Tag Archives: Kevin Hearne

Sunday Post – 20th May, 2018

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This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.

My sister has moved back to her own flat, which is really good news as she is hopefully now on the road to recovery. Though I am missing her – if the road works would allow it, she is only ten minutes away.

On Thursday, Mhairi came over for the day and we spent some of the time poking the Marketing Monster with a big stick, which is both terrifying and enjoyable. Other than that, I’ve been busy line editing Breathing Space with the help of Dragon’s dictation tool, as I follow the manuscript with a cursor. It’s time-consuming, but I don’t know another way to do it, as my speed-reading habit isn’t conducive to weeding out those fiddley mistakes that dog my writing.

Yesterday, I went over to my sister’s and we watched the Royal Wedding together, having great fun critiquing the outfits while quaffing tea and jam doughnuts. It was a wonderful service and I wish the couple all the very best in their life together.

This week I have read:

Crimson Ash by Hayley Sulich
Solanine Lucille wants her little sister back. Eight years ago, the government kidnapped her sister Ember, stole her memories, and transformed her into a soldier. But Solanine refuses to give up. Now that she and her fiancé have located the leader of a rebel group, she believes she can finally bring Ember home. But then the soldiers raid the rebels, killing her fiancé and leaving Solanine alone with her demons and all the weapons needed for revenge.

After raiding a rebel camp, sixteen-year-old Ember doesn’t understand why killing some boy bothers her. She’s a soldier—she has killed hundreds of people without remorse. But after she fails a mission, the rebels hold her hostage and restore her memories. Ember recognizes her sister among the rebels and realizes the boy she killed was Solanine’s fiancé.

This was certainly a dystopian world, leaving a trail of devastated, broken people in its wake and the writing was intense and fast-paced.

A Trail Through Time – Book 4 of The Chronicles of St Mary’s by Jodi Taylor
At St Mary’s Institute of Historical Research, the historians don’t just study the past, they revisit it.

Behind the strait-laced façade of a conventional academic institution, the secret of time travel is being used for ground-breaking and daring historical research, taking the historians on a rollercoaster ride through history. Meanwhile, within St Mary’s itself, there are power struggles and intrigues worthy of a book in themselves.

Max and Leon are reunited and looking forward to a peaceful life together. Sadly, they don’t even make it to lunchtime.
From 17th-century London to Ancient Egypt and from Pompeii to 14th-century Southwark, Max and Leon are pursued up and down the timeline until, finally, they are forced to take refuge at St Mary’s – where a new set of dangers await them.

After the darkness of my previous read – I wanted something with humour, so I turned to this offering on my TBR pile. It didn’t disappoint. Packed with adventure that had me laughing aloud and nearly weeping, I finished this one buzzed and re-energised. Nobody does it like Jodi…

Scourged – Book 9 of the Iron Druid series by Kevin Hearne
Unchained from fate, the Norse gods Loki and Hel are ready to unleash Ragnarok, a.k.a. the Apocalypse, upon the earth. They’ve made allies on the darker side of many pantheons, and there’s a globe-spanning battle brewing that ancient Druid Atticus O’Sullivan will be hard-pressed to survive, much less win. Granuaile MacTiernan must join immortals Sun Wukong and Erlang Shen in a fight against the Yama Kings in Taiwan, but she discovers that the stakes are much higher than she thought.

Meanwhile, Archdruid Owen Kennedy must put out both literal and metaphorical fires from Bavaria to Peru to keep the world safe for his apprentices and the future of Druidry. And Atticus recruits the aid of a tyromancer, an Indian witch, and a trickster god in hopes that they’ll give him just enough leverage to both save Gaia and see another sunrise. There is a hound named Oberon who deserves a snack, after all.

I have read and enjoyed all the previous books in this series, so hoped that this one would bring all the plotlines to a satisfactory conclusion. It was a delight to plunge back into this world for ending to work so well.

The Flowers of Vashnoi – Book 14.1 of the Vorkosigan Saga by Lois McMaster Bujold
Still new to her duties as Lady Vorkosigan, Ekaterin is working together with expatriate scientist Enrique Borgos on a radical scheme to recover the lands of the Vashnoi exclusion zone, lingering radioactive legacy of the Cetagandan invasion of the planet Barrayar. When Enrique’s experimental bioengineered creatures go missing, the pair discover that the zone still conceals deadly old secrets.

This novella takes us back to the amazing world Bujold is rightly best known for writing – what a treat this little gem is. The only grumble I have is that it ended too soon.

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 13th May 2018

Review of Talon – Book 1 of the Talon series by Julie Kagawa

Teaser Tuesday featuring Scourged – Book 9 of the Iron Druid series by Kevin Hearne

Can’t-Wait Wednesday featuring The Flowers of Vashnoi – Book 14.1 of the Vorkosigan Sage by Lois McMaster Bujold

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Crimson Ash by Haley Sulich

Friday Face-off – I’m freeee… featuring Traitor to the Throne – Book 2 of the Rebel of the Sands series by Alwyn Hamilton

Review of Scourged – Book 9 of the Iron Druid series by Kevin Hearne

Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last week, in no particular order:

5 ways you should not react when an annoying friend says they don’t read https://thisislitblog.com/2018/05/13/5-ways-you-should-not-react-when-that-annoying-friend-says-they-dont-read/ Yes… I’m aware this was published over a week ago – but I’ve only just caught up with it and figured you would still want a giggle over your Sunday cuppa…

Get Caught Reading https://charlesfrenchonwordsreadingandwriting.wordpress.com/2018/05/17/get-caught-reading/ I’m spreading appreciation for my favourite hobby – and this is a great scheme to promote a love of books…

A Summary and Analysis of the ‘Bluebeard’ Fairy Tale https://interestingliterature.com/2018/05/13/a-summary-and-analysis-of-the-bluebeard-fairy-tale/ I love the insights offered in the articles produced by this cracking site…

Thursday Doors – Jacobean https://jeanreinhardt.wordpress.com/2018/05/17/thursday-doors-jacobean/ This is another lovely set of doors, windows and graves… there isn’t anything more evocative than the ruins of a long-ago building.

Fabulous opportunity to get hold of over a 100 sci fi books featuring feisty females… https://claims.instafreebie.com/gg/rvyoTzZB9pvCEbrw2lN4 There is a wonderful spread of books featured for fans wanting more ebook goodness in their lives of the science fiction kind.

Have a great week and thank you very much for taking the time and trouble to visit, like and comment on my site.

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Review of KINDLE Ebook #Scourged – Book 9 of the Iron Druid series by Kevin Hearne #Brainfluffbookreview #bookreview

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I’ve followed this series right from the start, thoroughly enjoying the mayhem and the humour that Hearne has created, so it was with some sadness that I picked up this final book in the series – see my review of the first book, Hounded, here.

Unchained from fate, the Norse gods Loki and Hel are ready to unleash Ragnarok, a.k.a. the Apocalypse, upon the earth. They’ve made allies on the darker side of many pantheons, and there’s a globe-spanning battle brewing that ancient Druid Atticus O’Sullivan will be hard-pressed to survive, much less win.

Granuaile MacTiernan must join immortals Sun Wukong and Erlang Shen in a fight against the Yama Kings in Taiwan, but she discovers that the stakes are much higher than she thought.

Meanwhile, Archdruid Owen Kennedy must put out both literal and metaphorical fires from Bavaria to Peru to keep the world safe for his apprentices and the future of Druidry.

And Atticus recruits the aid of a tyromancer, an Indian witch, and a trickster god in hopes that they’ll give him just enough leverage to both save Gaia and see another sunrise. There is a hound named Oberon who deserves a snack, after all.

This book features the three main protagonists listed in the blurb above and I’m very grateful to the author for providing a ‘story so far’ summary covering the whole series. I just wish other authors writing long-running series would provide similar assistance to their readers. Some of us have the memory of a goldfish…

I started this one with some trepidation – after all, the stakes are high. I have followed this series for the previous eight books and was concerned that if Hearne fumbled this one, it would spoil my experience of the complete Iron Druid series. In the event, I’d need not have worried. All three main characters still are appealing in quite different ways – my personal favourite is Owen, who started out as the archetypal grumpy old man and has considerably mellowed as he continues getting to grips with the modern world. While the apocalyptic Ragnarok loomed across the book – as well it should – there were a whole series of delightful interludes with my favourite being Owens new best friend, Slomo the sloth.

What appears to have split opinion amongst readers is the manner in which the book ends. As for Granuaile’s decision, I was really pleased. I felt it showed her increasing confidence and desire to extend her druidic skills and had a real ring of reality about it which I thoroughly welcome. As for the Iron Druid, Atticus, what befalls him is a real shock, but given the weight of prophecy promising bad things happening to him, I can’t see how this could have ended any better without compromising a major plot point throughout the latter half of the series.

All in all, I think Hearne has produced a thoroughly satisfactory conclusion to an excellent series which I particularly enjoyed as – unlike so many others – it didn’t become unbearably bleak by the end. Recommended for fans of godpunk and epic fantasy with a strong contemporary twist.
9/10

#Teaser Tuesday featuring #Scourged – 15th May, 2018 #Brainfluffbookblog

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Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by The Purple Booker.
Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

This is my choice of the day:

Scourged – Book 9 of the Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne
8% The fancy law is the Second Law of Thermodynamics, and it says if ye have an isolated system, then entropy will increase and—gods damn it, let’s just say things turn to shite and be done with it, all right? We can call it the First Law of Owen.

BLURB: Unchained from fate, the Norse gods Loki and Hel are ready to unleash Ragnarok, a.k.a. the Apocalypse, upon the earth. They’ve made allies on the darker side of many pantheons, and there’s a globe-spanning battle brewing that ancient Druid Atticus O’Sullivan will be hard-pressed to survive, much less win.

Granuaile MacTiernan must join immortals Sun Wukong and Erlang Shen in a fight against the Yama Kings in Taiwan, but she discovers that the stakes are much higher than she thought.

Meanwhile, Archdruid Owen Kennedy must put out both literal and metaphorical fires from Bavaria to Peru to keep the world safe for his apprentices and the future of Druidry.

And Atticus recruits the aid of a tyromancer, an Indian witch, and a trickster god in hopes that they’ll give him just enough leverage to both save Gaia and see another sunrise. There is a hound named Oberon who deserves a snack, after all.

As you can see, I’m right at the beginning of this one – and Hearne has done me a great favour by giving ‘The story so far’ roundup to remind me of what the stakes are with this one… I’ve just encountered Owen – see above – who has become my favourite character in this series.

Review of KINDLE Ebook A Plague of Giants – Book 1 of the Seven Kennings series by Kevin Hearne

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I loved Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid series – you can check out my review of Hounded. So when I heard that he had embarked on an epic fantasy, I was intrigued.

In the city of Pelemyn, Fintan the bard takes to the stage to tell what really happened the night the giants came . . . From the east came the Bone Giants, from the south, the fire-wielding Hathrim – an invasion that sparked war across the six nations of Teldwen. The kingdom’s only hope is the discovery of a new form of magic that calls the world’s wondrous beasts to fight by the side of humankind.

What do you do if you wish to portray your epic world through the eyes of eleven protagonists? Well… there is always the George R.R. Martin option, I suppose. But Hearne has gone for a different approach – he has a bard with a magical ability to take the shape and persona of the characters, who then tells their slice of the adventure to a city of refugees caught up in the war. It’s a nifty device to sidestep the problem of trying to get the reader to keep track of exactly who is doing what to whom – especially as at the start of each performance, the bard tells the audience who will be introducing the character who will be taking the stage.

Does Hearne succeed? I’ll be honest – A Plague of Giants took some time to grow on me. Himself immediately was drawn into the world and kept imploring me to keep going, not that I was tempted to DNF it – the writing is too good, for starters. But I was about 20% into the story before the world seeped into my bones and I was reaching for my Kindle with eagerness. Once I was familiar with the cast of characters and the narrative had taken root, I was won over. Because of the structure, this epic fantasy is completely character-driven and I’m a real sucker for character-driven plots.

As we drew closer to the climax, I was holding my breath because we already knew that the giants had very little wriggle-room – they couldn’t return to their homeland due to the volcanic eruption devastating their island. And because a significant number of the giants also wielded fire as their kenning (read magical talent) they were lethal. I also have to warn you that not all the eleven protagonists survive to the end of the story – I was shocked to discover who doesn’t make it and the manner of their death. Inevitably, the story is somewhat fragmented, given it is told piecemeal by a variety of characters – some of them not human. But I grew to really enjoy this world and the diversity of species who are caught up in the conflict caused by the giants’ invasion.

The ending was suitably dramatic and despite the book being 600+ pages, when I got to the end I was genuinely sorry this instalment of the tale was over. While I’m aware that there has been a mixed reception to this one, if you enjoy well-written epic fantasy that gives an insight into the political machinations as well as plenty of action, both military and magical, then go looking for this one. While I can’t guarantee you’ll love it – if it does tick your box, you’ll really, really thank me.
9/10

Sunday Post – 19th November 2017

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This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.

I’m beginning to sound like a cracked record… yes – you’ve guessed it – it was another busy week… Oscar’s party last Sunday evening was delightful – it was lovely watching him discuss all his Lego projects and watch him open his presents and card.

I was teaching Monday and Tuesday – both Creative Writing courses for the Spring term at Northbrook are now full and the Summer term for my Monday course is also full with a waiting list. On Wednesday, as J was also off work, we had lunch at The Arun View with my sister – it was lovely to see her fit enough to go out and about again. On Thursday evening I popped over to do a rehearsal session with a couple of the actors in Tim’s film for a crucial, rather emotional film and then onwards to Writing Group. Though none of us had any writing… Still, it was lovely to catch up with everyone and talk through our various projects, though I’m now wondering why the idiot wearing my body thought it a good idea to bring out Dying for Space this side of Christmas.

On Friday I was teaching again – and then I spent the evening at my sister’s putting the world to rights as she cooked us a delicious meal. On Saturday we were back together again as we went up to The George at Burpham and had a lovely meal with Mum and Dad to celebrate their upcoming wedding anniversary – 45 years – what an achievement! Afterwards, I drove over to Lancing to pick up the grandchildren. Oscar is returning home this evening, but as Frances has an INSET day, she will be returning home on Monday evening.

Today, Frances and I have been in the middle of Bognor, filming the final scenes for Tim’s film which we have now finally finished. It’s been great fun, but the sense of relief that the filming phase is now over is huge… I cannot get over the weather today after the cold, rainy Saturday we endured – as with every single filming day we have done, it has been bright and sunny all day.

This week I have read:

A Plague of Giants – Book 1 of the Seven Kennings series by Kevin Hearne
In the city of Pelemyn, Fintan the bard takes to the stage to tell what really happened the night the giants came . . . From the east came the Bone Giants, from the south, the fire-wielding Hathrim – an invasion that sparked war across the six nations of Teldwen. The kingdom’s only hope is the discovery of a new form of magic that calls the world’s wondrous beasts to fight by the side of humankind.
I really enjoyed this one, once I got used to the unusual structure, where the bard relives the experiences of all eleven protagonists – it’s a nifty way to handle a large cast and mostly worked. I shall be reviewing this one in due course.

The Hidden Face – Book 1 of the Fifth Unmasking series by S.C. Flynn
A face without a face – an unmasking that leaves the mask. Once every few hundred years the sun god, the Akhen, takes on human form and descends to earth. Each Unmasking of the Face of the Akhen ends one era and begins another; the last one created the Faustian Empire. Where and when will the Face next appear, and who will he – or she – be?
Dayraven, son of a great hero, returns to Faustia after years as a hostage of their rivals, the Magians. Those years have changed him, but Faustia has changed as well; the emperor Calvo now seems eccentric and is controlled by one of Dayraven’s old enemies. Following the brutal murder of his old teacher, Dayraven is drawn, together with a female warrior named Sunniva, into the search for an ancient secret that would change the fate of empires.
This intriguing epic fantasy is full of ancient riddles designed to ensure that the powerful secrets surrounding the rite of the Unmasking stays safely away from those who would abuse the power. That’s the theory, anyway. This time around there are a whole bunch of people who will stop at nothing to get hold of those secrets – and only two people who have the correct training to be able to unlock the elaborate codes and puzzles surrounding them…

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 12th November, 2017

Review of Whirligig: Keeping the Promise – Book 1 of Shire’s Union by Richard Buxton

Teaser Tuesday featuring A Plague of Giants – Book 1 of the Seven Kennings series by Kevin Hearne

Can’t-Wait Wednesday featuring The River Keepers by Michael F. Stewart

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance by Ruth Emmie Lang

Friday Face-off – Snap! – featuring The Dark Mirror – Book 1 of the Bridei Chronicles by Juliet Marillier

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Artemis by Andy Weir

Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last week, in no particular order:

Worlds to Visit – https://navigatingworldsblog.wordpress.com/2017/11/16/worlds-to-visit/ 
This entertaining blog considers various science fiction and fantasy world Mr N would love to vacation at… Has he included your favourites?

Writing Nameless Things: An Interview with Ursula K. LeGuin –  https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/writing-nameless-things-an-interview-with-ursula-k-le-guin/  What a wonderful opportunity to hear the thoughts of one of the legends in the genre…

10 of the Best Poems About Hair – https://interestingliterature.com/2017/11/15/10-of-the-best-poems-about-hair/ And at least one of these isn’t talking about the hair you’d think…

5 New Science Books to Look Out For https://librarystaffpicks.wordpress.com/2017/11/15/5-new-science-books-to-watch-out-for/ Another useful list of books from this award-winning library site

Book Nerds Don’t Get Old… https://powerfulwomenreaders.wordpress.com/2017/11/14/book-nerds-dont-get-old/  And I couldn’t agree more with this nifty quote featuring a stack of books😊

Thank you very much for taking the time and trouble to visit, like and comment on my site and may you have a great week.

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* KINDLE Ebook of Staked – Book 8 of The Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne

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It seems far too long since I was in the middle of this entertaining world of druids, food-obsessed hounds and a head-swivelling range of infuriated gods and fae, in Shattered. Would this latest slice of the adventure manage to sustain the fun and excitement?

stakedWhen a druid has lived for two thousand years like Atticus, he’s bound to run afoul of a few vampires. Make that legions of them. Even his former friend and legal counsel turned out to be a bloodsucking backstabber. Now the toothy troublemakers – led by power-mad Theophilus – have become a huge problem requiring a solution. It’s time to make a stand. As always, Atticus wouldn’t mind a little backup. But his allies have problems of their own. Ill-tempered archdruid Owen Kennedy is having a wee bit of troll trouble: turns out when you stiff a troll, it’s not water under the bridge. Meanwhile, Granuaile is desperate to free herself of the Norse god Loki’s mark and elude his powers of divination – a quest that will bring her face to face with several Slavic nightmares.

This particular tale features Atticus, Owen and Granuaile, who each feature in their own chapters, so the story unfolds in multiple first person viewpoint. Hearne has also broken with modern trends and provided a Story So Far roundup of each book. I was very thankful to get a quick, well-told reminder of what had gone on before – and those who haven’t yet had the pleasure also have the option not to read it. I’d like to see authors of other long-running series, where the story progression relies on the books being read in order, also adopting this tactic. It certainly contributed to this reader’s enjoyment.

Those of you who have read any of The Iron Druid Chronicles will know there are slices of humour running through the adventures, so now that the stakes (no pun intended…) have inevitably been cranked up, has that sense of fun dissipated, as happened in both the Harry Dresden and Sookie Stackhouse series? No, it hasn’t. I’m delighted to report that Oberon, Atticus’ trusty hound, still brings most life and death topics back to sausages whenever he can, and archdruid Owen, who has only recently been reawakened after being in stasis for a looong time, also provides plenty of humour in his delightfully sour asides on modern life and customs.

However, there has to be a balance – this is a godpunk fantasy adventure, so do the characters convince? Is the supernatural aspect of the world suitably depicted with plenty of complexity and depth? Is the action exciting? This three-stranded approach worked really well – I like all three characters and Hearne has each one nailed, though these days, I suppose my favourite has to be Owen, who bounces off the page with his grumpy, individual take on the world. I also enjoyed watching Granuaile gain more confidence as she is off on a quest of her own – and making decisions she is aware won’t necessarily please Atticus. As for the Iron Druid himself – his talent for upsetting the wrong people is still getting him into more trouble than he knows what to do with. And I really liked watching him genuinely flail and agonise over some of the decisions he has to make.

In amongst the mayhem and humour, were also some darker moments and once more we lost a major character who has regularly helped Atticus out in the past , which was a shock. Although, it shouldn’t have been – Hearne has never been afraid to kill off a steady stream of major players throughout the series. It’s a trick that certainly keeps me paying attention during the battle scenes.

As for the climax of the book – a set piece battle in the heart of a European city that worked really well and provided plenty of thrills and spills. Oh yes, I really enjoyed this offering – all the more because it is the penultimate book in the series and I’m aware that this blast of pleasure will continue only once more. But if you haven’t yet followed Atticus through his various scrapes with other supernatural beings, then whatever you do – don’t go looking for Staked – instead, get hold of Hounded.
10/10

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