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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

“Hammered” by Kevin Hearne w/Bonus Review of “A Test of Mettle” (Reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

Order “Hammered” HERE
Listen to A Sample HERE (MP3)
Read Fantasy Book Critic’s Review of “Hounded
Read Fantasy Book Critic’s Review of “Hexed” 
Read Fantasy Book Critic’s Interview with Kevin Hearne

AUTHOR INFORMATION:  Kevin Hearne graduated from Northern Arizona University with a degree in English literature and currently teaches high school English. 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 Arizona and is the author of The Iron Druid Chronicles.

OFFICIAL PLOT SUMMARY: Thor, the Norse god of thunder, is worse than a blowhard and a bully—he’s ruined countless lives and killed scores of innocents. After centuries, Viking vampire Leif Helgarson is ready to get his vengeance, and he’s asked his friend Atticus O’Sullivan, the last of the Druids, to help take down this Norse nightmare.

One survival strategy has worked for Atticus for more than two thousand years: stay away from the guy with the lightning bolts. Plus things are heating up in his home base  of Tempe, Arizona. There’s a vampire turf war brewing, and Russian demon hunters who call themselves the Hammers of God are running rampant. Despite multiple warnings and portents of dire consequences, Atticus and Leif journey to the Norse plane of Asgard, where they team up with a werewolf, a sorcerer, and an army of frost giants for an epic showdown against vicious Valkyries, angry Norse gods, and the hammer-wielding Thunder Thug himself...

CLASSIFICATION: Like its predecessors, Hammered 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: Hammered is 336 pages long divided over twenty-eight numbered chapters and an Epilogue. Also includes a Pronunciation guide for all the names and phrases mentioned in the book, a map of Asgard, and excerpts from the previous books, Hounded & Hexed. Narration is in the first-person, mostly via Atticus O’Sullivan. Hammered also features five solo first-person POV chapters from five different individuals. Hammered is the third book in The Iron Druid Chronicles after Hounded and Hexed. It would be extremely ill advised to jump into the series with this book as the plot has a lot of references to the past events portrayed in the preceding two titles.

July 5, 2011 marked the North Amercian Mass Markert Paperback publication of Hammered via Del Rey. Cover art is provided by Gene Mollica. The e-book version of Hammered includes a bonus short story called “A Test of Mettle” featuring Granuaile MacTiernan.

ANALYSIS: With Hounded & Hexed, Kevin Hearne has pretty much established himself as one of urban fantasy’s best new voices. Not surprisingly, expectations were sky-high for Hammered, the third volume of The Iron Druid Chronicles.

Hammered begins with Atticus O’Sullivan undertaking a reconnaissance mission in Asgard. The plan is to retrieve a golden apple that would cancel his debt with the Indian witch Laksha, while also relieving Thor of his power and godhood. Unfortunately, like many of his past outings, the mission doesn’t go as planned and Atticus ends up making things worse. His plan botched, Atticus returns to Arizona to settle some business before dealing with Thor. This involves Atticus’ Third Eye bookstore and Granuaile MacTiernan, the latter of which is further explored in the short story, “A Test of Mettle”. The book also features the return of the Jewish demon hunters from Hexed as well as the appearance of someone who will surprise many readers. Meanwhile, joining Atticus in his quest against Thor is Lief, Gunnar and three other very powerful individuals, thus setting the stage for Hammered...

Like its predecessors, Hammered features a liberal does of humor, which is one of the most consistently fun factors in The Iron Druid Chronicles, with the Irish wolfhound Oberon once again stealing most of the show with lines like “Anyplace is good so long as there’s sausage and bitches”, “Oh look it’s a dead guy and a wet dog”, and “Pai Mei’s probably on Facebook right now, look him up.” Despite the humor, The Iron Druid Chronicles has progressively become darker with each volume with Hammered the darkest book yet. The author never descends to all-out gore in Hammered, but there is lots of violence and death, tragic histories, depressing futures, and a more overall serious tone. Characterization meanwhile, remains superb as ever with Atticus leading the way. This time however, Magnus & Lief get to share center stage with Atticus, while five chapters from the POVs of five different characters lets readers see what others think about Thor, which was very rewarding. Story-wise, Hammered is the most epic and satisfying volume yet in The Iron Druid Chronicles, but the ending will leave readers salivating for the fourth volume, Tricked.

Negatively, nearly every book possesses some element that will rankle the reader. For me, the issues in Hounded and Hexed were fairly minor, but in Hammered, they are non-existent.

CONCLUSION: The Iron Druid Chronicles has been receiving praise all over the blogosphere. Praise that is richly deserved considering the series’s memorable characters, entertaining humor, and surprising, action-packed story. As impressive as the series has been though, Kevin Hearne takes The Iron Druid Chronicles to a whole new level with the excellent Hammered...

BONUS REVIEW – “A Test Of Mettle”:

A Test Of Mettle is featured in the e-book version of Hammered. The short story is about 9-10 pages long and occurs side-by-side with the latter half of Hammered. A Test of Mettle is narrated in the first-person by Granuaile MacTiernan, who must perform a task set to her by an elemental, while overcoming the expectations of the pantheon to which her new status is associated with. Accompanying Granuaile on her task is Oberon.

A Test Of Mettle reveals a small, but significant part of Granuaile’s past which I believe might factor in future volumes. The pace of the story is rather fast and it was good to see Kevin give Granuaile a narrative voice distinctive from Atticus’s. The short story also reveals a bit about a certain pantheon, which happens to establish Atticus’s views of that pantheon from the earlier books. Overall, I thought A Test Of Mettle was a nice addition to Hammered, making an already great book even better...


tmastgrave said...

Thor as a badguy...interesting plot.

The Reader said...


It does make for fun reading as Kevin Hearne's Thor is radically different than the Marvel one or the one wheich we have read about in Noorse mythology.


amayesd said...

I do not usually read fantasy, but I read the back panel when my husband brought Hounded home, and decided it was worth my time. Was it ever. I read all 3 books in 5 days and am anxiously awaiting Tricked in
April. Such fun reading. So clever. My new favorite author. Seems like a nice guy too. Actually replies to my tweets! Read these books!

Bastard said...

Very fun series so far, looking forward to what comes next. In level of stage setter, it reminds me of Dresden's Grave Peril which were I thought the Dresden series really took off.

Got to find myself that short story.

The Reader said...

@ Amayesd

Kevin's a great dude, hopefully TRICKED will continue being in the same awesome vein as the earlier IDC books.

@ B.

Yeah Grave Peril really launched the Dresden files, funnily that was the first book I read and when I read the earlier 2, I kinda felt they weren't up to the same level as GP, but from GP onwards the books continued their upswing.


raidercows said...

Although I like to finish reading what I start I some times struggle with this writer. What is a good concept gets trampled with obvious jokes and frankly stupid commentary from a dog. Quite honestly I'm only treading water with this story line until another writer releases his next book.

The Reader said...

@ Raidercows

If that's how you feel with Hammered, then the series might not be such a good fit for you. I loved Hammered & I've felt the books coming after it (4,5 & 6) haven't been able to touch the highs set by it.


PS: Which writer are you referring to?


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