Iron Druid Chronicles: Impressions

This week I want to talk about the Iron Druid Chronicles, which tell the story of Atticus O’Sullivan. I won’t be giving a review of a specific book because I’ve been getting through the audiobooks and am already on the fourth book in the series (of a current six with the seventh to be released later this year).

Atticus is a 2,000 year old Druid, was born in Ireland, and now resides in Arizona in the USA.

The Iron Druid Chronicles is a nice urban fantasy that strays away from the somewhat common underdog trope. Sure, we all love an underdog, who doesn’t? But sometimes it’s nice to do some reading where the main character knows they can probably handle themselves, steps up to the plate, and knocks it right out of the park.

Sometimes, that’s what Atticus does. Right in the opening of the first book we see him get attacked by fairies (vicious, murderous nobleman type fairies) and he beats them handily them summons something to eat them.

The underdog example being a prominent one, that’s one of the reasons I liked the Dresden Files. Harry Dresden is usually, if not always, on the back foot and you really feel like the story is dragging him kicking and screaming through the mud. But Harry Dresden never gives up, and neither does Atticus O’Sullivan.Full disclosure, in my head I do end up comparing the Iron Druid Chronicles and the Dresden Files in my head quite a lot. I think they have a lot of similarities but also deliver differently on a lot of different things.

On the flip side, the Iron Druid Chronicles you get the impression that Atticus is over his head but in the same way that I can’t breathe if I stand at the bottom of a swimming pool, but I can swim. I can breathe just fine if I use my noggin’ and actually start swimming.

It’s almost unfortunate that this relieves a lot of tension from the story, even when you’re thrown into climactic battles at the end of the books. Atticus just isn’t in trouble like we’re used to. The books are still very enjoyable, I don’t want to detract from that, but perhaps they could be executed a bit better.

The characters in the Iron Druid Chronicles are colourful, varied, and have their own goals and ambitions. One of the things I do love about this series is that it pulls on a mythology that gets less of a look in than the standard European medieval fantasy.

What with Atticus being 2,000 years old he’s old school. Literally. He’s an old Irish druid and he has connections. He personally knows a lot of gods and most of them hail from the Emerald Isle B.C.E.. And I think that’s pretty darn cool.

(Sidenote – anyone want to suggest other fantasy that’s based on Celtic mythology or Ireland? Artemis Fowl not withstanding. I am game for some more of that)

So along with seeing some pretty smart destruction of dangerous faeries very quickly we also see the wonderful entrance of the Celtic goddess of battle, Morrigan, also make a swift appearance. And this is the flip side of being a top dog, It’s a pleasant change from the constant uphill battle, it’s more of a ‘tread carefully lest ye be throttled by a god’ kind of battle.

Speaking of dogs and battle, what good is an age old druid if he doesn’t have some sort of warhound? No good, that’s who.

But never fear, we have Oberon, the Irish wolfhound (come on now, was it really going to be anything else?). Oberon is the comic relief, he has all the typical sensibilities and attention span that you would expect of a dog and comes across as lovable and playful scamp. There are some  flaws with Oberon, I think, though. For example, if there’s a huge Irish wolfhound as the animal familiar of a kick-ass, 2,000 year old druid, I want to see him wreck the place up. You do occasionally see him helping out in some battles, but not being the avatar of doggy death and destruction that you would hope he would be.

Okay with all that I think I’ve rambled on at you enough for now!

To summarise; the Iron Druid Chronicles are quite an entertaining series but with a few flaws. Sometimes you get the feeling it tries too hard to make you laugh. I think this is probably a lot easier to deal with in the books where you can skim over bits, but when you’re listening to the audiobook you’re forced to hear every line of Atticus trying to speak as a lolcat to a vampire, and man is that awkward.

But the flaws shouldn’t stop you. It is a lot of fun and it’s nice to dive straight into the, pretty much non-stop, action. The world is interesting and the characters are fun. And even though there are a couple of bits that I found awkward, which were few and far between to be fair, I also found that I went through the first few books like nobody’s business and that is always a very good sign. So definitely check it out if you enjoy urban fantasy

Review: Gospel of Loki

Okay, first off, this isn’t a bad thing, but a lot of the time sentences would jump out at me in Tom Hiddleston’s voice. It was pretty cool.

Anyway, so what’s this book! It’s The Gospel of Loki by Joanne M. Harris, the first person retelling of Norse mythology, with Loki as the main character, straight from the horse’s mouth (and that’s not just a phrase in this case!).

Before we get onto the story, writings and characters themselves I just want to make a quick comment about how the book itself. I can be a bit of a nerd for how books look and feel, I think that can really bring a book together. Even if the writing is phenomenal but it looks like something a dolphin’s sat on when it was waiting for the bus then it’s going to put me off.

Thankfully, there was no dolphin. The title and look of this book work very well together. I very much like the juxtaposition of the title; The Gospel of Loki, as he is a well known fiendish liar, and yet here we have his gospel, his truthful word.

Just lovely

Equally the cover illustration is exquisite. The bold lines and solid colours of the illustration is reminiscent of a stained glass window. The illustration draws upon many elements of the story to provide a wonderfully diverse colour scheme across the cover. All in all a brilliant design for this book.

But anyway onto the actual work.

So we follow Loki all the way from his origins in the very heart of chaos right up until Ragnarok, with all the highs, lows and middle-y bits that go with it.

At first I found it slightly jarring at times that the language was quite colloquial, that sort of thing doesn’t happen so often in an epic fantasy tale. It was slightly odd to read a sentence or a piece of dialogue with the gods talking to frost giants or something similar when the dialogue read; “Okay, just, like, calm down!” Alright it wasn’t that colloquial, but you see where I’m coming from.

But thankfully that doesn’t happen very often and once you’ve seen it happen a couple of times it actually fits in very well with the image of the cheeky and mischievous Loki with the silver tongue that I’m sure we’ve all come to know and love.

 

Cheeky devil

 

We start the story at the very beginning and get a nice overview of the characters, the setting and how everything generally works. Harris’ writing immediately puts you at your ease and lets you gently settle into how the tale is going to be told.

Harris very much captures the essence of the Loki character; mischievous but altogether good. It’s from the first person perspective of Loki and so comes across in pretty much all the aspects of her writing. There is never a word or phrase that doesn’t weave this image further into the book.

The storyline also presents a side of the mythology that doesn’t seem to get much of a look in nowadays. Odin is presented as a much more shady character than you would expect. This gives the book plenty of opportunity for twists and turns to keep you guessing and then keeps you guessing about guessing.

This book is very entertaining, it has all the right amounts of epic fantasy and tongue-in-cheek humour and an excellent mix of heroic and dastardly characters. Harris skillfully weaves the stereotypical evil Loki into a self-aware but misunderstood antihero with a heart of gold. Or at least a heart of fire that’s covered in gold.

I hope that you check this book out, it’s a wonderful piece by a wonderful author. Well worth your time.