Audiobook Series Review: The Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne

25 04 2014

For my reviews of the first two in this series, click on the images above

Hammered by Kevin Hearne (The Iron Druid Chronicles, Bk, 3)

Read by Luke Daniels

Brilliance Audio

Length: 9 Hrs 30 Min

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Grade: B

Tricked by Kevin Hearne (The Iron Druid Chronicles, Bk. 4)

Read by Luke Daniels

Random House Audio

Length: 10 Hrs 41 Min

Genre:Urban Fantasy

Grade: B+

Trapped by Kevin Hearne (The Iron Druid Chronicles, Bk. 5)

Read by Luke Daniels

Random House Audio

Length: 9 Hrs 2 Min

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Grade: B+

Hunted by Kevin Hearne (The Iron Druid Chronicles, Bk, 6)

Read by Luke Daniels

Random House Audio

Length: 9 Hrs 52 Min

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Grade: A-

People seem to love The Iron Druid series. In fact, they love it so much that upon discovering that someone may be like two… or four books behind in the series, that person’s status as a blogger and perhaps even their masculinity is called into question. As someone who cares greatly about his image as the manliest of all audiobook bloggers, it was my secret shame to be woefully behind in the various adventures of the titular Iron Druid, Atticus and his canine cohort Oberon. Now, I had, some time ago, listened to and enjoyed the first two books of this series. I even reviewed those books pretty positively, so OBVIOUSLY I should have quickly moved on to the rest of the series.

Yet, I didn’t. I got all sorts of distracted by other pretties. Hot new releases, other series, covers with alien crab walkers on it. I said to myself, Hey, you need to get back to that Druidy thing with the funny dog, and I was like, yeah, yeah, yeah… but this book has cyborg robots in love with Unicorns. Maybe after this book about a small boy and his talking chimp who survive global economic chaos through pluck and bad cockney accents.

Basically, there is too many goddam books for me to listen to them all, and dammit, I listen to a lot of frakkin’ books.

I know, excuses, excuses.

Since 2014, so far, has been the year of the audiobook series binge listen, and since I knew that in the relatively near future, due to a change at work, my listening time may decrease, I decided that if I was ever to catch up on this series, I needed to do it now. Hence, the Iron Druid Binge Listen. I have always been a fan of the binge listen. In fact, it’s my favorite kind of binging, since binge eating leads to health issues, and binge drinking eventually leads to me vomiting next to a merry-go-round in a elementary school playground. Yet, I find that certain types of book series, particularly Urban Fantasy and Horror series are well suited to the binge listen.

OK, confession time. Often times when I start the next book in a series, after the required year long wait, I am totally lost. I don’t know if it’s just the limit of my brains, or the affects of reading 150-200 books a year, but I tend to lose much of the details of a book over time. Even with my most favorite series ever there are characters who I know I should know, and foreshadowing events I should absolutely remember, but instead the details take a long time coming. More than once, I will get like two thirds of the way into a book, and have an “ah ha” moment saying, “Holy shit, that’s who that dude is.” I think this is one of the reasons I’m hesitant about epic fantasy, since by the time book 3 comes out I forgot who 758 of the 760 perspective characters where. This, my friends, is why Cthulhu created the series binge listen.

So, I started the binge listen with Hammered, book 3 of the series. Honestly, throughout most of Hammered, I was kinda “ho… hummm…. this is nice.” I definitively was suffering some of the dissonance of jumping back into the story, and the core part that always stuck out to me in this series was the relationship between Atticus and Oberon, which wasn’t as prevalent in Hammered. It seemed to me that Hammered was that essential book in every Urban Fantasy series where the protagonist goes off to do something incredibly stupid, which they know is stupid, and everyone they trust tells them it’s stupid but they continue to do it for some sort of arbitrary “pride” or “honor” reason and you the reader just knows it’s basically going to unleash the shit storm that they will be dealing with in upcoming books. You know you have to get through the “protagonist acting like a complete nit” book, in order to get to the more awesome “protagonist dealing with the shit storm that acting like a nit unleashed” books. There were two scenes that made Hammered worth it. Atticus’s interaction with Jesus, and the “bonding” sequence where each of the questers told their stories. So while I was less than thrilled with Hammered, I believed there was good things to come.

Thank God I was right!

After the events of Hammered, Atticus has a lot on his plate. Gods want to kill him, Religious whackjobs still don’t trust him, he has an apprentice to train, and Oberon still needs sausages. Tricked benefited a lot from a scenery change, and a whole new mythology to explore. I often cringe when books bring in Native American mythology, because it often comes off as derivative, but Hearne has a way of exploring mythology in creative ways while not diminishing the traditions. Tricked was a fun change of pace, and gave the characters a bit of a breather before the chaos begins, well, if you can consider dealing with evil skinwalkers a breather.

I was both surprised and relieved with the 12 year time jump in Trapped. When Atticus discussed the prophesy of the word burning in 13 years, I was like “Shit, now Hearne is going to write 12 novels each spanned out over a year until we get to the global apocalypse we all are waiting for. WHY CAN’T I HAVE MY WORLD BURING NOW!!!!” Now, maybe he still plans on string out 12 more novels, but at least Ragnarok is looming closer and closer, and this absolutely builds the tension. I really, really enjoyed both Trapped and Hunted. First off, I love that Hearne ended the sexual tension between Atticus and Granuaile with a choice, and not some clumsy fumbling moment where they both finally give into their long repressed passions. I love the interplay between Atticus and the various Gods. Hearne never gives into the Hollywood dulling of the natures of the gods but embraces their utter despicableness. Hunted is a brilliant otherworldly chase novel, that cleverly included some new perspectives, and lots of cool twists and turns that kept me enthralled until the end.

Yet, everyone, let’s be honest. We’d all probably like a Iron Druid novel if the plot was an unadventurous trip to the Laundromat, as long as their were plenty of interactions between Atticus and his hound Oberon. Sure, life and death struggles, battles with the gods, hot druid sex are all fine and good, but without Oberon bartering for sausages and bitches, what’s the point? Oberon makes this more than just another Urban Fantasy series. He imbibes it with soul, acting as Atticus’ insatiable moral compass. I mean, he’s a friggin’ dog and he’s awesome. What else do you want?

Now, I like to keep my personal feelings about a performer out of my evaluations of their performances, so I will not let my jealousy of the fact the ladies swoon at the mere mention of Luke Daniels name influence my thoughts on that rotten bastards narration of The Iron Druid Chronicles. I have listened to Daniel’s narrate a lot of thrillers, mysteries, and contemporary science fiction novels, and I am always impressed with his ability to tell a good story. He handles characters well, making each one distinct and creating dialogue that feels natural. Yet, I often forget just how wide of a range he truly has. Books like The Iron Druid Chronicles and Martin’s shared world anthology Wild Cards show that Daniels can take on any character, no matter what sex, nationality, genetic mutation, planet of origin, or any other goddam weirdo thing a screwed up author throws at him with ease. I honestly at times thought, “Now, Kevin Hearne is just fucking with him, right?” with some of the voices he had to pull off, but pull them off he did. I truly can’t imagine experiencing this series in any other manner besides audio without a significant decrease in awesomeness, and really, people, we want more awesomeness, not less. So get with it. So, if you have yet to listen to this series, maybe you too should partake in an Iron Druid binge listen.





Audiobook Review: Hexed by Kevin Hearne

5 09 2012

Hexed by Kevin Hearne (The Iron Druid Chronicles, Bk. 2)

Read by Luke Daniels

Brilliance Audio

Length: 8 Hrs 52 Min

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Quick Thoughts: Hexed is filled with lots of action, some hair raising adventure and a whole lot of humor, while telling a heck of a good story. While Hexed has a strong self contained story, Hearne teases his readers with things to come, creating excitement for the series. Hearne knows how to please his audience, and in Hexed he does it in spades.

Grade: A-

Sometimes I think I am a little strange. The past month has thrown a lot of obstacles in my way, and I have definitely that these obstacles have affected my reading life. The other day, I was looking for something light, fun and upbeat. Something that wouldn’t match the mood I was in, which was a little less than pleasant. I decided to listen to the second book in a series I had only recently discovered, Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid series. I actually discovered this series through a fellow blogger who named the series one of the most humorous reads of 2011. Reading the first novel of the series, Hounded, I had to agree that it was extremely fun and full of laugh out loud moments. Its protagonist, a 2000 year old Druid, living in modern America was just the right amount of snarky and irreverent for me. So, I decided to take on the second novel, Hexed as my light hearted choice to life me out of the doldrums. Then I thought about it. The first novel put the hero in a life and death struggle against a god. That, of course, is a load of laughs. The second novel has our Druid battling evil witches who were once aligned with the Nazis. Along the way he takes on evil nymphs, sadistic gods, flesh eating demons, some religious fanatics, and his demented nosy neighbor who may also be a gun runner. This is what I choose for light hearted.

After his victory in Hounded, everyone seems to wants something from Atticus O’Sullivan. The local witches want a peace accord. His lawyer wants his to lead a mission into Asgard to take out Thor. Oberon, his loyal Irish Wolfhound, wants some sausages. All Atticus wants is to be left alone in his little corner of Tempe, Arizona. Yet, as he finds himself besieged by demons, seductive Bacchants, and a coven of witches desiring his death, Atticus must call in favors and make promises in order to keep the world safe. The second book of this series picks up right where Hearne left off, and keeps the same non-stop pace and light hearted feel while dealing with some deadly threats. The strength of this series is the highly likeable main character, and his relationship with his dog Oberon. I really enjoyed what Hearne did with this novel. He created a strong central story, centered on an Invasion of witches trying to kill Atticus and the local witch coven he recently came to terms with. Yet, Hearne’s also continues to build the mythology of the series, setting up interesting subplots to be explored in future installments. This allows the reader to have a good time within the walls of this tale, while still getting excited about things to come. It is really expertly done. I also like that Hearne allowed us to get more insight into his main character. Despite Atticus’s jocularity, we got to see the intense side of him as well. Hexed is filled with lots of action, some hair raising adventure and a whole lot of humor, while telling a heck of a good story. While Hexed has a strong self contained story, Hearne teases his readers with things to come, creating excitement for the series. Hearne knows how to please his audience, and in Hexed he does it in spades.

Now, I have listened to a bunch of Luke Daniel’s narrations, and I have to say, it’s a close toss up between this series and the Wildcards shared world anthologies for my favorite of his work. What may actually give The Iron Druid series the edge is simply how much fun you can tell the narrator is having with the material. Sometimes in audiobooks, you can just feel the narrator trying to make the material work for the listener, but in this series, Daniels just lets it all rip, because, he knows he can. It’s no secret that Oberon, the dog, is the true star of the series, and anyone listening can just tell how much Daniels is enjoying himself bringing this character to life. Daniels pacing is crisp here, allowing the text to come alive as the author intended. The action comes alive in vivid clarity as Daniel’s navigates Atticus through the slew of badies that Hearne throws in his way. This series is simply a lot of fun to listen to and is quickly becoming one of my favorite Urban Fantasy series. 





Audiobook Review: Hounded by Kevin Hearne

12 01 2012

Hounded by Kevin Hearne (The Iron Druid Series, Bk 1)

Read by Luke Daniels

Brilliance Audio

Length: 8 Hrs 11 Min

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Quick Thoughts: Hounded is the first novel in a new urban fantasy series that I know I will be anxiously awaiting each edition. Kevin Hearne has created an extremely engaging group of characters and Hounded, with its adventure, camaraderie and humor, is simply enjoyable on so many levels.

Grade: A-

A recent conversation on Twitter forced me to think a bit about what I like about Urban Fantasy. I am only a relatively recent convert to Urban Fantasy, although for the life of me I don’t know why it took me so long. I have never been a huge high fantasy fan. I prefer most of my fantasy to have some sort of grounding in reality. This is one of the reasons I’ve always liked portal fantasy. I can deal with unicorns, elves and dragons, as long as there is a relatively modern earthborn human character to experience it along with. Even in works of Epic Fantasy like Martin or Rothfuss, I can deal because they write highly relatable characters despite being from alternate created worlds. Urban Fantasy would seem be ideal for me, since it mostly a mesh of our reality with a magical one. I am not someone with a strong background in non-Biblical mythology, especially with things The Fae. This is why experiencing these worlds with someone who is well versed in such mythology, along with the ability to text message and order coffee from Starbucks is important for me. Yet, one thing I discovered, like police/detective shows on TV, Urban Fantasy, for me at least, live and dies on the strength of its main character. If the main character interests me, the series probably will. In fact, with one certain popular series, I enjoy the character so much, it’s almost as if the actually storylines are moot. So, anytime I start a new Urban Fantasy Series, I know what I am looking for.

I almost didn’t pick up Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid series, because, well, I pictured a series about some Druid. Remember, I’m the guy who couldn’t pick a Druid out of a lineup, even if the other participants were Ethiopian Eunuchs. I imagined that our main Druidic character would be some stodgy wizardy type guy who spoke like he was a reject from the King James Version of the Bible. Yet, Hounded, the first novel of the Iron Druid series not only made a few end of the year lists, but also made one bloggers funniest genre titles list. So, of course, I needed to check out exactly what a funny Druid is.  I’m glad I did. I found Hounded, particularly due to its main character, Atticus O’Sullivan, to be one of the more engaging Urban Fantasy experiences I have ever had. Despite being 21 centuries old, Atticus is the furthest from the stoic curmudgeon I expected. Atticus, in fact, had more of an old school nerd-chic about him. He talks in a way that is just enough out of place, that it’s endearing without being so out of time that the character just seems weird. To make matters even better Atticus best friend, is Oberon, an Irish Wolfhound whose telepathic conversations with Atticus serves as an endearing Greek Chorus during much of the action of the novel. As I said, for me, Urban Fantasy is almost all about the characters, and Hearne has a winner here, yet, he also has a quite compelling plot that while full of history and mythology, is quite easy for a novice such as myself to follow. Hounded is the first novel in a new urban fantasy series that I know I will be anxiously awaiting each edition. Kevin Hearne has created an extremely engaging group of characters and Hounded, with its adventure, camaraderie and humor, is simply enjoyable on so many levels.

It seems that every time I scan the new releases, Luke Daniels is being cast in an audiobook that I just have to listen to. His professionalism and wonderful voice makes his a great choice, especially for novels that feature a unique first person perspective. Hounded must have been a delight for him to record, due to its many unique characters, foremost among these is, of course, Oberon. Listeners can just tell by Daniels performance how much fun he was having bringing the hound’s voice to life. Daniels reading of Hounded made it sound as if it was written to be read aloud. I enjoyed listening to Hounded so much, I was tempted to put aside the other titles I had planned out, and just take in the entire series in one fell swoop. I did resist… barely. Just don’t be surprised to see reviews of Hexed and Hammered in the near future.