Tag Archives: Atticus O’Sullivan

Review of Shattered – Book 7 of the Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne

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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 swordshattered 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.
10/10

Review of Hammered – Book 3 of The Iron Druid series by Kevin Hearne

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Having already read the first two books in this enjoyable series, Hounded and Hexed, I settled down for more of the same kind of mischief from Atticus O’Sullivan, who is the last of the old Druids – twenty one centuries old – living in Tempe, Arizona. But I was in for a surprise. Hearne has suddenly taken a left turn in this third book and instead of more high jinks in and around Tempe, where ancient gods collide with modern America, Atticus has undertaken to confront one of the most powerful and famous old gods on his home turf. So… does the series – whose initial success rests heavily on the drama and humour around that collision of cultures – still seem as fresh and original once Atticus and his team invade Asgard for a bloody showdown?

hammeredThor, the Norse god of thunder, is worse than a blowhard and a bully – he’s ruined countless lives and killed scores of innocents. After centuries, Viking vampire Leif Helgarson is ready to get his vengeance, and he’s asked his friend Atticus O’Sullivan, the last of the Druids, to help take down this Norse nightmare.  One survival strategy has worked for Atticus for more than two thousand years: stay away from the guy with the lightning bolts. But things are heating up in Atticus’s home base of Tempe, Arizona. There’s a vampire turf war brewing, and Russian demon hunters who call themselves the Hammers of God are running rampant. Despite multiple warnings and portents of dire consequences, Atticus and Leif journey to the Norse plane of Asgard, where they team up with a werewolf, a sorcerer, and an army of frost giants for an epic showdown against vicious Valkyries, angry gods, and the hammer-wielding Thunder Thug himself.

This new shift in surroundings also meant that a raft of established characters I’d grown to like were relegated to bit parts and we were introduced to some new protagonists. It took me a couple of chapters before I fully relaxed into the new scenario – but once I did, it was a complete blast. Hearne certainly knows how and when to blend humour into action scenes and I also get the strong impression that he knows about sword fighting, rather than having just Googled it…

Hearne also mixes up genre conventions – urban fantasy is generally fast-paced and snappy with a linear narrative. In this book, however, there is a long section where each of the team who are set to invade Asgard embark on a slice of their life story to explain to the others their personal grudge against Thor. It’s a neat device to bond us with the characters and also give us a greater emotional investment in wanting to see Thor’s death, given that in both Hounded and Hexed, the Norse god has been regularly mentioned as a total jerk, but only in terms of telling rather than showing us. So when the big climax comes, we are now fully involved in the plot and eager to see the end of such a callous, unpleasant character.

Hearne takes some big risks in this third instalment and they all pay off – including the deaths of some major characters. Hammered is arguably the best book in the series so far – the stakes keep getting higher and Atticus manages to keep ahead. Just. Meanwhile, Hearne steps away from the backdrop that established this series as One To Watch and turns it into something else completely, while adding yet another twist to this original take on urban fantasy.

Any quibbles? Well, I’ll confess to finding the drinking session with Jesus uncomfortable. Yep. I know – I’ve happily seen all sorts of other gods wheeled out for my entertainment. But, this is my pantheon and I discovered I didn’t much enjoy seeing it messed around with – despite the fact that Hearne has depicted Him in a very positive light…

Hammered has taken a series that could have cruised along with more of the same for at least another book – and shaken it up into something else, making Tricked, the next book in the series, a must-have addition to my already insanely long reading list… I’d already marked Kevin Hearne has a significant addition to the cadre of authors who are establishing this period as a golden age for urban fantasy – Hammered absolutely confirms that he should be right up there with the likes of Jim Butcher and Charlaine Harris.
9/10

Review of Hounded – Book 1 of The Iron Druid series by Kevin Hearne

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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?

HoundedAtticus 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
8/10