The Purloined Poodle by Kevin Hearne

The Purloined PoodleThe Purloined Poodle

by Kevin Hearne
Series: Iron Druid Chronicles, #8.5/Oberon’s Meaty Mysteries, #1

eARC, 112 pg.
Subterranean Press, 2016

Read: August 8, 2016


The best and most consistent part of The Iron Druid Chronicles has been Atticus’ Irish Wolfhound, Oberon. Now Kevin Hearne has given us a novella narrated by and starring him, with Atticus in the supporting role. It’s good that he kept the Druid around, because he has the whole opposable thumb thing going for him and can do things like communicate with other people

While playing in a dog park, Oberon stumbles upon a rash of dognappings — the victims are all Grand Champions. Oberon is appalled that such a thing can happen and vows to find the dogs and return them home. He enlists Atticus to assist him (and well, to do most of the work). They spend the next couple of days moving around the country visiting various dog trainers/owners and skirting trouble with the law. While Atticus does the heavy lifting of investigating, Oberon has a lot of fun meeting various Champion dogs — in particular, a Boston terrier named Starbuck.

The interplay between Atticus and Oberon is a lot of fun, but his narration is even better — between the repeated mentions of trying to pull off “the Full Jules” (reciting Ezekiel 25:17 at just the right moment); his summary/slash review of The Great Gatsby (which will forever alter the way I look at the book); Oberon as food critic (his takes on coffee and mustard are highlights); and a repeated tribute to Denis Leary’s best movie, this book was flat-out entertaining. Because it’s by Hearne and featuring Oberon, I assumed I’d enjoy it — I didn’t plan on (but should’ve) cackling by the 7% mark.

I thoroughly enjoyed this — the story was good enough to justify the time reading, but Oberon’s voice elevates this to something really special. It is now one of my major Life Goals to hear Luke Daniels do the audiobook of this. If you’ve read an Iron Druid Chronicle or two, you’ll know how good Oberon can be. Read this, you won’t be disappointed.

Disclaimer: I received this eARC from Subterranean Press via NetGalley in exchange for this post — thanks to both for this.

—–

4 Stars

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Hexed (Audiobook) by Kevin Hearne, Luke Daniels

HexedHexed (Audiobook)

by Kevin Hearne, Luke Daniels (Narrator)
Series: The Iron Druid Chronicles, #2

Unabridged Audiobook, 8 hours and 52 minutes
Brilliance Audio, 2011

Read: June 21 – 22, 2016

This takes place just 3 weeks after Hounded and the dust is still settling. The target on Atticus is bigger than before — funny what a reputation as a god-killer will do to a guy, from attacks to pleas for help, more people than ever want to know where he is.

Last time, I summed up the book with this:

Atticus finds himself in even more trouble–this time there’s a very nasty coven that wants to come in and take over the Tempe area–and their first step will be eliminating all other magic practitioners.

So our hero has to suck up his prejudice against witches and team up with the very same group that threatened him last time out to defend the home turf and maybe even clean up some long unfinished business.

which pretty much holds up.

The couple of additions I’d make are that I loved Coyote, and had totally forgotten that he appeared so early in the series. I miss Mr. Semerdjian — and while I understand why Hearne took the steps he did to prevent us from getting the nosy neighbor in every book, I sort of regret it after getting reacquainted with the character. Another thing that I’d forgotten about, but really enjoyed (probably more than I should’ve) is the scene where Atticus has to go all Three Stooges with the policemen and his camouflaging of his sword, some baseball bats and himself. Seriously funny, while juvenile, stuff.

Speaking of funny, it’s dangerous to listen to these at work — there were at least two times that Oberon’s commentary made me laugh out loud. Thankfully, none of the people who work next to me were at their desks either time, or I’d have gotten a few looks. Just a warning to anyone thinking of it — you may look silly.

Luke Daniels delivers again — he’s so good at this that I’m thinking of shopping for something by him just to hear him read. The only complaint I have is that his Mr. Semerdjian sounds too much like a high-pitched Oberon. Which is just weird, and probably not something that either character would enjoy. Daniels’ Coyote, and the speech patterns Atticus adopts while talking with him are fantastic.

A great edition of a solid sequel.

—–

4 Stars

Hounded (Audiobook) by Kevin Hearne, Luke Daniels

Hounded AudiobookHounded (Audiobook)

by Kevin Hearne, Luke Daniels (Narrator)
Series: The Iron Druid Chronicles, #1

Unabridged Audiobook, 8 hours and 11 minutes
Brilliance Audio, 2011

Read: April 26, 2016


Keeping this brief so I can catch up on other things, I posted a few quick thoughts about the book previously — and that still covers most of my thoughts:

It took no time at all for this book to grab me, and another 15 pages for me to fall in love with this. Right off the bat we get a solid action sequence, get the basics of our hero’s magic system, and meet a goddess. Not a bad start–it helps a lot that Atticus’ personality and charm comes through right away and draws you in.

Then we get a talking dog. Technically a dog (Oberon the Irish Wolfhound) that can communicate telepathically with Atticus, but why get picky? Oberon’s snarky, smart and pop culturally savvy–he runs a close second behind Harry Dresden’s Mouse for coolest pooch in Urban Fantasy. I’d be willing to read a book that’s nothing but Atticus and Oberon hanging out.

Throw in a helpful werewolf pack, a friendly vampire, a troublesome local coven, and a fight with an ancient Celtic deity and you get yourself a dynamic intro to what seems to be one of the best Urban Fantasy series around.

From the point of view of someone who’s read book 8, going back to the beginning like this was a lot of fun. I could see the development in Atticus, Laksha and others (even Oberon — who is now cooler than Mouse), got to see dearly departed friends (like spoiler and other spoiler), and could see a lot of seeds being planted that are still bearing fruit. It was also nice to be reminded why I used to like Granuaile.

So, I guess I should focus on Luke Daniels’ narration. It was great — I’m not crazy about his interpretation of Oberon, but it has an undeniable charm (that goes beyond the incredible amount of charm that Hearne gave him). His characterizations of each everyone are strong — even the accents. In particular, his Widow MacDonagh made me laugh, even after repeated exposure to her (read the book at least two times, and now listened to the audiobook twice).

It’s a fun listen with some great characters — and the beginning of one of my favorite ongoing series. If you’ve still happened to miss The Iron Druid Chronicles, this is a great way to dive in.

—–

4 Stars

Staked by Kevin Hearne

Sigh. This was supposed to post yesterday morning…been one of those weeks. I have been working on blog-content, though, just nothing for you to see quite yet.

StakedStaked

by Kevin Hearne
Series: The Iron Druid Chronicles, #8

Hardcover, 310 pg.
Del Rey, 2016

Read: January 27 – 29, 2016

The Timmie’s on York Street sported a garish green-and-yellow-striped awning, a fire hydrant out front in case of donut grease fire, and a convenient signpost pointing the way to public parking. “What kind of ungodly breakfast meat do you want from here?” I asked Oberon as I tied him up to the sign.

<The religion of the meat doesn’t affect its taste,> my hound replied, a pedantic note creeping into his voice.

“What?”

<Godly bacon and ungodly bacon taste the same, Atticus.>

“Bacon it is. Now be nice to people who look scared of you while I’m in side. Do not pee on the hydrant, and no barking.”

<Awww. I like to watch them jump. Sometimes they make squeaky noises.>

Of course I approach the penultimate novel in one of my favorite Urban Fantasy series with mixed emotions — on the one hand, I’m excited to join Atticus, Oberon, et al. for the first time since June, 2014; on the other hand, penultimate is too close to the end for my taste — I’m going to miss exchanges like the quotation I opened up with if nothing else. Still, it’s Hearne, so it was bound to be a good time, my messed-up feelings notwithstanding.

Once again — the inclusion of a “The Story so Far” introduction — a multiple page summary of the series (wittily recounted) to help readers get re-oriented is just golden and should be a requirement for any series over three books long. Seriously, make this happen publishers.

One thought I keep coming back to while thinking about this book (and the series, I guess, as we approach the end) is what the series would be without Oberon. His personality, his canine-ness, and his relationship with Atticus is what set this apart from everything else early on. Would the series have gone on as long as it has — would Hounded have earned a sequel without him? I’m not so sure.

Anyway, that’s a thought for another time, let’s focus on Staked. There are so many plates spinning in this one that I’m going to spend a little more time than usual on plot.

What Hearne said about the entry in Three Slices being vital? That wasn’t hyperbole. I would’ve been so lost without it. Get it.

Atticus and Oberon are busy, busy bees. They tried to take care of Atticus’ relationship with the Olympians, which mostly worked out. Atticus helped out a ghost. “Merely” helped prevent a genocide, which will have a big impact on the brewing conflict with Loki et al. Then there’s the vampire situation — things are getting worse in Theophilus’ war against the Druids and Atticus decides it’s time to end it all. Thanks to the intelligence he gained in Three Slices, he has a plan. Obviously, given the title of the book, this is his focus. We’ve seen Atticus in some pretty violent situations, but his face-offs with vampires and their helpers in this book might just take things to a different level. There’s some diplomacy for Atticus on various fronts, too — but mostly we get a lot of Atticus as Jack Reacher.

Then there’s Granuaile and Orlaith. I don’t have a lot to say about Orlaith — she’s amusing and I like her, but she’s no Oberon. These chapters are the low-point of the book for me. Granuaile is off running some mini-quests, starting with things that are a result of her confrontation with Loki in Three Slices make sense, and even some of what she does as sort of a spin-off from that, I can understand (but honestly, she could delay them). But there’s a couple of pet projects of hers that seem like things she could put off. It seems selfish and foolhardy of her not to be more involved with Atticus’s problems (not that she’s fully aware of the extent of them, but that’s another issue). I’m not saying that the little missus needs to be at her man’s beck-and-call or anything, but her activities are more long-range in focus, the vampire menace is immediate and large (as we get serious demonstrations of). Actually, a lot of what she does seems foolish and doesn’t work out the way it ought. But I’ll complain more about Oberon’s Clever Girl in a bit.

Owen is starting to settle in to his new time, making plans and starting a life — that’s great, but probably something he should’ve back burnered for a month or two, because he’s also got a pretty big problem in Tír na nÓg that he should be more focused on, there are going to be significant consequence to his half-hearted efforts in that regard. But hey, we got this little bit of wisdom from the Archdruid:

I know that when ye think o’ love you’re supposed to think o’ kissy faces and scented soap and hummin’ happy songs together, but there’s another vital part to it that people rarely admit to themselves: We want somebody to rescue us from other people. From talking to them, I mean, or from the burden of giving a damn about what they say. We don’t want to be polite and stifle our farts, now, do we? We want to let ’em rip and we want to be with someone who won’t care if we do, who will love us regardless and fart right back besides.

It was great to see the Hammers of Zion again — and in a different role, too. We see that the vampires have more tricks up their sleeves than anyone was expecting — as befits a race that’s survived as long as they have. The Sisters of the Three Auroras are back as well, and I’m not so sure it’s wise to be as fully trusting of them as certain Druids seem to be.

I spent most of the book dissatisfied. I understand the need/desire for the three druids to be off on their own, pursuing their own destinies or quests or what have you. But it was just a bit too disparate for my taste. They’re all adults, they’re independent creatures — but fer cryin’ out loud, they should be interacting with each other more. Two of them are supposed to be in a relationship — silence for as long should raise an eyebrow or something, right? Owen’s still learning his way around, and it’s irresponsible to just dump him on Greta. As big, as life-altering (if not life-ending), as important as what Atticus is involved in, he needs to call in backup. Sure he’s been on his own for centuries, but he’s not anymore. How many of the horrible consequences of his war on the vampires could’ve been avoided if he’d just brought in the team?

Whatever my problems, whatever complaints I had, the questions I had about where this book/series were going were wiped away in the climatic battle scenes. Sure, we had to ignore a whole lot of spinning plates that are starting to wobble to get to it, but — Wow! That was just great. From the hirsute magic, the vampires cutting loose, the druids opening up cans of Whoop Ass, to the glamour keeping the muggles oblivious to the bloodbath around them — and all points in between. Just wow. One day, that bit deserves a beat-by-beat breakdown.

Towards the end of the book, Atticus evaluates the state of his relationship with Granuaile, and reaches conclusions that I (and probably many readers) have as well. I’m not sure I’m as at peace with the direction it’s headed in as he is, but it’s probably for the best. Honestly, I’m not so sure I expect Atticus to make it out of Book Number 9, so my misgivings might be moot. Also, for the last couple of books, I’ve stopped enjoying reading Granuaile. While she was a bartender or an apprentice, she was a hoot. Now that she’s moved up to being a full-fledged Druid, I dunno, all the joy’s been sucked out of her character and her interactions with Atticus for me. I think her evolution, her growth, maturation (whatever you want to call it) has been organic and makes sense, I think Hearne’s been honest with her as a character, but it wasn’t necessary for it to go that way. Still, I trust Hearne’s treatment of her, she’s just something I put up with now, rather than enjoy.

So, now the wait begins for the final book — and, I assume, Ragnarok. Because why wouldn’t a series that started with conflict in the Tuatha Dé Danann end with the Norse apocalypse (with a side dish of Olympian revenge, maybe?)?

—–

4 1/2 Stars

Opening Lines – Staked by Kevin Hearne

Head & Shoulders used to tell us that, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” That’s true for wearing dark shirts, and it’s especially true for books. Sometimes the characters will hook the reader, sometimes the premise, sometimes it’s just knowing the author — but nothing beats a great opening for getting a reader to commit. This is one of the better openings I’ve read recently. Would it make you commit?

I didn’t have time to pull off the heist with a proper sense of theatre. I didn’t even have a cool pair of shades. All I had was a soundtrack curated by Tarantino playing in my head, one of those songs with horns and a fat bass track and a guitar going waka-chaka-waka-chaka as I padded on asphalt with the uncomfortable feeling that someone was enjoying a voyeuristic close-up of my feet.

from Staked by Kevin Hearne

Three Slices by Kevin Hearne, Delilah S. Dawson, Chuck Wendig

Three SlicesThree Slices

by Kevin Hearne, Delilah S. Dawson, and Chuck Wendig; Galen Dara (illus.)
Series: The Iron Druid Chronicles, #7.5

Kindle, 166 pg.
2015
Read: January 25 – 26, 2016

No man who is master of his fate should ever reek of cheese.

Criminy Stain’s observation may seem a bit out-of-place given the authors and characters in this anthology. Shouldn’t it be more visceral or blood-related than cheese? Actually, no. Kevin Hearne explains:

I can’t recall precisely where I heard that tyromancy was actually a thing, but methinks it was during the summer of 2012. As soon as I knew it existed I knew I had to write about it, the way some people have to climb mountains or crack safes once they see them. And if I could find another couple of authors brave enough to do it, maybe we could produce the world’s first tyromancy-themed anthology. So my quest began and now here is the spiffy MacGuffin: THREE SLICES, or rather three stories where somebody along the way predicts the future via the coagulation of cheese.

So, he got a couple of other writers to contribute a story et voilà, they’ve got themselves a pretty unique book. Honestly, I think if I knew the theme, I’d probably have picked this up earlier, rather than waiting until the release week for Hearne’s Staked (and really only then because he insisted his story was “vital” to read before the new book).

A Prelude to War

This happens within a week of Shattered (and ends a few hours before Staked, I think). And yeah, it turns out to be pretty vital for starting the latter. Sure, you could’ve pieced things together, I think (I’m only on page 10, so that’s a guess) — but why work that hard, when you could just spend a little time with Atticus, Oberon, Granuaile and Orlaith (especially Oberon, always especially Oberon)?

I sorta want to talk about all of it, but the story is so short, I’d end up spoiling too much. So let me just stay that this is fun, it’s exciting, and the table it sets for Staked looks great.

Not My Circus, Not My Monkeys

It took me a little work to really get a handle on what was going on here in this Blud story (and I’m pretty sure I only achieved B+ level of comprehension). I’m not sure if this is prequel-y or if it fits into the continuity of the series — but it feels prequel-y.

It was creepy, dark, and moody. The tyromancy fit into a Twilight Zone-like part of the book. Then Criminy got into one of the more disgusting (appropriately so) fight scenes that I’ve read in the last few years.

On the one hand, I wouldn’t object to spending more time in this world, but I can’t see myself expending a whole lot of effort, either. Just not my thing. I think I’ll stick to the Hit books for now.

Interlude: Swallow

Good, ol’ reliable Chuck Wendig — he can write dazzling sentences, character descriptions that I will dwell on for days, and yet I can barely stand to read him. I keep waiting for the lightning bolt that will change things and he will become one of my favorite readers. But I can’t even get a static shock to make him someone I want to read — particularly Miriam Black. Interlude: Swallow ain’t gonna change that. Sorry, Mr. Windig. (I did chuckle mightily at Miriam’s quoting Ralphie Parker). Miriam’s rants about mornings, and then her comments on breakfast and then breakfast sandwiches probably made the time I spent worthwhile.

Overall, for me, this was really only worth the effort for Hearne’s story — but fans of Dawson’s Blud series or Miriam Black should have plenty of reason to pick this up, too. If you happen to be a fan of all three series, you’ll probably love this book.

—–

3 Stars

Shattered by Kevin Hearne

Shattered (The Iron Druid Chronicles, #7)Shattered

by Kevin Hearne
Series: The Iron Druid Chronicles, #7

Hardcover, 335 pg.
Del Rey, 2014
Read: June 21 – 22, 2014

If there’s any justice left in this world, Hearne’s inclusion of a 3 page “The Story so Far” recounting the main events from every book in the series should earn him many 5 star ratings, it’s something that more people should do. The last two lines of his retelling should earn him a few more.

I’m not going to be one of those, I really want to be — I spent most of the novel thinking I would be — but in the end, I have to settle with a 4-star. In the end, I think Hearne tried to do too much in too little space, hurting the overall book — think Spider-Man 3. The use of multiple POV characters might have contributed to my problems — having spent 5 (and most of the next) inside Atticus’ head, spending as much of this book outside of it gives added distance to those events not from Atticus’ POV in a way it wouldn’t have if we’d been bouncing between Atticus’ and Granuaile’s viewpoint from the beginning. That said, I’m not opposed to it — and I really liked the Granuaile chapters, and would’ve been willing to do a whole book from her POV. Even the Owen (Atticus’ Arch-Druid who was introduced at the end of Hunted) chapters were fun, but again, it made it hard to get attached to Atticus’ story.

That said, I think the Granuaile story is probably the best part of Shattered, but it would’ve been better if we hadn’t taken off to see what Atticus was up to, or laughing at Owen trying to figure out how to make his way in the 21st Century. Laksha Kulasekaran calls and asks her for help, so Granuaile and the hounds are off to India for an adventure. One that pushes Granuaile to the edge of her abilities, and to her emotional breaking point — so much so that you wonder why Atticus isn’t around. Not that she’s not capable on her own, a strong, independent woman and all that — but because she’s a rookie druid and could really use her mentor’s guidance — and as the guy who loves her, he should’ve been there to support her in this trial. Along the way, she learns a bit more about magic in general, and meets some supernatural creatures that are about as odd and fun as you could ask. If the whole novel had been this story, I’d have loved it. But the power and impact of it were dented.

While Granuaile is running around Asia, Atticus is looking into who exactly is up to no good in Tír na nÓg, stirring up trouble (rebellion?) amongst the Tuatha de Danann, trying to take out our favorite Druid and generally causing all sorts of trouble. As investigations go — it was pretty weak, and pretty easy for Atticus to suss out what’s going on. What he found on the other hand — well, that was pretty big. And Hearne capped it off with a big ol’ Celtic can of whoop-ass. It wasn’t quite Hammered‘s level of insane fight scenes, but it was close. And (tiny spoiler) neither side came out unscathed.

What exactly the ramifications of this for the Tuatha de Dannan, the druids, and the various and sundry deities we’ve met (and probably will meet)? Well, obviously, we’ll have to wait and see — but it’s going to be big.

Still — and again, sing along with me — take out a lot of the Owen goofiness and Granuaile’s story, devote that space to Atticus’ story — and this is so much better. It’s so frustrating to read something that’s so close to be great, but falters.

Enough complaining, I really did enjoy this book. What positive things can I say? Hardcover! Yay. That’s a sign of success for the series, right? I even got one signed. Doesn’t mean anything to the review, I just like to see that.

I really liked Orlaith, it’s good for Granuaile to have a companion like this. I also appreciated she’s not just a feminine Oberon, but she has a distinct personality and is the proverbial Lady to Oberon’s Tramp. Owen Kennedy is an amusing addition to the cast — and potentially a powerful ally for Atticus and Granuaile as things heat up — and I look forward to something more substantial from him. While she’s not my favorite character, I’m glad to see Laksha hasn’t been abandoned — nor are other folks from earlier in the series (not sure why I’m so protective of this relatively minor spoiler — but it tickled me so to see Atticus deal with ______ at ______ I don’t want ruin it for anyone else).

Oh, and of course — Oberon. Really, for people who’ve read the IDC, that’s enough to say, right? Oberon. Read that and try not to smile.

At the end of the day, when it comes to wise-crackin’, magic-throwin’ dudes, The Iron Druid takes a backseat to almost no one (there is that guy in the Chicago yellow pages . . . ), and this book almost lives up to its predecessors. Any complaints are really just a sign of how good Hearne’s been before this. Bring on IDC #8!!

—–

4 Stars