Hounded by Kevin Hearne (2011, Urban Fantasy, 289 pages)
Hounded is the first book in the new Iron Druid Chronicles, which follow the adventures of a 2,000 year old Celtic Druid. The story is set in modern-day Phoenix, where the protagonist (Atticus O’Sullivan) is living as the twenty-something owner of an occult shop and doing his level best to keep off the radar of the various gods, goddess, and magical creatures he’s pissed off over the centuries (in this world, all the gods are real – every religion, every last one of them).
Atticus is witty and irreverent, with just the right touch of world-weary thrown in, and he makes for pleasant company. The story of Hounded follows the efforts of a Celtic god to recover a magical sword that Atticus took off him in battle centuries ago — basically, it’s an ancient grudge match. Various other creatures join the fight on either side – the Morrigan, goddess of death, a bartender possessed by a Hindu witch, Atticus’ vampire and werewolf lawyers, a nosy neighbor, and Atticus’ companion, an Irish wolfhound he communicates with through telepathy. If this sounds like a ridiculous mash-up, it is. It’s also a lot of fun.
Hearne has actually done a really great job of a taking what could read like a big pile o’ nonsense and making you buy into the world. The various gods and goddess behave just as you might imagine deities who’ve been around for aeons but must blend into the modern world would act. Likewise, in lesser hands a telepathic conversation between a 2,000 year old Druid and an Irish wolfhound might come off as cheesy beyond measure. Hearne dodges this (just) by infusing their relationship with real charm — the wolfhound can communicate and is interested in human culture and knowledge, but, at the end of the day, he’s a dog and Hearne never lets us forget it.
The pacing is good, the twists come aplenty, and the characters are lots of fun to spend time with. Better yet, Del Rey has chosen to release all three of the books in rapid succession; the second in the series, Hexed, just came out last week, and Hammered, the third, will follow in short order.
These books are perfect summer reads – fun, action-packed, creative, and humorous.