Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Review: Hounded by Kevin Hearne

Urban fantasy has really taken off as a genre in the last several years.  I used to search for books to read, now there is a glut.  It's become hard to find books that don't follow the standard UF pattern.  The majority of them are female authors writing about female protaganists who kick ass.  Not that there is anything wrong with that.  Most times, that is what I am looking for.  But it was a bit refreshing to pick up Kevin Hearne's debut novel in which the protagonist is a dude - slinging the snark and walking the walk.  (I am thankful that this is one of the few places where this is a unique take as opposed to the rest of the dude-oriented world.)

Hounded by Kevin Hearne
Iron Druid Chronicles, #1
ISBN13: 9780345522474
ISBN10: 0345522478
Published May 3rd 2011 by Del Rey
Grade: B
Blurb: Tempe, Arizona is as far removed from paranormal activity as is possible. And that's where Atticus O'Sullivan, rare book salesman, herb peddler, and 2,000 year old Druid - the last of his kind - has decided to set up shop. He's been on the run, guarding a very powerful sword from a very angry ancient Celtic god for over two millennia now.
But while these years have been good to him - Atticus has become more powerful than he could have possibly imagined - The Morrigan, a very old god of death, has predicted death and doom for our hero, and it's up to Atticus, with help from a pride of werewolves, and a gorgeous bartender with a secret of her own, to stay alive, hopefully for another thousand years.

This is a fun, easy-going read set in a world where all myths and pantheons are true.  From vampires to werewolves, gods and goddesses to demons, druids, witches and the fae - if there is a legendary creature, it exists in Hearne's world.   There are times that it is a bit info dump-y but it is a nicely paced, if kind of predictable entry into the genre. It also has some solid humor.

The hero is Atticus a 2,000 year old Druid - in fact, the only remaining one.  He's a geek fanboy's dream hero - incredibly strong, always quick with a quip, the ladies (at least the goddesses), all want to fuck him, and he has the ability to come out on top in every situation.  There are no real flaws here which results in Atticus coming across as kinda smart ass smug and a little douche-y. He also doesn't seem as old as he is; there is something about the character's voice that reads younger. Despite that, he is still likable for much of the book and he has a great relationship with his dog, Oberon, whom he is able to talk with.  There interactions are adorable hilarious and if they occasionally come close to the line of too cutesy, they manage not to cross it.

The rest of the character’s are interesting; at the same time, it was hard to be emotionally engaged by them as they are drawn with broad, simple brushstrokes.  The bad guys are cartoony and when we finally meet the big bad villain, he doesn’t seem all that scary… or competent.  Plus almost all the female characters are either sex objects or evil or sexy, evil sex objects. 

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed reading this but I was also aware of the unintentional silliness (kinda like when I watch a James Bond movie and giggle at  the crazy but still manage to be entertained... on more than one level)  But after hearing such great things about this series, I guess I expected more substance.  The hero is just too… all that.  He always has a plan and is able to think quickly on his feet when things go awry but at the same time, it makes the stakes lower.  And the final battle ended up being anticlimactic.  There was never any doubt that Atticus would overcome the obstacles in his path, although he does take some heavy physical damage.

What I’d like to see in this series is more developed characters, especially the females.  The only one not defined by her sexuality is the drunk Irish neighbor and she is a cliché straight out of The Quiet Man, all accent and twee drunkiness.  (I wouldn’t be surprised if at some point in the series, she offers Atticus a stick to “beat the lovely lady” with.)  I dig though, how the majority of the human characters are treated as cannon fodder, as it seems appropriate since gods and goddeses are not known for giving a rat’s ass about humans, their general attitude being fuck, fuck with or kill them.

Because this is a debut novel and the first in a series, I can cut this book some slack.  Besides, it is a diverting bit of fluff.  The kind of book that would make a great summer or airplane read.  The humor is almost always funny, the quips and banter amusing, and it entertains without trying to hard.  I am aware of the book's flaws but they don't keep me from enjoying it.  This is a dude wish fulfillment fantasy plain and simply but... so what.  I'm not against fantasy.  Lord knows I've read plenty of chick wish fulfillment fantasy and heartily enjoyed them.  Sometimes we read for the fantasy.  As long as it doesn't overtake the story, as long as it still entertains, I've got nothing against it.  I'm gonna stick with this series and see where Hearne takes it. There are some good elements here and I'd like to see how they flourish.  



Obtained: from publisher at NY Comic Con 2011

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