Book Review: Hounded

Hounded by Kevin Hearne, The Iron Druid Chronicles #1

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 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.

Hounded has been a book that has been on my to read list for a very long time. I am a big fan of all things Urban Fantasy and while this genre is in my opinion overloaded with vampire there are still authors that think off something not shown before and in here Kevin Hearne is just that kind of author. As I said focus has been on werewolves, witches, magicians and vampires in most of the cases but not on the druidic aspect. As the name implies of the series, The Iron Druid Chronicles focuses on druids! And trust me when I say that they are far from the treehugging kind. 

So meet Atticus O'Sullivan one of the last surviving Druids. He has been going pretty strong for almost two centuries and still is by the way, with the appearance of a twenty year old. For Atticus daily business is running his occult and oddities book shop, playing along with the weird desires that some of the customers have. When he is not running his shop Atticus likes to shapeshift and run along with Oberon, his Irish wolfhound, through the woods and hunt animals. But there is more to Atticus as he is for a reason in Arizona. He is hiding an artifact in his backyard, a very powerful sword that goes by the name of Fragarach or in plainer English the Answerer. One day Atticus gets a visit from The Morrigan, a Irish god, who says that someone is hunting Atticus as he wants something back. Well let me rephrase that it isn't actually a someone, it is Agnus Og a Celtic God, who is actually quite violent for a God of Love. With such a dire threat hanging above Atticus' head, Atticus has to call in a lot of favors to get him out of this precarious situation, of course Atticus also has enough with and strength of his own to face off against a God, but will it be enough? 

I would like to tell more about the story but it would spoil too much. Atticus has some awesome friends, vampires and werewolves both.  I have to say that this first book does fall in the trend of many of the Urban Fantasy series out there. A trend nowadays is detectives and they offer the perfect example of "case files" take Simon R. Green, Nightside a series or Jim Butcher's Dresden Files. I think this is also the direction where Kevin Hearne is aiming towards, but not necessarily showing the case files but daily life and struggles of Atticus because it is seems that he is a very popular guy and perhaps not all for the positive side. Atticus will face many more a challenge. 

For me it was really easy to connect with Atticus' character. The way that Kevin Hearne portrays him is directly in the lines of a normal day guy but with special powers. Even though Atticus is over 21 centuries old, he is one of the few people, with an immortal lifespan, that has moved with the time. He knows the rules and regulation and how to fit in. There are some other characters in the book that haven't adjusted and this brought some problems. But back to Atticus. He has this cando attitude and even though that troubles are piling on his doorstep, even facing off against a god, he doesn't sit and mope but calls in by his friends and when push really comes to shove, only one thing remains, unsheathing Fragarah - the Answerer, and trying to solve problems that way. Added to his cando attitude, Atticus also carries with him a lot of humor and personal wit, but knows when it is time to make jokes or when to act serious. 

Next to Atticus, there are many other remarkable characters and the first is, Oberon, well some might argue he isn't a "character" perse as he is the pet dog of Atticus. However Oberon and Atticus can communicate with each other and this goes beyond fetch the newspaper. They have something in the lines of linked minds, this is pretty cool and really this duo quite an edge over their enemies. You also have some friend of Atticus that you meet like Leif and Hal. A vampire and a werewolf and both lawyers and run the firm Magnusson & Hauk. This is a most interesting construction, as Hal, the werewolf is Atticus' daytime lawyer and Leif the vampire is Atticus' laywer during the night. However they are not mere mentionings of characters but Kevin Hearn invests a good deal of time in creating their backstories and thereby creating a much more mythical atmosphere. And lets not forget the occasional God that makes a presence in the book like The Morrigan and Agnus Og and some of there servants.

Another things that is very cool about Hounded is the magic that is used by Atticus. You must have undoubtedly have read about some of the flashy elemental magic that is often used by urban sorcerers and magicians. Well Druidic magic in my opinion is less flashy and much more subtle but just as impressive! Atticus, when he is on a piece of soil, is able to draw power through it by his Celtic tattoos. Think of magic like concealment spells, enhancing his abilities or rapid regeneration and lets not forget his shapeshifting abilities into various other creatures. What you often see in magic systems is that it goes all unbalanced and turns overpowered, without limits. The magic system in The Iron Druid Chronicles of what I have seen so far does have rules and limitations and this makes it all the more interesting to read about and the characters have to plan their moves carefully. 

Hounded is a fresh new addition to the Urban Fantasy genre. Over the last few years Urban Fantasy must have been the genre with the most published books and breaking through all of it is a hard job, a job that Kevin Hearne managed to do! His take on Urban Fantasy with a Druid taking the lead and enriching his story with Irish and Celtic Gods and other mythical beings and lets not forget some the eccentric friend of Atticus and a talking Irish wolfhound, is something you just cannot go wrong with. Hounded is highly entertaining and I am looking forward to read the next installment. It feels like that there is much more trouble steering for Atticus, trouble that will make his life much complicated than what he wanted! Oh and yes, Druidic magic is cool!


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