Wednesday, April 30

Come for the Druid, Stay for the Pop-culture Quoting Ageless Hound (re-read)

"Toto didn't deserve that kind of trauma. He was so tiny."

Hounded Book CoverKevin Hearne's Hounded (Book 1 of the Iron Druid Chronicles) was yet another discovery I made through John Scalzi's Whatever; the short version of the Big Idea is that Atticus O’Sullivan is older than Jesus (sorry, them's the shakes) and being hunted by an angry Irish god. Well, in the first book. Eventually, he ends up being chased by a Loki who's convinced Ragnarok is just around the corner -- and Atticus' fault. Which it kind of is.

But that comes later.

I read the Big Idea and thought the basic story sounded intriguing. And, okay, I've got a soft squishy spot for shapeshifting and ancient magic in the modern world. And the novel (and its sequels) do provide that, and a well-thought-out mythology that does, in point of fact, include Jesus. And Coyote. And I know at this point I'm starting to make it sound much like American Gods. Which...there are a few similarities. Only the gods in Hearne's universe aren't dying. And O'Sullivan has pissed a fair number of them off (as opposed to Shadow who does end up pissing off the gods but it's more...situational...than intentional).

So that's what drew me in. What won me over was downloading the Kindle Preview and reading the following opening paragraph:
There are many perks to living for twenty-one centuries, and foremost among them is bearing witness to the rare birth of genius. It invariably goes like this: Someone shrugs off the weight of his cultural traditions, ignores the baleful stares of authority, and does something his countrymen think to be completely batshit insane. Of those, Galileo was my personal favorite. Van Gogh comes in second, but he really was batshit insane. (Page 1)
There is something about O'Sullivan's "voice" that I find very appealing and easy to read. And in fact I chewed through this book: swordfights, Gods and Goddesses and vampires and werewolves and...

...and I've left the best for last. O'Sullivan has a "pet", friend, familiar named Oberon, who is an Irish (naturally) Wolfhound. Due to O'Sullivan's Druidic skills, he can speak with Oberon mind-to-mind, and where I know it's been done, rarely does one see the following sort of exchange (O'Sullivan in italics):
I thought you said never to attack humans.
She hasn't been human for a very long time.
I do not think she will attack, though. She is a very nice inhuman.
You mean nonhuman. Inhuman is an adjective.[...]
Hey, I'm not a native speaker. Give me a break. (Page 28)
Oberon isn't particularly divine, isn't a guiding spirit. He's a dog who likes to hunt and to be told stories: 
Will you tell me about Genghis Khan's whores while I'm in the bath?
Hordes, not whores. He had both, though, now that you mention it. 
Sounds like he was a busy guy.
You have no idea.(Page 60)
Between Atticus' at once sardonic and justifiably world-weary voice and Oberon's strange combination of naivete and doggy-ness -- and I haven't even mentioned the lawyer Werewolf or the barmaid-turned-apprentice -- I'm fond of the characters. And since these books are an easy enough read that I can chew through one in an afternoon, I keep coming back when I'm looking for something that'll amuse me.
We don't need to play her witch's games. They always want to get you and your little dog, too. 
I knew I never should have let you watch The Wizard of Oz. 
Toto didn't deserve that kind of trauma. He was so tiny.(Page 87)
I recommend giving Hounded a try. O'Sullivan's universe provides a nice little twist on the 'urban fantasy' genre.

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