I do love it when mythical characters are dropped into a modern world setting. And being a Welshman I have a certain frisson when Celtic myth is used. They were classical used in The Snow Spider by Jenny Nimmo. And another evocative portrayal is Mark Chadbourn’s trilogy of trilogies (The Age of Misrule, The Dark Age, Kingdom of the Serpent). Unlike Chadbourn’s serious (if excellent and entertaining) take Hearne sees the funny side of the situation by using a 2000 year old Druid who is currently in the masquerading as a 21 year old New Age bookshop owner.
Though his new found quiet life is disturbed when he receives a visit from the The Morrigan. And it’s her prophecy that that gives Atticus O’Sullivan a wake up call. He is the currently owner of a sword known as Fragarach, the Answerer. Unfortunately an angry Celtic god want’s it back and has been hounding (hence the title) Atticus for centuries.
To be honest what Hounded lacks in locations it more than makes up for in an eccentric cast of characters. The action sticks closely around Tempe and a few key locations, which is a bit of a double-edged sword as Hearne uses the introduction of several characters to keep the plot and the action moving. Now this could be a flaw if the characters and the situation weren’t so entertaining. Trouble has definitely come to Atticus’s door.
And in a way it’s like the trial of Hercules or some other ancient mythical hero, as soon as he’s fixed one problem there is a another just around the corner. But the cleverness comes from weaving those events into something that builds so Hearne can drop little bombshells on Atticus that reveals a bigger picture and the reader gets that must know more feeling.
Speaking of the bigger picture we have Celtic gods, Druids, a vampire, a pack of werewolves, sidhe, a coven and a Hindu witch to name a few. It’s good to see hints of a ‘real’ world outside the community of Tempe though for an out of the way place in Arizona it doesn’t half attract a few mystical beings.
Hounded definitely feels like Hearne has a good deep understanding and enjoyment of myth as well as cracking sense of humour and you can feel he’s enjoying himself. Though it isn’t actually a ‘lite’ tale. There are blood and gore moments as well as lightly touching on more adult themes. Which actually gives a better edge to the humour to play off as well as to show that Atticus is really in danger because near the beginning he seems quite powerful until the bad guys get stronger.
Another strength is that not only using Celtic myth but shows how other beliefs all interact and are it seems real. A fact that Hearne plays off really well as he builds his story. He also plays Atticus off against his dog Oberon who can not only psychically talk to his master but also has a pointed wit and that bound makes Atticus a sympathetic and likeable character and definitely a humanises him.
If you enjoy myths, like a laugh, and love feeling that an author is enjoying themselves Hounded is one you have to read. Now. It cheered me up no end reading it. Looking forward to Hexed (which is out next month).
Hounded: The Iron Druid Chronicles: Book One is out now. Book Two: Hexed is out Oct and Book Three: Hammered is out Nov.