First time i'm reading something Druidic and Celtic myths related and The Iron Druid Chronicles #1 Hounded proved to be a real treat. Besides with a cover this gorgeous I knew I had to give it a chance (or should i specify in the mainstream dialect with a hot guy on the cover) .
Here is how the summary goes like:
Atticus O’Sullivan, last of the Druids, lives peacefully in Arizona, running an occult bookshop and shape-shifting in his spare time to hunt with his Irish wolfhound. His neighbors and customers think that this handsome, tattooed Irish dude is about twenty-one years old—when in actuality, he’s twenty-one centuries old. Not to mention: 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.
To sum it all up all the mythologies that ever existed upon this Earth is real, every myth is real....real God's of every other religion exists. The Tuatha De Danann, werewolves, vampires, witches, ghouls, gods, goddesses, demons, etc., though they are not "out" to the general human population. So far, this doesn't sound like anything special, does it? The key differences between this book and most of the others in this genre is that it is extremely well-written, the characters are fleshed-out and interesting, and most of all, there is a sense of humor and fun in this book.
And in the middle of it is our hero, the chronicles' protagonist the 2100 years old druid, Atticus O'Sullivan. Not that he lets anybody know his actual age. He likes to keep his acquaintances guessing. Also he is the last of his kind. So better to maintain the secrecy i suppose.
His appearance is that of a 21 year old, good-looking Irish guy. He lives in Tempe AZ, and runs a herbal and occult book store. He's got an enemy who is the Celtic god of love (who coincidently doesn't do his job for which he is appointed) who wants a mystical sword that Atticus took from him in a battle centuries ago, and who also wants Atticus dead. Periodically, as the god has located Atticus, he sends minions after him to kill him. In this story, he has located Atticus again, and decides to kill him personally.
As I mentioned above his main adversary is Aenghus Og the Celtic god of love who's hellbent on having the sword, but as the story progress you begin to wonder if he can trust anyone other than Oberon the dog with whom has a mental bond. Og isn't cupid by any means and is downright nasty is his pursuit of Atticus and Fragarach.
And although it mentions that all the Gods and Goddesses of every other religion that exists in this wide world but the primary focus of the story in this book was mainly the Celtic mythological pantheon, I really liked that elements of Native American, Slavic, Nordic and Indian mythologies were also included. I always wonder why more writers don't do that; there is such a wealth of mythological material in other cultures. I was glad to see it mentioned in this book; it made it that much more interesting to me. In his acknowledgments, Mr. Hearne jokes about giving the impression that his "backstory is remarkably thorough and well-researched", but in reality, that's exactly the impression the book gives without being the least bit pedantic.
You can tell the Hearne put a lot of research into his debut novel, however the need to make sure his readers understand Celtic mythology and history slow his pacing down a bit in the beginning of his novel. He info-dumps quite a bit in the beginning and while I appreciate that he didn't walk into writing about this blind, I think there could have been a better way to import the information to the reader than putting it in long drawn out paragraphs. It's mostly only done in the beginning and after you get further into the story you quickly forget about the small text book like portions you suffered through in the beginning to get to the real story. If you're a reader like me who's put off by sections of fiction like that I advise you to keep reading because I can guarantee that you won't be disappointed.
Hearne keeps his story moving but without rushing you through it. His entire cast of characters are funny and witty. While my favorite character was his dog Oberon that in this story can talk in Atticus's head and therefore served as wonderful comic relief, I loved the way Hearne created the characters in this tale of adventure. You could never tell for sure which side any of his allies were on, his main humanish friends are his werewolf and vampire lawyers that charge him for their time and this wacky Irish widow down the road, that mellows out her Sunday church sermons by drinking so much whiskey before she goes that she doesn't remember what's been said. Each character was well fleshed out with unclear motives that left you guessing and little quirks that enamored you to them.
Overall it was a very interesting read - something that a mythology junkie can't fail to miss out. Definitely have a god feeling about the next two books of the series