Kevin Hearne – Hammered

Thor, the Norse god of Thunder, is worse than a blowhard and a bully—he’s ruined countless lives and killed scores of innocents. After centuries, Viking vampire Leif Helgarson is ready to get his vengeance, and he’s asked his friend Atticus O’Sullivan, the last of the Druids, to help take down this Norse nightmare.
One survival strategy has worked for Atticus for more than two thousand years: stay away from the guy with the lightning bolts. But things are heating up in Atticus’s home base of Tempe, Arizona. There’s a vampire turf war brewing, and Russian demon hunters who call themselves the Hammers of God are running rampant. Despite multiple warnings and portents of dire consequences, Atticus and Leif journey to the Norse plane of Asgard, where they team up with a werewolf, a sorcerer, and an army of frost giants for an epic showdown against vicious Valkyries, angry gods, and the hammerwielding Thunder Thug himself.

So, Thor… other than knowing he’s responsible for Thursday being named Thursday in English and donderdag in Dutch and that there was a film about his comic book character last year, I didn’t know much about him. I certainly didn’t know he was such an unpleasant character, to put it mildly. Needless to say, Hammered relieved me of my ignorance and put me solidly on the ‘Let’s kill Thor’-train that Atticus is on in the book and where he can’t seem to get off, despite looking really hard for the exit.

Hammered is the third book in the Iron Druid Chronicles after Hounded and Hexed. It’s far more directly connected to Hexed, than that was to Hounded and it’s clear that had there not been more books contracted for, this could have been the end of the tale. Luckily, there are and it wasn’t, so we can look forward to Tricked this April. It’s also the first book largely set away from Atticus’ home town of Tempe, Arizona. It was fun to see Atticus exploring the Asgard plane while going in to fulfil his debt to Laksha, which he incurred in Hexed. It was great to explore different planes of existence, not just Asgard, but also the fae world, where Atticus needs to travel to easily transport himself around the world.

As before, we get more and more new pantheons added to the mythology of the book. Not only do we get a deeper look at the Norse pantheon, we also get to meet Väinämöinen, a Finnish god, Zhang Guo Lao, one of China’s Eight Immortals and Perun, the Russian god of Thunder. In addition, after meeting Mary in Hexed, Atticus gets searched out by Jesus in this book. I loved the scenes where Jesus and the Morrigan try to dissuade Atticus from going to Asgard. It showed that sometimes doing what is right – keeping your word of honour to a friend – isn’t the same thing as doing what is wise and that what is right and what is wise will differ from person to person. Also the return of the Hammers of God and Jesus’ summary dismissal of them was brilliant. In just a few scenes Hearne gives a social commentary on the dangers of religious zealotism without straying into moralising or preaching. I really enjoy how Hearne mixes up the different pantheons and mythologies and at the risk of repeating myself; this is what makes this series so special!

In the end, Atticus can’t go back on his given word of honour and he, Leif and four more companions set out for Asgard. On the way there Hearne cleverly gives us the tales of why they want to kill Thor. It’s done in a way reminiscent of the Canterbury Tales, with each character getting a chapter to tell their tale. I definitely got my wished for background history for Leif and as a bonus for Gunnar as well! The dynamic of this group worked really well and I really liked the time we spent with them. The battle in Asgard was awesome, very grim, but at times with some humour infused as well. They don’t all make it out alive, which I found very realistic, but also kind of sad. There is a lot of loss for Atticus in this book, which while painful also stresses Atticus’ humanity and shows that even if he had wanted to he can’t freeze his heart from caring about others.

As with Hounded and Hexed there is a lot of humour in the books and the same sense of fun pervades Hearne’s writing, despite things taking such a grim turn at the end. The one downside for me was the lack of Oberon in this book. Because Atticus is going into battle, he leaves Oberon safely in Tempe and we get far less of Oberon’s funny observations than we did in previous books. I look forward to Tricked to see where Atticus, Oberon and Granuaile end up after leaving Tempe. I’m also curious to see whether Hearne’s fun writing tone will darken to accompany the grim turn events have taken and the myriad of troubles that seem to lie in store for Atticus and company. Hammered is a great continuation of a very good urban fantasy series. The time to get on board with the series is now, before we dive in to the next phase of the story!