The latest installment in Kevin Hearne’s bestselling Iron Druid Chronicles picks up where the fifth book, Trapped, left off: with Atticus, a two thousand-year-old Druid, fleeing for his life across Europe. Having pissed off both the Greek and Roman pantheons and with all of the paths off the material plane closed to them, Atticus, his trusty wolfhound, Oberon, and his newly-minted Druid companion, Granuaile, must hoof it across the continent and make their way to England if they wish to be safe. Easier said than done, however, when Artemis and Diana are on the hunt.
To complicate matters further, the crazed trickster god Loki is also hot on Atticus’ trail. And Ragnarok’s not far behind.
So, y’know, no pressure or anything.
A solid continuation
Hunted does a lot of things right, following in the steps of its predecessors in many regards. Hearne’s use of the various mythological pantheons remains engaging and fascinating—and continues to cast a number of figures with an exceptionally individual and believable mold. The rest of his worldbuilding isn’t too shoddy, either, with bits of the world we hadn’t yet seen revealing themselves organically as the story makes its way through new locales. The dialogue continues to be sharp and witty, with Oberon taking the medal for pure comedy gold yet again. The cliffhangers remain rough on the fingers and frustrating. Essentially, almost everything done well in every other book in the Iron Druid Chronicles is done well in Hunted.
A couple of things
While Hunted is obviously well-crafted, there are some things that just don’t sit right with me. The first and foremost of these lies in the juxtaposition of the book’s general atmosphere with the overall plot given at this point. Hearne has become known for his lighthearted, slightly wacky atmosphere, and he does it extremely well. The current situation is a deadly serious one, what with Ragnarok barreling down the pipe and the end of the world being at hand. Again, Hearne shows his skill in crafting the setup for Ragnarok, both by setting it up three books prior and by throwing out the rules set down by the traditional myth regarding the Norse end of the world. These two aspects of the novel are fantastic on their own, but they start canceling each other out when taken together—and in a one-sided fashion, as the lighthearted-ness of the atmosphere does more to cripple the tension and seriousness of the plotline than the other way around.
The atmosphere also contributes to a couple of other moments of which I wasn’t the biggest fan. For not only does it detract from the gravity of the overall plotline, but it also undercuts more immediate tensions. I had no fear for any of the protagonist characters in Hunted, even when they were faced with seriously life-threatening situations. Because of the atmosphere, I felt that I knew that things would work out fine (and they did), and it severely crippled any sort of emotional tension and attachment I had to the characters and situations in this novel.
On yet another related note, the solutions to most of the problems that accost Atticus, Granuaile, and Oberon in Hunted? Almost /too/ easy. Yes, some of the solutions show Attiucs’ sheer ability for planning ahead and knowing his stuff (you don’t get to be a 2,000-year-old Druid by collecting bottle caps), but the thing I took away most from those situations wasn’t, “Okay, that was nifty.” It was, “Of course they did. Le sigh.”
Hunted also featured a POV switch, something not seen in the novels thus far in the Iron Druid Chronicles. When the first instance occurred in the novel, I was skeptical, to say the least. It seemed almost a gimmick, and a poorly-chosen one at that. As the story progressed, it became obvious why Hearne chose to throw in a new POV, so I cut it a little bit of slack. However, in every new-POV chapter, there were tense issues. They would all start in a present tense, which in and of itself was enough to throw me completely out of the narrative, as the series has been in first-person past the entire time. If the entire POV chapters had been in a consistent present tense, this wouldn’t have bothered me as much—but the present tense would only hold for the first couple of paragraphs before reverting back to first-person past. I’m sure Hearne has a reason for crafting it that way, but I haven’t been able to discern it if there is.
Despite my misgivings listed above, I thoroughly enjoyed Hunted. The aspects I took issue with are only a small percentage of the overall story Hearne told in the novel, so I’ve had a difficult time weighing the novel in my mind. It is distinctly well-crafted novel for the most part, and a continuation of a series I have come to love and adore. But I also don’t want to say anything here that detracts from the perception of how much those moments above affected me and my reading, because they do weigh heavily in my opinion of the book. So I suppose I can leave you with this: I will continue to support and buy all the things Kevin Hearne will write, ever.
Why should you read this book?
If you’re new to the series, however, do not start here. The book builds immediately out of the closing events of the previous novel and the story lines, not to mention so much of the setup for the plotline happens in earlier books. If you’ve been with the series since the beginning, though, read this book. Despite a small amount of story flaws, Hearne has crafted an exceptional and engaging contemporary fantasy in Hunted. With an abundance of sharp wit and quick action, realistic characters, and stellar worldbuilding, you’re in for a treat.