Once people get an opportunity to drink in the heady mixture of carefully researched Celtic mythology and brash urban fantasy to be found within the pages of "Hounded", the first book in the series, they will wonder how they lived without it.
"Hounded" introduces readers to Atticus O'Sullivan, a 2,100 year old Irish druid who owns an occult bookstore in Tempe, Arizona. Atticus has been on the run for most of his life from the Tuatha de Danann--a group of mythical beings who eventually were worshiped as gods--because he stole a magic sword called Fragarach that belonged to a sea god named Manannan mac Lir.
Atticus keeps having to move and adopt new identities every few years because an angry deity named Aenghus Og feels the sword is rightfully his and he wants it back. At the beginning of "Hounded", he has settled into a quiet life in Tempe, Arizona. This is partly because the arid Arizona landscape makes it harder for the Celtic gods to travel there.
Atticus mostly just wants to enjoy simple pleasures such as hunting with his Irish wolfhound Oberon (who possesses human-level intelligence and loves movies) or enjoying good meals at his favorite restaurants. Unfortunately, the Tuatha de Danann have other ideas and he soon finds himself caught in the middle of a power struggle between two rival factions.
Atticus also runs afoul of local law enforcement after an incident involving Oberon, so soon neither their cozy home nor the occult bookstore Atticus owns are safe any more because they are constantly either being harassed by an overzealous police detective or being attacked by a variety of supernatural beings.
Atticus eventually finds ways to deal with his various problems, with a little help from his new apprentice and friends of his who just happen to be werewolves or vampires.
Readers in the Spokane area who have read a lot of urban fantasy will probably find "Hounded" to be a breath of fresh air. The book features elements that have become genre cliches, but Hearne manages to make them seem new all over again without spending a lot of time on fleshing out the details of how his supernatural characters operate.
Even though Hearne chose to populate his version of Tempe with werewolves, vampires and evil witches, the book doesn't feel like part of yet another derivative series about a detective with magic powers who hunts monsters. Atticus is a refreshingly unique character with a value system not quite like most contemporary people's who avoids fights whenever possible.
Unlike many contemporary fantasy heroes who spend a lot of time either brooding or being stoic, Atticus is a witty guy with a strange sense of humor and a gift for gab who would rather talk about how much he admires Shakespeare or discuss how the English language has evolved over time. He seems like he would be fun to hang out with over a few beers in a way that many heroes and heroines who go around in black leather killing demons with katanas clearly are not.
It would not be surprising at all to find out that someone who enjoyed "Hounded" wanted to go out and immediately pick up more books in the series. Fortunately for readers on a budget, the Spokane County Library District has several of the books in both paperback and ebook editions.
Readers who would like to try before they buy may download the first six chapters for free from Random House.