Atticus O’Sullivan, last of the Druids, lives peacefully in Arizona, running an occult bookshop and shape-shifting in his spare time to hunt with his Irish wolfhound. His neighbors and customers think that this handsome, tattooed Irish dude is about twenty-one years old—when in actuality, he’s twenty-one centuries old. Not to mention: He draws his power from the earth, possesses a sharp wit, and wields an even sharper magical sword known as Fragarach, the Answerer.
Unfortunately, a very angry Celtic god wants that sword, and he’s hounded Atticus for centuries. Now the determined deity has tracked him down, and Atticus will need all his power—plus the help of a seductive goddess of death, his vampire and werewolf team of attorneys, a sexy bartender possessed by a Hindu witch, and some good old-fashioned luck of the Irish—to kick some Celtic arse and deliver himself from evil.
This must be my year for discovering new urban fantasy, though to be honest, I haven’t read that much urban fantasy to begin with, so maybe that should be discovering urban fantasy period. After reading and loving Ben Aaronovitch’s The Folly series, when I heard about The Iron Druid Chronicles, I had to read Hounded. It’s a completely different form of urban fantasy – where The Folly is a magical police procedural, The Iron Druid Chronicles is what seems to be the more classical supernatural kind of urban fantasy – it is just as good.
Hounded is told in a first-person narrative. The success of this sort of story depends on the strength of its narrator and protagonist. Luckily Atticus is a great one; he’s a fun mix of old soul and modern kid by choice, trying hard to blend in by learning the vagaries of modern language and technology. I would have loved to have learned more of his history and what he’s seen in his long life, but that might be the historical fiction fan in me coming to the surface. In Hounded we only get tantalizing glimpses and hints, hopefully they’ll be explored in future books. The same goes for some background history on the werepack and Leif. I thought the idea of Viking werewolves and a Viking vampire is very cool, especially them teaming up to start a law firm. And their payment plan is quite interesting as well!
Women are Atticus’ kryptonite. Let’s say our favourite druid has a very healthy libido, perhaps fitting for his seeming age of twenty-one, and it leads him into all kinds of trouble. On the one hand, I found this amusing, as you’d think that after twenty-one centuries, he’d have learned to deal with this by now. On the other hand, it was rather annoying to have him be distracted by every bit of skirt walking by! However, the irritation was smoothed away as we learn how there are several goddesses who happily exploit this weakness to manipulate him into doing what they want. You can’t help but groan every time Atticus let’s himself be led astray by his baser urges and misses some pertinent facts during these exchanges, not just with the goddesses, but with mortal women as well.
Oberon, Atticus’ hound, was fantastic! A hound who quotes Star Wars, what can be better than that? I like that Oberon’s voice is still quite doggy and not some all-wise familiar’s, where it is even hard to discern you’re still dealing with an animal companion. For example, when he sees Atticus coming home, he goes all mad with happiness as dogs are wont to do. He has some of the funniest lines in the book and his desire to be the canine version of Genghis Khan, including a harem of French poodles, is classic. I adore Oberon and I can’t wait to read more of him.
The plot centring around Atticus’ conflict with Aenghus Óg about the sword Fragarach is quite interesting too. While it could have been rather straightforward, it is anything but, and it’s the intricacies that make it engaging. At the heart of these intricacies are the Tuatha De Danann and their manipulations. I roundly fell for some of their schemes right along with Atticus. Add to this a coven of witches, who Atticus isn’t sure he can trust, a disgruntled across-the-street neighbour, the lovely Mrs. MacDonagh from up the street and a witch-possessed bartender wishing to become his apprentice, and you can see how Atticus might be feeling a little overwhelmed by it all. However, with the help of both Oberon, and his friendly Viking laywers, Atticus manages to keep his head afloat and manages to come through this conflict, if not unscathed, at least alive.
Hounded was so much fun, I raced through it. It’ll be interesting to see where Hearne will take his characters next in Hexed. Once the book-buying ban is lifted I’m definitely getting Hexed and Hammered! Good news for Hearne (and the reader) is that Orbit has snapped up the UK right to the first three books and even better news is that Del Rey has signed Hearne to deliver three more books in the Iron Druid Chronicles. So it looks like there will be plenty more Atticus and Oberon to enjoy in the future. If you’re a fan of urban fantasy, of the different mythologies out there or just looking for a fun read, Hounded is definitely a book to pick and give a try.