Hounded by Kevin Nearne (The Iron Druid Chronicles), Del Ray, 2011 – I am now nearing the end of my Christmas gift reading and have drifted back into the third of my DDD’s fantasy book gifts. It’s interesting to compare older fantasy to the contemporary scene. Older fantasy classics often had ‘normal’ people encountering magical situations. It now seems the norm to have magical beings as the main characters, possibly due to the phenomenal success of Harry Potter, a series that relegated the role of ‘normal’ people to annoying inconveniences. Hounded is definitely sailing in Potter’s wake, filling the pages with every kind of magical beastie and ancient god you could think of.
Hounded’s main character is an engaging and ancient Irish Druid named Atticus, the last of his kind in the world. He absconded with a magic sword from a battlefield thousands of years ago and has been hiding out ever since. His current cover as the owner of an occult bookstore in Phoenix has been blown due to Atticus’ injudicious use of the internet. With his true identity revealed, Atticus is left vulnerable to attacks sponsored by a seriously powerful Celtic god named Aenghus Og. Og has many minions to do his bidding in his quest to liberate the sword from Atticus – not to mention Og’s desire to put a permanent end to Druids in general and Atticus in particular.
The plot unfolds much like a typical computer game, where the hero engages in battle with a steady stream of lesser opponents. Each encounter helps sharpen his magical skills and allows him to collect charms, magic potions and weapons that will prove useful in the big finale – the ultimate level where Og awaits with his own magic sword, a coven of witches and a legion of devils direct from hell.
Not that Atticus is friendless. First of all he has an ancient alliance with Morrigan, a crow that happens to be the Celtic Chooser of the Slain and goddess of war. We can add several more Celtic gods that will help Atticus if it suits them – mostly because they wouldn’t mind seeing Og fail. Then there’s a lovely redheaded bartender whose being is inhabited by a disembodied witch. The witch wants a favor and the redhead wants Atticus to take her on as a druid acolyte. Atticus can also count on support from a werewolf pack and a group of ghouls who clean up after his battles by eating the remains of the losers before they become noticeable to the general populace. Last but not least there’s his faithful dog, with whom he can converse; an Irish wolfhound addicted to sausages, hunting and liaisons with French poodles.
With its Celtic flavor, Hounded provides an entertaining spin on the usual set of magical beings – fun and light reading.
TL:DR – If you liked Carriger’s ‘Souless’ series, the Iron Druid Chronicles might be just the thing, even if it’s not quite as amusing.