This long-running and established godpunk series is still going strong, with a number of short stories and novellas also adding to the main novels, which is why this sixth novel is regarded as the seventh addition to the series. So has Hearne managed to sustain the quality and chirpy energy that characterised the earlier books? Though if you haven’t yet read any of these books, please don’t start with Shattered as this series is simply too good to dive in and try to pick up the complicated and action-packed backstory – go and track down the first book, Hounded, see my review here. I’ve also reviewed the third book, Hammered here.
For nearly two thousand years, there was only one Druid left walking the earth – Atticus O’Sullivan, whose sharp wit and sharp sword kept him alive when pursued by a pantheon of hostil deities. Now he’s got company. Atticus’s apprentice, Granuaile, is finally a full Druid herself. What’s more, Atticus has defrosted an archdruid long ago frozen in time, a father figure (of sorts) who goes by the name Owen Kennedy. Between busting Atticus’s chops and trying to fathom a cell phone, Owen has some catching up to do. For Atticus, the jury’s still out on whether he’ll be an asset in the battle with Norse god Loki – or merely a pain in the arse. As the trio deals with pestilence-spreading demons and frenzied Fae, they’re hoping that this time… three’s a charm.
There are relatively few series that I follow longer than Book 4, because they all tend to get steadily grimmer with each book – for the very good reason that in order to keep readers entertained, the stakes have to continue to be raised. However Hearne has managed to pull off a really clever trick – despite the fact that the Big Bad is definitely closing in, the sparky humour that characterised the earlier books is still very much in evidence. Partly this is because of Atticus’s relationship with his hound, Oberon, who has a thing for sausages and poodles, and partly because Owen’s voice in this particular book just bounces off the page. After being defrosted after two thousand years, he is the ultimate grumpy old git and the friction with his former pupil, who he clearly ruled with the ‘spare the rod and spoil the child’ method of training provides an entertaining extra twist of conflict. It was interesting to see his interaction with characters who treat Atticus with caution, or outright hostility and gave us another take on some of the characters who we have only ever regarded previously as potential enemies.
I really enjoyed the three-way first person narrative by the main protagonists. It certainly keeps the plot humming while we swing between them as they face different challenges and dangers. It takes real skill to be able to give each character a different voice, but Hearne pulls it off. As ever, the world is vividly depicted with a host of intriguing, dangerous and capricious gods, goddesses and other supernatural beings – even Jesus makes an appearance.
The other main character is Atticus’s apprentice and in this book, when she is off adventuring in her own right, we also get a slice of her backstory. I really enjoyed her character progression – the fact that she is very environmentally aware and worries about killing in a way that simply doesn’t affect either Atticus or Owen marks her out as more modern. Her story that is the one which has stayed with me – and the dangling plotpoint that leaves her dealing with a major problem means I shall be eagerly waiting for the next book, Staked. Not to mention getting to sample more of fecking Owen Kennedy… This is a series that just goes on getting better.