Book Review: Hounded by Kevin Hearne

On the surface, everything about Atticus O’Sullivan appears ordinary. Early 20s, good-looking, and living in Tempe, Arizona, he shares his house with his Irish Wolfhound Oberon, bikes to work and runs a New Age bookstore/tea shop. No one suspects that Atticus is actually a 2100-year-old druid, the last of his kind.

The truth is, he has been on the run for centuries, guarding a mystical sword from a Celtic god who is trying to kill him. But over time, Atticus has grown quite powerful himself. It’s time to bring the fight to the enemy, and with a little bit of help from his friends, Atticus might just survive this to live a little longer.

A new book by a new author, I remember why this book got my attention. After browsing for a while, I eventually picked it up because it seemed like everywhere I looked, the consensus is the same: “Recommended for fans of the Dresden Files.”

I can see why — both are narrated by a male protagonist in the first person with a modern, “hip” voice. Both are humorous and full of pop culture and geek references. Harry Dresden has a talking skull named Bob, Atticus O’Sullivan has an Irish wolfhound he talks to named Oberon. They both keep paranormal company like werewolves, witches and vampires. In each story there’s always some bad guy trying to kill them, leading to much action and magical combat. It’s inevitable that comparisons will be drawn between these two series.

Atticus, however, is over two millennia old and a druid. And despite taking place in modern day Tempe, Arizona, Hounded is steeped in ancient Celtic mythology and culture.

I had a lot of fun reading this book. I was pleasantly surprised to find it better than the average debut urban fantasy novel, though I still have my criticisms. Atticus can be a bit too smug for my taste, and while for the most part hilarious, at times of the dialogue and references can feel a bit forced. I understand that Atticus is very successful at fitting in, but it still almost feels as if the author is overcompensating in trying to make readers believe it.

I am also curious as to how this series will progress in terms of character development. Obviously, Atticus is very powerful, what with a couple thousands years under his belt to perfect his art. Throughout the course of the novel, one realizes he has “faults” but not real faults, because regardless, a very simple solution always presents itself in good time. This to me is the difference between this book and the Dresden Files. One thing I love about Harry Dresden is the character growth we see in him with each subsequent novel. He is a flawed protagonist with limits to his power, often surrounded by foes more powerful and skilled than he is, and there is a healthy level of suspense because the reader gets the feeling he is in constant danger. As he overcomes his challenges, we get to see Harry grow as a character and see his magic skills increase as the series progresses.

To be honest, I don’t know if we’ll get to see a lot of that in the Iron Druid Chronicles. When you can turn into an owl and fly away, heal your wounds by making contact with the earth, or make anything invisible you don’t want seen, Atticus does seem to already have a magical solution for every problem, or have friends that do and help him clean up. There were also some plot gaps and situations that lacked resolution, but they were also conveniently explained away.

Still, I am very interested to see how things will turn out. Like I said, it was a fun read overall, and it’s always refreshing to read a good new urban fantasy novel. I will definitely be picking up the second book as well as the third.


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