Book Review: Hounded by Kevin Hearne

Hi again!

Page turners. Bubblegum. Brain candy. However you categorize fun, creative fiction with a flair for sarcasm and humor, there’s always a need for it.

In recent years, that need has been filled by Jim Butcher‘s “Dresden Files” series. Harry Dresden is a wizard-for-hire and he gets tapped to do the craziest things. From fighting vampires and creatures from the faerie worlds to dealing with friendly fae with a love of pizza or playing D&D with a group of college-aged werewolves, Harry does it all with sarcasm, self-deprecating humor, and a lot of style.

Now I have a new author to add to that category of bubblegum fiction in urban fantasy – Atticus O’Sullivan, the last Druid in the world, living peacefully in Arizona. Atticus exists in a similar world to Dresden, but writer Kevin Hearne managed to create something new out of a seemingly mismatched collection of gods from different pantheons, witches, vampires, werewolves, and the Tuatha de Dannan from Irish myth and legend. This druid does his best to live a normal life and runs an occult bookstore near ASU in Tempe, helping the locals with various herbal teas to sooth what ails them and selling the occasional book of hokum to those seeking the magical path. He’s lived 2,000 years, knows how to adapt to changing times, and has a unique view of the world. And did I mention that Atticus has a pet Irish wolfhound that’s almost as funny as he is?

Hounded is the first book in the “Iron Druid Chronicles” from Hearne and I’ve already ordered the next two books in the series – Hexed and Hammered. At just over 300 pages, Hounded was a quick, fun read and I want to know more.

Atticus has had a few quiet years in Tempe, but apparently there’s an angry love god from the old country who really wants a sword he thinks Atticus stole from him way back when. But Atticus isn’t alone. He has a law firm to protect him whose two main partners are a vampire and a werewolf, each of which has a grudge with Thor. He has a few other Celtic gods who are either trying to help or hinder depending on when you ask – Morrigan, the Irish goddess of war and death, and Flidais, a Celtic goddess of the hunt. And his companion Oberon, the Irish wolfhound, is always at his side helping protect him.

Though I love how Hearne has worked in the whole faerie/gods/supernatural angle as well as vampires, werewolves, and witches (yes, witches!), it’s the humor and sarcasm that really stole the show for me. Oberon has both an amazing sense of humor and a unique way of the world. For instance, when Atticus and Oberon are talking about Genghis Khan at one point, Oberon decides he needs his own harem – of French Poodles. It’s that kind of juxtaposition of practicality and amusement that made me literally laugh out loud while reading portions of the book.

My only regret is that I hadn’t picked up the series months ago when my best friend recommended it!

If you are a fan of urban fantasy with a sense of humor like “The Dresden Files” then you ought to find Hounded to be right up your alley. It’s out in paperback, so it’s great for a little light reading if you need a bit!

This article first appeared at BlogCritics.org here.

–Fitz

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DVD Review: Dylan Dog: Dead of Night

Hi there…

Monsters. Undead creatures. Things from other worlds and dimensions. Each has held an appeal for me since childhood. At first they terrified me, but as I got older and started reading, writing, and playing roleplaying games, they became tools and fun thought experiments.

Add to that a healthy dose of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, War for the Oaks (by Emma Bull), and The Dresden Files books (by Jim Butcher) and you have a love for properties where creatures meet the modern world… These days it’s called “Urban Fantasy,” but in the past it was just horror, science fiction, or fantasy. Now with new urban fantasy titles coming out regularly, I have been in hog heaven…

Enter the 2011 film Dylan Dog: Dead of Night. Based on an Italian comic book series from creator Tiziano Sclavi, the story seemed to bring a few genres together into a unique whole. Generally it takes the idea of a Sherlock Holmes or Ichabod Crane (Sleepy Hollow-style, not the animated Disney version) investigator and gives him cases involving the supernatural world with vampires, werewolves, and zombies. Sounds right up my alley, doesn’t it?

Then, when it hit theaters, somehow none of my local theater chains were showing it. I thought that was a bit odd, but started to some very negative reviews coming out in the media, both online and in print. At that point I decided I would have to see it on DVD to figure out if the reviewers were right…

Unfortunately, they were. Dylan Dog is a movie set in a story-rich environment that somehow manages to be about characters I ultimately couldn’t bring myself to care about. How is that possible?

The story sounds good on paper. Dylan Dog (Brandon Routh) is a private eye who used to deal exclusively with supernatural cases. But after the death of his girlfriend/fiancee/wife has fallen on bad times. He and his friend Marcus (Sam Huntington) have been doing cases for cheating husbands and wives, getting footage or pictures of folks in compromising positions.

When a new case comes up and it turns out to have a supernatural angle, Dylan tries to back out of it. But some cases can’t be turned away. After Marcus gets killed by a giant zombie, Dylan is forced to dive back into the world he thought he’d left behind.

All the elements are in the story. A Romeo and Juliet romance between a werewolf girl and a vampire boy. A family of werewolves protecting an artifact for centuries. A group of monster hunters threatening to destroy all unnatural creatures. And a vampire leader (Taye Diggs) taking advantage of a power vacuum with no oversight from inside or outside the supernatural community.

It’s not the location (New Orleans). It’s not the setting, because the world is full of monsters both fun and foul. It has some fun slapstick elements courtesy of Huntington’s role. Even the story seems good at first glance. So is it the actors or the director (Kevin Munroe) who are to blame? Either way it should have been much more fun to watch than it turned out to be.

Beyond the movie on the DVD, there are no extras. This is a very bare-bones DVD release for a movie that totally bombed at the box office.

If you really must see Dylan Dog: Dead of Night, I recommend a rental on Red Box. But if you were looking forward to this flick, you might be better off spending some time reading some of the Dresden Files novels from Jim Butcher or re-watching old Buffy the Vampire Slayer episodes.

This article first appeared at BlogCritics.org here.

–Fitz

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Book Review: A Devil in the Details by K.A. Stewart

Hey there…

These days I’m always on the hunt for good urban fantasy. The gold standard for urban fantasy for me is The Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher. Magic and sarcasm make a heady mix for Harry Dresden, wizard-for-hire, and it’s a tough combination to beat.

That doesn’t stop me from looking however. And a few months ago I saw a review of K.A. Stewart’s A Devil in the Details on the Fantasy Book Critic blog. I immediately ordered a copy and threw it into my “read when I get a chance” pile.

Thankfully I had a chance to read it a couple of weeks ago and it was both a quick read and a lot of fun. Jesse James Dawson has an interesting worldview and a unique set of skills that come in handy when you act as a proxy in a deal with a demon. Demons don’t look too kindly on breaking contracts it seems and it tends to get messy. That’s when Dawson’s katana comes out to play…

Dawson is a member of a loose network of Champions around the globe focused on helping people get out of their contracts with demons. And he won’t just take on anybody. If you’ve made a deal with a demon, you knew what you were doing even if you didn’t think through all the consequences. You really have to have reformed in some serious ways if you expect Dawson to take your case. Yes, he gets paid well by the people he helps, but that’s just so that his wife and daughter are taken care of in the event that he dies on the job. He knows eventually his luck will run out and his family must be safe and secure in his absence.

What is this job exactly? He intercedes on behalf of people who have sold their souls to a demon for something. It can be something as giving as asking for a cure for your dying child or as selfish as wanting a few more years in the limelight before you fade away for good. In this story, it’s a famous old baseball pitcher who approaches Dawson to help him out. He wasn’t getting any playing time as younger players were pitching better than he was and he wanted to go out on top… Well, he paid for the sudden turnaround with his soul. And now he wants out of the deal.

Once Dawson is involved, he discovers that other things are afoot and that some of his fellow Champions have gone missing. Is it all related? Can he keep his family safe and still fulfill his obligations to the pitcher? You’ll have to read it and find out, but A Devil in the Details sets the groundwork for a great new realm in urban fantasy I look forward to exploring further.

Though this is the first book in a series and Stewart’s debut, it really doesn’t feel like one. Her writing style was fluid enough that Dawson’s quests never felt forced or rushed. When a character was introduced, it was there for a reason and that reason was resolved by the end. And though all the loose ends were neatly tied up, this story left me wanting to know more about Dawson and his network of Champions in the next book.

Be sure to check out A Devil in the Details from K.A. Stewart at your favorite bookseller and check out her blog at Literary Intent.

This article first appeared at BlogCritics.org here.

–Fitz

p.s. Pick up the book from Barnes & Noble below:

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