Sunday, September 9, 2012
Genre: urban fantasy
Pages: 338 (handy Mass-market paperback)
Published: April 2012 by Random House
Recommended for: only those who've read the first three books in the series, but I recommend the Iron Druid books to absolutely any fan of urban fantasy or the paranormal genre
At the start of this fourth book in the series, our hero Atticus O'Sullivan, last living Druid on Earth, has just returned from the realm of Asgard and a mission to kill the Norse god Thor to find that-- as per usual for Atticus-- a whole bunch of gods, goddesses, and mythological characters of various ilk and pantheon would like very much to see him dead. After conscripting his old friend Coyote (of Navajo and other Native American tribal lore) to help him fake his old grand demise, Atticus just wants time to train Granuaile, the former philosophy major/hot-headed lady bartender he took on as his apprentice a few books ago, in the magical arts, to spend some quality hunting time with his Irish wolfhound Oberon, and generally lay low for a decade or so. Unfortunately for Atticus, Coyote has something else in mind: he recruits Atticus to solve a seemingly innocent problem in the local Navajo tribe which turns out to involve defeating a couple of malevolent and nearly invincible local skinwalkers-- scary Western American shapeshifters. Add to that already deadly mix the reemergence of Atticus's vampiric friend and lawyer Leif, a (characteristically violent) vampire political feud, a Navajo hatalii (medicine man) who is more than he seems, and a very foreboding encounter with the Norse goddess of the Norse underworld (appropriately named Hel) and her pet hellhound, and you have, well, another week in the life of Atticus O'Sullivan. You have to wonder how the poor guy gets any downtime, after dealing with a millennium or two of this kind of stuff.
This is the third book in the Iron Druid Chronicles which I've reviewed (somehow I managed to miss the chronological third book, Hammered, but I'll get around to reviewing it sometime.) I remain just extremely impressed and generally delighted by this unconventional and endlessly entertaining fantasy series. Atticus's flashback-stories about his life in various countries and time periods, the modern urban Arizona setting, the eclectic-ness of the mythological people and creatures featured-- and how hilariously they are portrayed in many cases-- is just fantastic. In Hammered (the volume I haven't reviewed yet), Atticus has an encounter with the Virgin Mary as well as of course her peace-loving son, Jesus Christ, a variety of valkyries, and of course the total jerk that is the Norse thunder god Thor. In Tricked, we get to meet somewhat fewer new characters and deities than in the previous books, probably because the ranks of the series' large cast have already swelled with so many great characters.
There is the introduction of Hel and a dastardly hint about a possibly pending apocalypse (but what else is new??) We get much better acquainted with Coyote-- one of my absolute favorites from the earlier books. Coyote definitely lives up to his reputation as a trickster god, but I came to love his distinct way of talking and pulling strings around "behind the scenes"-- oh, and the way he calls Atticus "Mr. Druid". I don't want to dole out a ton of spoilers (it's hard with these books, because I just want to put my favorite of Atticus's quotes and pop culture references in the review and maybe frame them), but all of the running gags with Atticus and Granuaile and Oberon had me chuckling out loud every few pages. (This, by the way, is not such good behavior to be exhibiting-- I'm in college and have a roommate now.) Speaking of Atticus's hound Oberon, he featured quite a lot in this book, especially compared to Hammered, where his hilarious commentary, lovable naivety, and penchant for sausages were for the most part much missed. I also enjoyed the (slow but definitely present) progression of Atticus and Granuaile's relationship, which is frequently less master-pupil than Atticus says he would prefer it to be. (But we all know he belongs with Granuaile and Granuaile alone.) Who knows, maybe their romance will take front seat in the next Iron Druid book, Trapped. This fifth book will be released on November 27th, which is soon but barely acceptable-- I need another "fix" of this series very soon. I'd absolutely love to hear from fellow Iron Druid fans or any other readers!!