I really enjoyed Kevin Hearne’s first installment in his Iron Druid Chronicles. Hounded is snarky and fun. It’s especially cool to focus on the Celtic pantheon instead of one of the more well-known ones.
The narration style of Atticus O’Sullivan is comparable to that of Harry Dresden from Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files – very irreverent and sarcastic. It’s still relatively good-natured though, whereas the tone has darkened considerably in Butcher’s series. I’m holding out hope that Hearne will keep the tone light and fun, since Atticus is supposed to be 2100 years old and hopefully is already past the angsty “I’m tired” phase.
As much as I’m enjoying the series though, there are two things that bug me a little bit.
The first is Hearne setting the god Thor up as a villain. Thor was the common man’s god back in the day – he was well-loved, and while he often was portrayed in humorous stories, he wasn’t considered weak or unworthy. He was a fierce fighter with a wicked temper, but he was the protector of gods and mortals alike. So to have him set up as a petty bully kinda stretches my suspension of disbelief. Besides, I’m still coming down from my Avengers high (awesome movie, by the way – go see it).
The second thing that’s sending up red flags for me is how Hearne is handling modern-day religions. Given that his main character is the only druid who survived the Catholic Church’s ancient purge, his tone is rather grim and the snark aimed at Christianity is less-than-friendly. Not mean, not offensive, at least not yet.
Also, Hearne’s portrayal of gods is very similar to the one that Neil Gaiman used in American Gods – that gods derive their strength from the belief of their worshipers and manifest accordingly. This premise is an interesting one, especially for urban fantasy novels, and I usually enjoy watching how authors use it, but Hearne is straying a little close to the edge of my comfort zone. In his second book, Hexed, he basically has a devout Catholic character conjure up the Virgin Mary through sheer force of will. I’m not sure I’ll be okay if he does that with Jesus, so I’m a little wary of where this may go. I’m okay with authors fiddling with the man-made parts of my religion, but I’m always uncomfortable when they start to play around with my Savior as if he’s just another old god.
Anyways, I really enjoyed this book, and am enjoying this series (despite my one misgiving). I’ll review Hexed soon, and I look forward to reading Hammered.