Hounded (The Iron Druid Chronicles)
Del Rey, 2011
I am perhaps a little behind the times in taking a look at Kevin Hearne’s Hounded. I remember being excited by the initial buzz the title was receiving upon its release but for some reason shuffled it somewhere back into the deep recesses of my memory. Eventually I picked up the audiobook version via Audible and after several long weeks managed to finish it. This isn’t the fault of Hearne’s work merely the thousand other aural delights screaming for my attention combined with my own bizarre decision to only listen while running; truthfully a result of my utter failure to sync Audible apps across multiple portable devices). Yay, technology.
Hounded, with its urban fantasy vibe and male lead, is bound to be compared to Butcher’s Dresden Files but, in truth I’m not quite sure that comparison fits. Hounded stars ancient druid Atticus O’Sullivan who has long been hiding the magical sword Fragarach from the Celtic love god (and all around douche) Aengus Og. As the novel opens it becomes readily apparent that Aengus has once again tracked Atticus down and intends to recover the sword, no matter what. Needless to say this causes Atticus no end of trouble and Hearne deftly navigates his hero through a veritable circus of gods, demons, mythological, and mystical beings of every stripe.
While both the Dresden Files and the Iron Druid Chronicles both feature magical male leads it is there the similarities end. Butcher’s works are strongly grounded in the Chicago area; the city has become as much a character as the titular wizard. The Iron Druid Chronicles takes place in Tempe, Arizona; a city with a population equal to just about 5% of Dresden’s Chicago. As a result the novel has a more small town vibe, especially as Atticus bikes back and forth to his New Age bookstore. Given that Atticus is a druid the novel places less emphasis on the urban aspects and far more on the diverse natural landscape of the Arizona desert.
Hounded as a wonderful, cavalier anything goes approach to the magical. Over the course of the novel Atticus is visited by about five separate deities, deals with a coven of witches, has a team of lawyers that is one part viking werewolf and one part vampire, fights giants and demons, and somewhere manages to have the time to have a spot of whiskey with his widowed neighbor. Atticus is bonded to an Irish Wolfhound named Oberon and their companionship provides an important aspect of the story and is one of the primary avenues for humor in the novel. As Atticus himself states in the novel it’s Oberon’s innocence and constant sense of wonder that keeps the ancient druid grounded in the here and now.
Hounded is a delightfully unpredictable novel that manages to keep both characters and readers guessing what will happen next. With all of the different magical bits crammed in the novel, including occasionally different mythologies, there is still a cohesive feel to everything. Indeed the novel prevents a robust and exciting world that I’m excited to see explored further. Believing that there doesn’t seem to be anything off limits for Hearne is refreshing and discovering how he weaves the various creatures and beings into the story is exciting and never less than entertaining. If you’re tired of the dark and dreary urban fantasies of the world you should definitely give the sun (and occasionally blood) drenched world of Hounded a shot.