This interesting urban fantasy offering deals with characters more usually depicted wearing skins and leaping around mist-draped Irish landscapes from the Dark Ages. Hearne has taken a slice of ancient Irish mythology and transplanted straight into the middle of modern-day Arizona. Does it work?
Atticus O’Sullivan, last of the Druids, has a peaceful life running an occult bookshop in Arizona. His neighbours and customers think that this handsome, tattooed Irish dude is about twenty-one years old – when in fact, he’s twenty-one centuries old. 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 sexy 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.
So that is the scenario. Atticus is certainly an interesting protagonist. Initially I wasn’t sure if he came across as sufficiently sharp to have survived for over two thousand years with a vengeful god on his tail. But as the story progressed and I got caught up in the whirlwind of events – this story moves along at a fair clip – I was completely convinced. Hearne has taken the Irish mythic pantheon and done a modern makeover on them, with some very entertaining results.
Along with the full-on action, there is also a fair dollop of humour – and Hearne’s humorous exchanges are generally delivered with panache and flair. In fact, the whole story unfolds with deft assurance. In addition to Atticus, the supporting cast of characters are enjoyable – my favourite being the Morrigan, the goddess of Death. She comes across as genuinely scary, if slightly adrift in parts of the world where corpses aren’t scattered across battlefields. Hearne’s magic system is robust and convincing – I found myself wondering why other magical protagonists weren’t also harassed by nosy neighbours who found their extraordinary activities sufficiently worrying to call the local law enforcement agency to investigate…
My only niggle was that I wasn’t completely convinced by Oberon, the huge Irish wolfhound, who accompanies Atticus and with whom he can hold telepathic conversations. It seemed to me that Oberon’s vocabulary was too complex and sophisticated to be canine-based. However, I’ve read other reviewers who have praised their relationship, so I am aware that this is largely a matter of taste.
Other than that minor misgiving, I think this addition to the urban fantasy canon is a really enjoyable, well told romp – to the extent that I immediately hunted down the sequel, Hexed, while profoundly offering silent thanks to Orbit for their very civilised habit of releasing series’ sequels in quick succession. Now – I’ve just got to get hold of Hammered…