Hounded is the spectacular first novel in The Iron Druid Chronicles by debut author Kevin Hearne. A unique urban fantasy with a Celtic bent, the Chronicles follow Atticus, the planet’s last and certainly most charming Druid. This young Irish lad – well, he looks twenty-one, but he’s actually a couple of millennia old – has plenty of enemies scattered around the globe, but he just wants to spend his days working at an occult bookshop in Arizona with his talking Irish wolfhound. Unfortunately the badass Celtic god of love is in serious need of his old magic sword, and Atticus really doesn’t want to return it…
Breezy, hilarious and totally addictive
Told in first person by Atticus himself, Hounded can’t be put down. I read it in less than a day. Atticus is sassy, no-nonsense, and unremorseful in going off on his own personal rants in the middle of a conversation (the difficulty in finding a perfect fish’n’chips, anyone?). The combination of a modern world with old school Celtic mythology (and a few other pantheons, too) is brilliant, and Atticus’s voice, though definitely Irish, doesn’t veer into an unintelligible dialect. The novel’s concept is similar to Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, but it’s made original by Atticus’s light-hearted storytelling and his outsider status from every social circle (mortal, godly, witching, lupine …) he encounters. Hounded is the kind of book that you put down, wrinkle your nose and say “Gee! Why didn’t I think of that?”
If you think Atticus is great, wait ‘til you meet Oberon.
The beauty of Hounded isn’t in Atticus’s narration, though. Not at all. Hounded’s charm lies entirely in the secondary characters: Oberon, the lovable Irish wolfhound; Leif, an Icelandic vampire-attorney, and his many werewolf co-workers; a hot Irish bartender possessed by a Hindu witch; Mrs. MacDonagh, a neighborly Irish widow who’s fine to let you bury a corpse in her yard, so long as the dead arse is British; and the list goes on. Hearne treads a perfect line between hilarious quirks and real depth, and even the goofiest sideshow character is easy to care for after you get to know her a little.
The plot itself: predictable, but still fun
There aren’t too many surprises in Hounded. In fact, the one time I thought I’d pegged a good surprise coming up, it turned out that Hearne didn’t even take advantage of the opportunity. Instead Hounded employs your typical action-adventure formula: suspense, killing, mystery, revelation, suspense, killing … You get the idea. Some later plot elements came out of left-field – demons, for one thing (don’t worry, that’s not a spoiler) – but they weren’t the real mind-blowing surprise you’ll find in some thrillers.
That’s all right, though. Events move so quickly – and the writing, sex, and violence are all so dazzling – that you’ll hardly have the time to notice. Besides, the characters and the witty narrative are why you’ll pick up and read this book anyway.
Why should you read this book?
You might not be able to tell, but I’m actually restraining myself in this review. This book is wonderful! It’s got oodles of personality, lots of action, and a hunky Irishman on the cover. What more could you want? Hearne does a surprisingly believable job of mishmashing world cultures and mythologies into one madcap, witty, intelligent adventure with a cast you’ll fall in love with. Hounded doesn’t have the meaty substance of high literature, but it’s certainly worthier fare than most of what you’ll find in the urban fantasy section of your bookstore these days.