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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

“Hexed” by Kevin Hearne (Reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

Order “HexedHERE
Listen To A Sample HERE (MP3)
Read Fantasy Book Critic’s Review of “Hounded
Read Fantasy Book Critic’s Interview with Kevin Hearne

AUTHOR INFORMATION:  Kevin Hearne was born and brought up in Flagstaff, Arizona. He earned his degree in English literature from Northern Arizona University and then got a job as a teacher in California. After three years, he returned to his native state and got a job in Tempe, Arizona. Kevin is a self-confessed comic book fan and collector. He also collects and paints miniature dwarves in his free time. He currently lives with his family in Tempe, Arizona.

PLOT SUMMARY: Atticus O’Sullivan, last of the Druids, doesn’t care much for witches. Still, he’s about to “make nice” with the local coven by signing a mutually beneficial non-aggression treaty—when suddenly the witch population in modern day Tempe, Arizona, quadruples overnight. The new girls are not just bad, they’re badasses with a dark history on the German side of WWII.

With a fallen angel feasting on local high school students, a horde of Bacchants blowing in from Vegas with their special brand of deadly decadence, and a dangerously sexy Celtic goddess of fire vying for his attention, Atticus is having trouble scheduling the witch-hunt. But aided by his magical sword, his neighbor’s rocket-propelled grenade launcher, and his vampire attorney Lief, Atticus is ready to sweep the town and show the witchy women they picked the wrong Druid to hex...

CLASSIFICATION: Like its predecessor, Hexed is an urban fantasy novel in the vein of The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher and K.A. Stewart’s Jesse James Dawson series, and features an exciting mix of comedy, action and mythology.

FORMAT/INFO: Hexed is 320 pages long divided over twenty-five numbered chapters and an Epilogue. Also includes a Pronunciation guide for all the names and phrases mentioned in the book and an excerpt from the sequel, Hammered. Narration is in the first-person, exclusively via Atticus O’Sullivan. Hexed is the second book in the Iron Druid Chronicles after Hounded. While the plot is self-contained, there are a lot of references to Hounded, so it would not be advisable to jump into the series with this book.

June 7, 2011 marks the North Amercian Mass Markert Paperback publication of Hexed via Del Rey. Cover art is provided by Gene Mollica.

ANALYSIS: Kevin Hearne’s Hounded completely justified its hype and was a favourite of mine amongst this year’s Urban Fantasy debuts. Not only did it liven up the subgenre’s landscape, but it also announced Kevin Hearne as an author to watch. Now before I continue, just a warning: MILD SPOILERS are ahead...

Now for those who have read & enjoyed Hounded, you’ll be happy to hear that Hexed features more of the same and then some. Starting out, the book finds Atticus relaxing after his victory over Aenghus Og, which finally freed him from his millennia-long vendetta. Because of his actions though, Atticus is flooded with offers by various pantheons to become a Godslayer for them and eradicate other deities. At the same time, LiefAtticus’ lawyer/sparring partner/vampire—wants him to help settle his debt to Thor, while the Polish witch coven of Radomila is interested in signing a non-aggression pact. Complicating matters even further is a demon last seen in the climax of Hounded; a hell minion who has been terrorizing a local school, which requires aid from the Irish widow Katie MacDonagh; a promise to Morrigan given in the previous book which puts Atticus in a difficult situation with the Tuatha Dé Danann; a group of German witches who are muscling in on the Polish coven and also targeting Atticus, while aided by Bacchants or Maenads from Las Vegas; and protecting his druid initiate, Granuaile MacTiernan.

As you can see, a lot is  happening in Hexed, as the book continues to develop events and characters from its predecessor, while planting seeds for the next sequel and beyond. Based on what happens in Hexed, it’s obvious that Kevin Hearne is planning some big things for the rest of the series—which is now planned for six volumes—as Atticus is forced to become a weapon/person that he doesn’t want to be, which was a major plus for me to read about. In particular, I can’t wait to see Atticus, Lief and other super-powered folk take on a certain Norse thunder god. Another thing I liked about the story was the way Atticus had to coax, cajole and bargain favors in order to get everything under control.

Writing-wise, prose is once again very polished and the action non-stop, while the banter between Oberon & Atticus continues to fuel the novel’s comedic moments and making the non-action parts that much more enjoyable. Then there’s Atticus who remains an engaging narrator, which is noteworthy because he easily could have come off as a pompous protagonist. Instead, due to the author’s skill, Atticus is an intelligent, semi-rogue avant gardist with a wee bit of a chip on his shoulder, which he’s entitled to. Atticus is also very aware of his long life and strives that much harder to make it smoother for himself and those he calls his friends. Speaking of which, Granuaile MacTiernan has been a minor character in the series so far, but I believe her role will grow in future volumes, while Katie MacDonagh has an interesting friendship with Atticus that I hope will be revealed in greater detail in the next chapter of the series. Lastly, there is a generous helping of Shakespeare in the novel which adds to the book’s overall fun quotient.

Negatively, I remarked that Kevin Hearne’s debut was a bit too PG-13 and formulaic, but in Hexed, the author seems to be heading in a darker direction as there are quite a few deaths. And while the book’s plot remains familiar to urban fantasy veterans, Kevin Hearne is trying to carve his own path by precipitating events that readers would not normally see until much later in a series. So apart from some familiar elements within the story, I have no other complaints about the book.

CONCLUSION: Hexed is an excellent sophomore effort by Kevin Hearne who is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. In short, I highly recommend picking up the Iron Druid Chronicles, which just might make you forget about other urban fantasy novels...

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