Amidst the regular flow of disappointment that is modern life, some pretty cool stuff happened in 2011. Ashley and I got to see Gang of Four and Arctic Monkeys; we had a fantastic beach vacation with some of the coolest people in the world; Moogfest gave us an even more amazing lineup than the previous year; and three fun and fast-paced books by new Urban Fantasy author Kevin Hearne appeared on bookshelves.
Hounded, Hexed, and Hammered are the first three books in the Iron Druid Chronicles. They involve Atticus O’Sullivan, the last living Druid who has survived over two thousand years through his special Druidic abilities and (not always) careful living. Atticus has an Irish wolfhound, Oberon, with whom he communicates telepathically and playfully. There’s a new wiki that can explain more, but I recommend you just read the books. Do it.
From the get-go, people were comparing the Iron Druid Chronicles to Jim Butcher and the Dresden Files. Because they feature male protagonists who work magic, I guess. There is some similarity in style, too, but Hearne is more comfortable letting things get a little silly, so there’s more humor in his series. There was, anyway. With books four and five, Tricked and Trapped respectively, the tone shifts toward seriousness. Still plenty of very funny lines, though, and Oberon especially provides terrific comic relief.
Personally, I find the Iron Druid Chronicles to have more in common with Neil Gaiman’s American Gods universe. With more humor. And more action. And a more direct narrative. So maybe they really are only akin to American Gods because of all the dieties and mythological beings doing things in our contemporary world. Know what though? The Iron Druid books are really what I secretly hoped American Gods would have been.
Say what you will about judging books by their covers, but it was seeing the outstanding covers of Hounded, Hexed, and Hammered side by side on display that caught my attention. They looked like something special. They certainly were.
Kevin Hearne is pretty much the kind of writer I would like to be. Not only for his boyish (though bearded) good looks, nor for the impressive brogue he can switch on instantly, but for three particular reasons: he’s smart, he’s prolific, and he’s a totally nice guy.
He produces completely engaging novels and short stories at an unexpected pace, giving his readers a little something to enjoy every few months. That’s smart and prolific. The dialogue in the books is clever. The mythology is well-researched and thoroughly developed, with enough explained to the reader to make everything believable. The characters and their relationships are also well-formed and delightful. Smart, smart, smart.
Mr. Hearne shares A LOT with his fans through his blog and social media. He posts updates on his writing, inside perspectives on getting published, and simply goofy thoughts and memes. He actually responds to fans. Online, his personality is always positive. I was lucky to have Mr. Hearne include Charlotte on his summer book tour, which he arranged and paid for on his own. He was exceedingly kind in person. He patiently answered all sorts of questions and frankly explained the work that went in to writing and publishing his books. He was funny, quick, grateful, and gracious. Totally nice.
Earlier I made my case preferring his work to others; allow me to balance the scales a little. The IDC are not as literary as Neil Gaiman’s books. They sure are entertaining, though. Don’t let anything here mislead you to believe these are silly stories. Obviously a lot of care goes into crafting the books and the characters. Perhaps it is his experience as a teacher, but there is a lot to be learned from his books, too, and not only about the various pantheons and cultures. I find a moral or two or at least some applicable wisdom in each of the Iron Druid books. That’s smart, prolific, AND nice.
Truth is, it was while reading the first three Iron Druid books that I decided to get serious and write a novel. I’d been working on an idea for a couple of years, and the Iron Druid Chronicles proved to me a UF series could successfully have the mix of humor, action, emotion and history I wanted to include. Kevin Hearne continues to be an inspiration, and I thank him for it.