Kevin Hearne – Hexed

Atticus O’Sullivan, last of the druids, doesn’t care much for witches. Still, he’s about to make nice with the local coven by signing a mutually beneficial nonaggression treaty when suddenly the witch population in modern-day Tempe, Arizona, quadruples overnight. And the new girls are not just bad, they’re badasses with a dark history on the German side of World War II.
     With a fallen angel feasting on local high school students, a horde of Bacchants blowing in from Vegas with their special brand of deadly decadence, and a dangerously sexy Celtic goddess of fire vying for his attention, Atticus is having trouble scheduling the witch hunt. But aided by his magical sword, his neighbour’s rocket-propelled grenade launcher, and his vampire attorney, Atticus is ready to sweep the town and show the witchy women they picked the wrong Druid to hex.

Last year I read Kevin Hearne’s debut novel Hounded and really, really liked it. I very much enjoyed this take on urban fantasy, with a male protagonist, a blending of just about every pantheon you can think of and the most brilliant wolfhound ever in Oberon. So once I finished Hounded, I was thrilled to know there were already two more books on the way and there would be three more books in the more distant future. Earlier this month I finally got to go back to Tempe, Arizona and Atticus by reading Hexed and I’m pleased to report it was as fun as its predecessor was; Hearne’s writing is as good on second impression as it was the first time.

Between Hounded and Hexed there is a form of continuity, in the sense that decisions and events from the first book have their repercussions in this one, but the story arcs are separate and as such this book could be read out of sequence. However, that would cause the reader to miss a lot of the underlying nuance and some of the in-jokes – French poodles anyone? – which to me make this such a strong series. The elements that did return from the first novel, such as Atticus accepting Granuaile as his apprentice and his reaching a détente with the Tempe witches’ Coven were handled really well. The scenes in which Atticus goes to sign the non-aggression treaty, accompanied by his werewolf lawyer Hal, were really cool and showed how precarious this peace and the trust between the two parties really was.

One of my hopes for the series was that we’d find out more about Atticus’ past, as the glimpses we’d caught during Hounded were tantalising and I wanted more. Hexed delivered this through die Töchter des dritten Hauses; through them we learn more about Atticus’ activities in WWII. These flashbacks were truly enjoyable and lend a depth to Atticus’ character that was less noticeable in Hounded. Perhaps not so much providing history as enriching the universe’s mythology is the number of deities and mythological creatures that stop by to recruit Atticus to their cause, due to his increase in reputation—or rather perceived level of badassery. We meet several new pantheons outside of the Celtic and Christian and it was fun to see they all have similar goals: getting Atticus to promise to kill their particular nemesis. But it’s not just deities who try to recruit him, it’s his friends as well.

Atticus’ circle of friends is growing and while we meet new ones, our acquaintance with those of the previous book deepens. For example, we see a lot more of Atticus’ vampire lawyer, Leif. We learn more about his capabilities and his weaknesses and we see him fighting and kicking ass in a fantastic battle. Another character we get to see more of is Granuaile. As Atticus’ apprentice, she is also a way for Hearne (via Atticus) to give us some more background on Druidic magic and history when Atticus teaches her these things. She also shows how alone Atticus has become as the lone remaining Druid on the planet and how he keeps himself isolated because he doesn’t want to endanger his friends. What I really I like as well is that she’s the one piece of skirt that Atticus doesn’t pursue. Where in the previous book Atticus tended to think more with his loins than his brain, here he is careful to keep it in check around Granuaile.

Hexed contains lots of humour. For example, Atticus’ confusion when he gets seduced by the Morrigan – a rather painful experience, as she’s the Goddess of Death – and it wasn’t about the Morrigan lusting after him at all, it was about repairing some of the damage Atticus had sustained in Hounded or Atticus’ repeated attempts to update Leif’s rather old-fashioned manner of speech. But the most humour is displayed by Oberon. His snarky little commentaries on Atticus’ house guests, his silly obsessions with the strangest things, such as Sixties hippy culture and the Man, and the way he always, always know how to earn a treat, even if he doesn’t do anything, are very entertaining and I just love Oberon to bits.

Hexed is a great sequel, that doesn’t disappoint at all. It’s just as fun and fast-paced as the first book and just as addictive. It’s urban fantasy at its best. If you enjoyed the first book, this is a must-read, because it’s great to return to Atticus’ world. However, Hexed is far more open-ended than Hounded, with a clear hook in place for the third book. As such, I couldn’t wait to get started with Hammered, so I’ve already read that as well; look for a review of it later this week.