About the book
Tempe, Arizona is as far removed from paranormal activity as is possible. And that’s where Atticus O’Sullivan, rare book salesman, herb peddler, and 2,000 year old Druid the last of his kind has decided to set up shop. He’s been on the run, guarding a very powerful sword from a very angry ancient Celtic god for over two millennia now. But while these years have been good to him Atticus has become more powerful than he could have possibly imagined The Morrigan, a very old god of death, has predicted death and doom for our hero, and it’s up to Atticus, with help from a pride of werewolves, and a gorgeous bartender possessed by an Indian witch, to stay alive, hopefully for another thousand years.
289 pages (paperback)
Published on: May 3, 2011
Published by: Del Rey
There are two genres which I am constantly about to give up on forever. One of them in young adult, the other is urban fantasy. I think I have yet to find a young adult book that I actually fully enjoy and urban fantasy is so overrun with tough chicks and tramp stamps that I can hardly stomach it. However, occasionally I’ll find a book that will make me think, “I’ll give it just one more shot…” This time, the book that made me try out urban fantasy one more time was Hounded by Kevin Hearne.
There were a few things that attracted me to Hounded. First, the author is a man, which, for some reason, made the chances of a sappy romance heavy plot minimal in my mind. Secondly, the main character is a Druid, which is unique and interesting in and of itself. I tend to enjoy mythology and folklore, and books filled with them tend to draw me to them like moths to a flame.
Hearne’s writing style is flowing, but simplistic. If it weren’t for some of the themes discussed in Hounded, I would think that the book would be a perfect young adult crossover. Where this doesn’t quite work as a crossover novel, is with the expansive cast of mythological creatures. While it is obvious that Hearne took a lot of time to research his mythology, there is just too much of it. There’s the ancient Celtic god of love, Allah, Jesus, witches and more. I admire what Hearne was trying to do with his large cast of mythological creatures and peoples, but for a work as light and fun as Hounded, it just didn’t fit and ended up bogging down the plot and development more than anything else. It also got fairly confusing, as some characters were mentioned in passing and really had no other point than having their name-dropped.
Atticus is a character that is easy to love. However, despite the fact that he’s nearly 2,100 years old, he often acts like a teenager and has some incredibly cheesy one-liners throughout the novel. He’s fun to learn about, and a good character to follow through the development of the book, but he’s not quite believable for his age or the wise Druid that he is. While most of the characters in the book are fairly well fleshed out and nicely developed, there were a few that stood out as unbelievable, or so campy and ridiculous they were hard to swallow. The widow that Atticus helps throughout the book is a good example. Her sections were so incredibly cheesy, poorly done and nauseatingly unbelievable that I ended up skipping over her entirely just so I could keep my food down.
While I did highly enjoy Atticus, he’s also an incredibly awkward character to follow in some respects. For example, he does go into detail explaining the downside of his magic and how, at times, it can leave him vulnerable. However, he’s just never vulnerable. Atticus is almost impossibly invincible to any threats. Even when he is obviously threatened, I never felt like he was in a tight spot, or really had any reason to struggle. That’s fine, but it didn’t seem realistic and I never did feel any real sense of urgency that I’m sure the author was striving for at certain points. However, Atticus is humanized quite a bit by his laugh-out-loud funny familiar, his dog Oberon (who quickly turned into my favorite character).
Despite these flaws, Hounded is a fun book to read with a quickly moving plot. Hearne does keep the reader interested, engaged and endlessly entertained with the antics of his main caste. His simple, yet lyrical writing style is a huge asset to this, as it keeps the book accessible to a wider audience than it otherwise would if the writing were “thicker” and more poetic. Quite simply, his writing compliments the story he is telling perfectly. Hearne keeps things simple and entertaining, and this, in my opinion, is why the book as a whole is such a huge success. It’s not a book that requires deep thought. It’s a book that you can read while, largely, turning off your brain and detaching from the world around you. This is one of those rare “fun” books that I actually enjoyed purely because it was “fun” despite all the parts of it that didn’t make sense, or came off as a bit too campy and annoying.
In spite of the quickly moving, and entertaining plot, there are some plot holes that are incredibly easy to overlook but never quite explained or acknowledged. While the entertainment the book gave me made overlooking these minor holes, some more analytical readers might not find themselves as lucky. This leads me back to a previous point that Hounded, while being a fun read, seems a little overly ambitious for what Hearne was going for. There is too much packed into a novel that is too short which gave it an overall air of half-thought out world building and disjointed characters that make sections of the book feel incredibly awkward.
While I do feel that Hounded has a healthy number of flaws, they are also nicely balanced by plenty of good aspects of the book. Hounded is entertaining, the plot is absorbing and quickly moving and Hearne’s writing style is perfect for the feel of the book. However, this is nicely tempered by overly ambitious world building, characters that can be, quite honestly, unbelievable and annoying and several plot holes which readers will inevitably stumble across during their reading experience. Hounded isn’t perfect. It’s far from it, but it is the perfect start to an urban fantasy series that promises to breathe fresh air into an incredibly stale genre.