Friday, March 28, 2014

Hunted (The Iron Druid Chronicles #6)

I'm a big fan of Kevin Hearne's Iron Druid Chronicles. In my Quest for Male Protagonist Urban Fantasy, this was one series that I picked up and instantly latched on to, and have been reading pretty devoutly ever since (though this review has been a long while coming). Atticus is a sassy, witty, protagonist with a fantastic supporting cast, and Hearne does really fun and unique things with mythology and mythological characters, which makes the world of the books both really fun to explore and amusingly familiar if you know your mythology. On the whole, the books are a lot more lighthearted than others I've read in the genre, and Oberon in particular just cracks me up whenever he opens his mouth. And, really: if you can get me to like a book with a talking dog, you've accomplished something.
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All that said, Hunted is a bit of a weird addition to the series. It picks up immediately where the epilogue of the previous book (Trapped) leaves off, which was a bit disorienting because of the real-life time gap between the two (both between publication dates and my reading of them). From there, the book takes off at a blistering pace, as Atticus and Granuaile spend the whole book sprinting through Europe while being pursued by some very angry gods. The pace of the book doesn't give you a ton of room to settle back into the series or warm back up to the characters, and for the first 100ish pages everything feels very frantic in a way that's not entirely pleasant. This is also the first book written in part from Granuaile's perspective. Initially, that was pretty jarring - she's a very different character from Atticus, and while I think Hearne captures the inside of her head very well, it makes for a very abrupt and dramatic change from the narrative tone of the previous five books. Shifting back and forth between them was especially weird, but thankfully her voice started to grow on me more and more as the book went on.

In fact, once I got past the aforementioned 100ish page mark, I really started getting into it - the breakneck pace of the book, Granuaile's head space - and felt like I'd gotten back to the roots of the series: that perfect combination of banter, mythos, and very well written action. Though it took me a while to get into the swing of things, I was ultimately really happy to be back. As I said before, the entire supporting cast is lovely, the baddies are fun to hate, and Hearne's fantastic sense of humor permeates the entire book, even when things get pretty grim. 

There's a lot more about this book I wish I could talk about, but not much more I can say without spoiling things. Ironically, one thing I can mention without spoilage is the ending: like Trapped, Hunted ends on a note that gets us geared up for the next book. It certainly whetted my appetite for more (though Shattered won't be out until June 2014), but I'm not sure how I feel about it as a strategy, especially if the next book starts, like this one did, right where the epilogue leaves off. While it makes me want to read more, it also makes it harder to keep up with the continuity of the books for people who read one of them a year right when they come out, and a bit harder to get settled in to the new books, whether you've read the previous ones or not. 

I also want to mention that I only discovered once I got to the end of this book (which includes the short story Two Ravens and One Crow) that there are plot-important short stories that happen in between many of the books. That explained why I felt, at times, like I was missing or not remembering some of the (albeit minor) details that got brought up throughout the book. It certainly didn't ruin the story, but it left me feeling a bit disoriented at times, so if you're planning on reading the series straight through, it's worth keeping an eye out for the in between bits to make sure you read everything in the intended order.

Which I suppose is my final recommendation about this series: Read it. My goodness, read it. But read it back to back, and in the right order!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Hooray For Spring!

Despite the fact that there have been crazed flurries of snow swirling outside my window since I woke up this morning, I think I'm ready to call it spring. The life-altering effects of Daylight Savings Time and the spring equinox took a little while to kick in, but kick in they have, leaving me willing to ignore the lingering chill in the air and simply appreciate the flood of sunlight streaming into my office.

It took me somewhere near a decade after leaving California to realize that I have something of a Seasonal Thing, probably because I went home every winter to soak up some sun for as long as I was in college, and spent the few years after either back in CA or traveling through similarly warm climates. But two solid years and two long winters here in the frozen north, and sho'nuff, Seasonal Thing. It's meant an outrageously frustrating block to my productivity over the last few months, which has just as suddenly evaporated in the last week or so. I've done more editing and revision in the last three days than I have in the last three months, and god does it feel good to be stretching those brain muscles again.

I actually read an article written by another writer about her Seasonal Writing Disorder that was particularly reassuring. This past fall was one of the most productive writing seasons for me ever, period, and having it abruptly halt almost as soon as December hit, for the second year in a row, was devastating. It's hard not to feel like something has gotten broken, or to let that feeling make the Seasonal Thing worse, but as I'm entering this, my second real spring here, I'm starting to get a handle on the way my brain works, in particular the cycles of my productivity. I'm hoping that knowing that the inspiration and ability will come back as the seasons change will make it a little easier to take when they go away next winter. Or, you know, that we move somewhere with sunshine.

For now, I'm getting ready to make one last big editorial push on The Book so I can tackle the second half of The Sequel in April. With any luck, I'll have both done and polished before I get smacked in the face with more SAD. Also, I have a bountiful backlog of books to review, but no promises. I have editing to do!