|UK Kindle cover. Purple!!|
Author: Kevin Hearne
Series: Iron Druid Chronicles (novella, #0.4)
Edition: Kindle (UK)
Published: 7th May 2013
There’s nothing like an impromptu holiday to explore the birthplace of modern civilisation, but when Atticus and Oberon pursue a book-stealing Egyptian wizard – with a penchant for lamb – to the land of the pharaohs, they find themselves in hot, crocodile-infested water.
The trip takes an even nastier turn when they discover the true nature of the nefarious plot they’ve been drawn into. On the wrong side of the vengeful cat goddess Bast and chased by an unfathomable number of her yowling four-legged disciples, Atticus must find a way to appease or defeat Egypt’s deadliest gods – before his grimoire-grabbing quarry uses them to turn him into mincemeat. — From Amazon.co.uk
The Iron Druid books from Kevin Hearne are among my favourite urban fantasy books, mainly because they’re head and shoulders above most of the rest for sheer entertainment value. Atticus O’Sullivan, the 21-century-old Druid of the series title, has pretty much been there and done that over the years, and by now he clearly takes a generally bemused, laid-back approach to life. Even when various old gods, be they Celtic, Norse or other, come along determined to end it for him. Atticus has, so far, dealt with them not so much through brute strength as through cunning and a certain deviousness – even ruthlessness, though he’s by no means embittered by all of his experience. With his faithful Irish wolfhound Oberon along for the ride, we get a string of adventures told with aplomb, and no shortage of good humour, from Atticus’s own point of view.
When you’re writing a story, or indeed a series of stories, in a first-person narrative, you must have a voice for your protagonist that grabs the reader and doesn’t let go. That character has to be vividly realised and interesting enough to stick with for the whole ride. Kevin Hearne has a good, strong ‘voice’ in Atticus O’Sullivan; I enjoy his seemingly unflappable outlook, and I absolutely love those scenes in which we get to see him interact with Oberon, the wolfhound that, thanks to one of his spells, Atticus can actually talk to. Their exchanges are so often laugh-out-loud funny that I treasure these books for this relationship alone. Man’s best friend was never so entertaining as Oberon!
In this novella, Atticus sets out to retrieve a book of powerful spells after a priest of Sobek, the Egyptian crocodile god, steals it from him. Along the way he encounters Bast, talks his way out of a very painful-sounding feline mauling after (surprise, surprise) he once ticked off the cat goddess and thwarts an evil sorceror in his effort to come back from the dead. All in all, it’s everything I’ve come to expect from an Iron Druid story – fast-paced, funny, and full of interesting cameos from creatures of myth, gods and goddesses that are only mostly forgotten, yet certainly not gone.
If there is a flip side to this entertainment factor, however, for me it’s that no matter how enjoyable Atticus and Oberon’s adventures are, part of me wishes they’d get a little more serious, or put more at stake. I’d like to see (dare I say it, Kevin?) a little bit of peril!*
Atticus uses his wits more than just physical strength, and this is all to the good. I approve of the approach, and while I would hate to see anything truly awful happen to him or to Oberon, I do get the feeling that the series in general might benefit from upping the stakes, or at least exploring in more detail what really makes Atticus tick. Though maybe (POSSIBLE MILD SPOILER) with the growing relationship between him and Granuaile becoming a focus, this might yet happen. One can hope!
However the series progresses, though, the chances are excellent that I’ll still be along for the ride. I value my popcorn entertainment as much as any mind-bending sci-fi story or sweepingly epic fantasy, after all, and Kevin Hearne gives us a strong contender in that field which is just as worthy in my eyes as any other. If you haven’t discovered the Iron Druid Chronicles yet, then hey. The Grimoire of the Lamb is a great place to start!
*As if Atticus wasn’t charming and witty enough, the man is a Monty Python fan. MONTY PYTHON, people. What’s not to love? (This footnote was brought to you by A Squealing Fangirl.)