by Kevin Hearne, fantasy (2011)
Del Rey, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-345-52247-4
Maponus bless Kevin Hearne - he has single-handedly stepped up to the task of dispelling the stereotype that only female authors are capable of creating Mary Sue characters in their urban fantasy stories. Okay, we have already Ed Greenwood living out his pornographic sword and fantasy daydreams through Elminster the Great, but very few people outside the geek circles know who that man is. Besides, Elminster is old while Mr Hearne has come up with a young and hot guy to embody his wildest daydreams.
Imagine a video game where the difficulty level is set to easy, and yet you start off with a very powerful weapon capable of taking out enemies in a few zaps while increasing your armor to the point that your opponents can barely even see you, much less scratch you. How long do you think you can play that game without feeling bored? That's pretty much the situation with Kevin Hearne's Hounded. He equips his male protagonist, Siodhachan Ó Suileabháin or Atticus O'Sullivan as he calls himself in the 21st century, with so much awesome and then have the hero spend the whole book showing off that particular brand of sparkle of his.
Atticus is a 2,100-year old druid who, thanks to his awesome magic, looks 21 and, of course, awesomely hot to the point that even ancient Celtic goddesses can't resist his charms. To add to his charm, he even behaves and speaks like a 21-year old who is self-consciously dropping the occasional archaic phrases here and there to come off as "old world". He has plenty of enemies, including the so-called God of Love, Aenghus Óg, who is still furious that Atticus has in his possession that fellow's awesome sword. In addition to an awesome sword, Atticus has also in his possession an amulet that, among many things, allows him to breathe and swim underwater to rival the sea deities, helps him to detect magic, hides his magic, protects him from even the magical powers of deities, and makes him immune to charm spells from succubi and the like. I won't be surprised if the Amulet Ex Machina is revealed to have more awesome powers in future books. Before I forget, let me mention that Atticus is also a walking encyclopedia of knowledge of magic and stuff - correcting deities is his specialty - in addition to being an awesome spellcaster. Oh, and he is also a superb chemist as he can "whip up compounds the pharmaceutical industry could only dream of". Lest you think he isn't overpowered enough, he is also surrounded by allies at least ten layers thick, allies that include werewolves and vampires and hot goddesses who are secretly hot for his booty. Atticus makes Jesus look like a low-rent hustler. If you put Atticus and Elminster in the same room, the amount of awesome that radiate from them will break so many cosmic laws that existence will end in a spectacular kaboom.
And in this story, the villain spends so much time in the background, sending humans with some magical boosts and lowly minions to go after Atticus. All the more reasons for Atticus to primp and preen while acting as his hound's pimp. By two thirds of the book I am so tired of seeing nothing of significance happening in this story other than Atticus's head swelling to rival the size of Jupiter, and by the last page I really regret buying all three books in this The Iron Druid Chronicles series at once. If the other two books don't find a way to make Atticus's enemies exist at the same level playing field as Atticus, then they will end up like Hounded: a book that seems suspiciously like an exercise in wish-fulfillment. We already have Elminster the Great running around sleeping with goddesses and demon queens alike and solving everything with a wave of his hand - I don't think the galaxy is big enough to accommodate one more Marty Sue character as awesome as this.
The author has a nice sense of humor, so it's really too bad that this story turns out to be nothing more than a thinly-disguised excuse for a Marty Sue hero to posture and show off while swatting at bad guys who offer no challenge at all to his awesomeness. There's no suspense in such a story, and therefore, no reason to get excited.
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