depository, Powell’s Books, Indiebound). The result is a fun, wild ride as an ancient Druid battles gods, witches, and other supernatural nasties in the deserts of Arizona.

Atticus O’Sullivan is a 2,000-year old druid living a quite life running an occult bookstore/tea shop in Tempe, Arizona. His day-to-day companion is his Irish wolfhound familiar and he occasionally socializes with the Tempe pack of werewolves, a vampire lawyer, ancient Celtic gods, and the local coven of witches. Atticus has been the keeper of an ancient, magic sword for a long time and an angry Celtic god of love wants it very badly – badly enough to finally confront Atticus directly. Given the choice of running (again) or finally confronting his nemesis, Atticus chooses to stand his ground and face the consequences.

As I indicated in my introduction, Hounded is full of some major wish-fulfillment. Atticus is essentially immortal, forever young at 21-years old, has cool magical powers, a witty tongue full of geek-references, can talk to his dog, and has sex with beautiful goddesses. Hearne has essentially admitted as much as he reveals on John Scalzi’s The Big Idea that “Hounded was spawned from an episode of Defiant Drunk Nerd Syndrome”.  However, through that revelation you can sense Hearne’s often self-deprecating humor that keeps Hounded from taking itself too seriously.

Wish fulfillment in books can be flat out awful – especially since it often comes out in some form of sexual fantasy. With Hounded, Hearne actually makes the wish fulfillment fun. Hearne spins a good yarn as he gives himself lots of material to use in his imagined world where the modern world is basically as we know it, only myths and legends tend to be true, with gods and goddesses and all other manner of the supernatural actually existing. Don’t think on it too hard as all the impossibilities and inconsistencies will trip you up – keep it at the surface. And on the surface, Hounded is a very entertaining, fast read – the proverbial page-turner – and full of humor and clever homage.

While for whatever reason it was the series title, The Iron Druid Chronicles, that lead me to read back cover blurb (I suppose I like druids), it was the setting that really made me pick up the book. It’s set in Tempe and the surrounding environs of south-central Arizona. I lived in the Tempe area for 10 years and went to graduate school at Arizona State University, so I was happy to see an urban fantasy set there. I know the area well and have spent many an hour drinking and eating and drinking at Rula Bula, an Irish Pub that makes an appearance a couple of times in the book. Folks who live in the likes of New York or London are probably used to books set in places they visit regularly. I am not, so it was very nice and refreshing to read a book set in ‘my backyard’ that is described well enough for me to fondly reminisce.

Hounded is a quick and entertaining urban fantasy set in Tempe, Arizona. It’s full of Celtic lore, but in a world where all the old pantheons are real and magical beings seem to pop up everywhere. I enjoyed it very much for what it is and I really look forward to reading more from Hearne – and the good news is that I won’t have to wait long with Hexed (Book Depository, Powell’s Books, Indiebound) coming on June 7th and Hammered (Book Depository, Powell’s Books, Indiebound) on July 5th. 7.5/10

3 comments:

Justin said...

God bless the new release strategies for trilogies completed before being sold to a publisher.

Neth said...

It is a very nice strategy - it'll be interesting to see how it works going forward. I know that I get a bit impatient with writers who do it the old fashioned way.

BookGirlR said...

I loved this book. Although it did remind me quite a bit of Butcher's Dresden Files.

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