Rec a Series is a monthly post highlighting one of my favorite series, past or present. I’m a sucker for stories that meddle with history. I’m really a sucker for those that play around with mythology. When I stumbled across one that not only plays with one myth but with every single one imaginable, I knew I’d found a favorite. Having a hilariously pervy hound doesn’t hurt, either.
The Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne
The Iron Druid series focuses on one Atticus O’Sullivan (aka Siodhachan O Suileabhain), a two-thousand-year-old druid who is the last of his kind. He avoided the systematic slaughter by trickery, a bit of under-handedness, and a deal with the Morrigan. Yup, the Morrigan, the battle crow, the escorter-of-the-dead for those who believed in the Irish pantheon. With this deal, a bit of magic that’s kept him alive and young looking, and Fragarach—a magical sword—Atticus has stayed one step ahead of the fae and Aenghus Óg for centuries. Until it all goes to hell in a handbasket.
The series starts out with Hounded. With a wary eye looking over his shoulder, Atticus keeps a low profile running a New Age occult/tea shop in Tempe, Arizona. The area suits him due to the marked lack of materials needed for the fae to enter this plane from the Otherworld, the home plane of the Tuatha Dé Danann. His legal affairs are maintained by a law firm run by the alpha of the local werewolf pack, which also employs a vampire who controls that part of the world. He runs his shop, helps out the Widow MacDonagh, and trains his hound, Oberon, with whom he has a mental connection enabling them to talk to each other.
While Atticus is clearly the lead protagonist of the series, Oberon is the star. He’s hilariously naïve and wise in his outlook on life, seeing things from a dog’s point of view. His great loves are sausage, gravy, poodles, and Atticus…and possibly in that order. He’s more than comic relief, however. Oberon keeps Atticus young and in the present when the sheer exhaustion of running for so many centuries weighs on him. He’s invaluable to the character and the story as a whole.
Throughout the series, the Tuatha Dé Danann are recurring characters. Some pop in and out, fulfilling the roles of villains and allies—sometimes in the same book, while others are a steady drumbeat on the pulse of the overall story arc. Brigid, Flidais, the Morrigan, Manannán mac Lir…all are integral to the development of Atticus’ character and thus are woven into the very fabric of the story.
Gods and Goddess from other pantheons make appearances as well. The Native American Coyote is a regular for several books. He does shots with Jesus at a bar in Tempe. He climbs the fabled Yggdrasil to battle Thor in Asgard. He and Granuaile get chased across Europe by both Artemis (Greek goddess of the hunt) and Diana (her Roman counterpart). Even the lesser-known Slavic deity, Perun, becomes a regular. So, if you’re prickly about religion (yours or someone else’s), then this series may not be for you.
It’s a fairly light-hearted series, set in the modern world but with enough fantasy to really make one wonder how no one’s figured stuff out yet. There are times you’d swear all the men—Atticus, Owen, Oberon, even Hal and Leif—are twelve year old boys, but it does have its touching and heartbreaking moments. With every book, Atticus grows to understand he can’t keep causing chaos and run from the consequences. All the shit he’s pulled has snowballed into an avalanche and now he’s fighting with all the under-handed tricks he’s learned over the last two thousand years to make things right. What it’s costing him, though, is something you just gotta read for yourself.
A few favorites from the series (other than Oberon, because…you can’t love this series and dislike Oberon. It’s just not possible) –
- The Morrigan – scary battle crow is scary, but the way she develops is amazing
- Owen Kennedy – original name Eoghan Ó Cinnéide. He is Atticus’ archdruid, the man who trained Atticus. He’s also a riot.
- Granuaile MacTiernan – Atticus’ apprentice and eventual girlfriend, Granuaile kicks butt and takes names with style
The Iron Druid Chronicles –
Number of Books: Eight
Number of Extras: Nine so far (links are to ebooks either separately or in their anthologies or both where available).
- “The Grimoire of the Lamb” (Iron Druid Chronicles, #0.4), novella length
- “Clan Rathskeller” (IDC, #0.5) A bonus short story in the Hounded ebook.
- “Kaibab Unbound” (IDC, #0.6) A bonus short story in the Hounded ebook.
- “Test of Mettle” (IDC, #3.1) Appears on the short stories page at Hearne’s website, and in the Hammered ebook.
- “Kaibab Unbound” and “Test of Mettle” also appear in the ebook, Two Tales of the Iron Druid
- “Two Ravens and One Crow” (IDC, #4.5), novella length, also included in the Hunted ebook. It takes place 6 years after the events of Tricked and deals with important details between that book and Trapped.
- “The Demon Barker of Wheat Street” (IDC, #4.6) A short story taking place a couple of weeks after the events of “Two Ravens and One Crow”. It was featured in the anthology, Carniepunk
- “The Chapel Perilous” (IDC #4.7) A short story published in the fantasy anthology, Unfettered, and edited by Shawn Speakman. While framed as a story being told by Atticus to his apprentice 8 years after the events of Tricked, it involves events that occurred in 6th century Wales.
- “A Prelude to War” (IDC #7.5), a novella taking place one week after the events of Shattered. Featured in the anthology, Three Slices. (My introduction to the Iron Druid series!)
- “Goddess at the Crossroads” – A short story featured in the anthology, A Fantasy Medley 3. Only available in hardback as far as I can tell.
- Almost. There will be only nine books in the series, with Scourged (release date TBA) the final novel in the series