Iron Druid Chronicles Series by Kevin Hearne
Kevin Hearne wrote a series of urban fantasies, set in contemporary America and the Southwest desert Navajo nation, with quick runs to Asgard and Tir na nOg. The books are fun reads. Main character Atticus O’Sullivan is a Druid, originally from pre-Roman Ireland. Atticus is paired with his wolf hound Oberon and early in the series takes an apprentice, Granuaile. .
Atticus has been stalked by an Irish godlet for 2100 years and finally decides to fight back. He gets embroiled in a plot to kill Norse thunder god Thor, then tricked by Coyote to remove two skinwalkers. The plots move quickly with excellent settings and a fun magic system.
I enjoyed the dog, Oberon immensely. Hearne took the usual dog-and-man-communicate idea and added a heavy dose of smartness and curiosity to the exchanges. Oberon isn’t good with dates but he’s phenomenal with puns, history, movies, girl dogs, one-upping the Druid and, did I mention, puns and word jokes. I enjoyed the books far more with Oberon than had Atticus been on his own or solely with his Druid apprentice Granuaile.
At first glance this series looks like the Harry Dresden books by Jim Butcher: Magic user, urban setting, werewolves, vampires, witches. However it is a very different series. Atticus is amoral at best, we don’t see the strong drive to right wrongs and protect the weak that are key to Harry Dresden. If you enjoyed the Harry Dresden series you probably will like the Iron Druid Chronicles; just don’t expect a lot of similarities.
The writing is reasonably good and got better from one book to the next. The main characters are a little weak. The plot is fun and fast, enough that we overlook the cardboard cutout characters.
Books in Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne
As of January 2014 there are 6 books in the Iron Druid Chronicles:
Hounded is fast paced and enjoyable, although main character Atticus’s sudden shift to action after 2100 years of hiding puzzles me. We meet wolfhound Oberon and enjoy Atticus’s travails with the local police force, a gaggle of witches and Irish godlings.
My main quibble with Hounded was the absence of moral considerations in Atticus’s decisions and the fact the novel read like a series of episodes. If you read the Harry Dresden books by Jim Butcher, you know that Harry is a good guy. He doesn’t tell us this, we see it in his actions and thoughts. If you read Hounded you won’t be sure that Atticus is a good guy, or simply a guy we’re going along with to have some fun and magic.
Kevin Hearne developed his writing skills in each book in the series. This first one is a bit rough around the edges but fun enough that I read it and looked for the sequels.
Here is my review about Hexed:
Hexed find Atticus getting involved with a coven of witches to kill a cult of Bacchants. Unfortunately he needs a powerful bribe to gain the ally he needs and this bribe will kick off the adventures to follow.
If you are familiar with the Harry Dresden books by Jim Butcher you have seen Harry takes magical happenings in Chicago seriously and sees himself as responsible to keep things more or less working. One scene in Hexed
when Atticus states that he has never seen himself as responsible to police the magical scene. This is a major difference in the two characters and also pivotal as Atticus takes on this responsibility albeit with great reluctance.
I found this second book better written and just as enjoyable although my favorite character, Oberon the hound, was less prominent.
You can read my review of Hammered here:
Kevin Hearne settled down to write a novel with Hammered. The first two books read like a television series, short vignettes that hung together and made a story, and the writing is better in this third book. The story – plot and characters – were the weakest of the lot though. I could not get it through my head why Atticus was suddenly throwing away 2100 years of his lay-low strategy in favor of helping a dubious associate. He had no reason to make the promise to help, and once he did promise he had second, third and fourth thoughts about it. Even pseudo-divine characters warned him against proceeding. My only inference was that Atticus felt he was already in trouble with the Norse pantheon for his earlier theft and murder, so what was the problem with adding even more trouble to the mix.
Atticus’ abnormally smart hound Oberon features very little in Hammered, which is a shame as the dog adds humor and is a strong character in his own right.
Tricked is the fourth book and has Atticus repaying Coyote for his help in faking Atticus’ death.
You can read my review of Tricked here:
Here we meet many new characters, some likable and some not. For some reason Atticus seems incapable to get a full understanding of his agreement with Coyote before he made it and now is surprised at what is included.
With Tricked we also find Kevin Hearne writing a much improved book that is a true novel, not a series of episodes.
I enjoyed Tricked although some of the premise was odd. For example, the villain skin-walkers live near the town and people seem to know who they are. Yet no one has hunted them down? If the skin-walkers were as vicious all the time as they were with Atticus it is hard to believe that no one has gone after them before.
On the plus side, we have plenty of Oberon who is the best character in the bunch.
I have not written a review yet for, Trapped (The Iron Druid Chronicles, Book Five)
Hunted finishes a couple sub plots and hints at a couple new ones, plus the perennial problem of Ragnarok. All the way through it felt like something was missing, as if Atticus, Granuaile and Oberon were running, without a destination, just running. In part that is because that is all the characters did for first two thirds or so. But it left me feeling let down and restless.
You can read my review of Hunted (The Iron Druid Chronicles, Book Six). here:
Hunted, Book Six in Iron Druid Chronicles, Kevin Hearne Fantasy Book Review