Sunday, May 6, 2012

Review: "Tricked: The Iron Druid Chronicles" by Kevin Hearne

If you're not familiar with Kevin Hearne's "Iron Druid" series, you should (but don't necessarily have to) read "Hounded," "Hexed" and"Hammered" before you tackle "Tricked."
After the cataclysmic events of "Hammered," it's not surprising that Book 4 starts off with Atticus wrapping up some unfinished business. With a hand from Coyote, the Navajo trickster god, Atticus manages to get the vengeful thunder gods off his back. That comes at a cost, of course; in exchange for dying in Atticus' place, Coyote asks Atticus to help him create a gold mine in the Colorado desert. Atticus is less than pleased when he finds out that to do so, he'll have to help Coyote's team rid the area of skinwalkers. Problem is, they have a power that's completely alien to his own, and he's not sure how to deal with it:

"If I wanted to work up something to ward specifically against a skinwalker, I'd have to confront it first and see the pattern of it in the magical spectrum. General wards against magic from another plane may or may not work. And that's the problem with wards, Granuaile." I figured I might as well embrace the teachable moment. "You can't ward against everything, and sometimes the bad guys will win through or around it despite your best efforts."

We've more or less been introduced to Atticus' capabilities at this point, but the Navajo background and Granuaile's training as a druid lets Hearne slip in more back story and illustrate the limitations druids face, as above. That — plus the loss of the god-killing sword, Fragarach, and the way he's stumped by the skinwalkers — is a handy way of keeping Atticus from seeming invincible. After all, he's killed a slew of gods at this point in the series. It keeps the suspense alive.

The events of Book 3 meant Atticus, apprentice Granuaile and Oberon have to find a new home, so a decent part of "Tricked" is spent clearing up loose ends from their old lives — getting new identities, new bank accounts, new cover stories, etc. — and answering a few leftover questions. We find out whether Leif survived his injuries at the hand of Thor, the Morrigan makes an appearance, and we even get an update (so to speak) on what happened to the Widow MacDonagh. Happily, Hearne takes care of those details without allowing the story to drag or to retread too much old ground.

Book 5 looks to take place years in the future, after Granuaile's training is all but complete, which should give the series a fresh starting point. Judging by the end of "Tricked," it's going to be good.

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