Ever After, Kim Harrison – Fantasy Comfort Food of the Literary Kind

When I began reading Ever After, by Kim Harrison — on the day of its release — I read it first on Kindle. Next, to get the full flavor, I listened to the audiobook, narrated by Marguerite Gavin. Oh my. I just sank into it, the same way I sink into my bed … with a sigh of sheer delight. How good it felt to be home again.

Home again? In Cincinnati? When I’ve never been to Cincinnati and probably never will be? Where witches consort with vampires and pixies and a powerful elf rules the political world? Where you can hire a werewolf as a body-guard and you must take care to avoid demons and banshees?

Yup, Cincinnati. I feel like it’s the home town of my wistful soul, a world that somehow makes more sense than the reality in which I live my real life.

It’s been a difficult couple of weeks and I realized … I need a fix. I need to go home to Cincinnati and visit the gang at the old church. I started listening to it again last night and of course, I loved it as I have each time before. Maybe I’ll reread some of the earlier books I haven’t read in a while because there’s a new book in the series coming out and I want to be psyched. Like I wouldn’t be 🙂

I have loved every book in the series, though I have loved the last three or four even more than the first group. The characters have matured, come into themselves, their powers. They are grabbing hold of their destinies, moving into their futures.

One of the signs a book may deserve  the label “classic” is when rereading it is — no matter whether it’s the first reread or the 10th — is like reading it for the first time. Maybe better. I was barely past the first few paragraphs when I realized it was as if I’d never left. I was back in the Hollows, home in magical Cincinnati and the church where Rachel, Ivy and Jenks live. My friends were waiting for me.

Ever After was new all over again. I relived the adventure, relishing each twist and turn of the plot, each character’s development. I was happy for Ivy, finding her own life at long last but sorry not to have her with me on this journey. Glad that Jenks was still involved and Biz is coming into his own. Delighted with the direction of Rachel’s relationship with Trent, sad at the loss of beloved characters. Bemused at the changes and growth in the world of demons as they evolve from caricature bad guys to people with memories of better days, their own private griefs and joys.

I keep discovering new layers to the story. This is a great book. I know it’s genre urban fantasy but it is far superior to most of the stuff I read in any genre. The consistent, careful development of characters and plot are outstanding. Kim Harrison never drops a stitch. Knowing  something about Kim Harrison’s process has given me a better understanding of how she achieves this remarkable, near-perfect construction. It has improved my writing. Following her blog is a good thing for writers. She is unusually forthcoming about how she does what she does. I continue to be fascinated by how excruciatingly precise she is, how very careful. No wonder there are not lapses in continuity, no strange leaps in time. She is careful, organized. Compared to my writing style, she’s downright anal compulsive and probably why she is able to keep such a high standard of quality. I don’t have that kind of dedication. Which is why she is a best-selling author and I’m not.

If you’ve never checked out her blog and you write, I highly recommend it. She answers questions about anything other than the details and plot of upcoming books.

She is an extremely focused and precise writer. She plans every detail of the plot, every twist of the story. No “off the cuff” writing. She doesn’t depend on obvious answers nor use genre clichés.

There’s nothing raw or unfinished in any of her books. Ever After would be a fine novel be any standards. If it weren’t urban fantasy, it would be good literature.

In my opinion, most of today’s creative authoring is happening in fantasy and science fiction. General fiction, of which I have read a great deal recently, has become drab and unimaginative. Very little new territory is being explored in “serious literature.” If you want to read something that’ll knock your socks off, visit another genre.

Kim_Harrison_06lrI have heard a lot of complaints about the popularity of science fiction and fantasy, that people don’t want to read anything that doesn’t have supernatural creatures or time travel as part of the plot. But those who complain might consider the paucity of good books coming out of “main stream” fiction. It doesn’t have to be dull, but it so often is. And bleak. And depressing. It’s no wonder that many of us don’t want to go there.

The thrill of reading isn’t gone but it has just moved to a different part of town. Read Jim Butcher‘s Harry Dresden series and check out Kevin Hearne‘s Iron Druid. Discover Carol Berg. Pick one of her books or series; you can’t go wrong. Move right into the book world with Jasper Fforde‘s Thursday Next series. If you haven’t already read it, Stephen King’s 11-23-62 is one of the best books of the decade — maybe any decade — and it’s pure science fiction.

Try some of Connie Willis‘ works. This is an area of fiction where creativity is running rampant. You’ll find books to entertain you and fill your mind with ideas. And you won’t be bored, not for a moment. There are lots more wonderful writers waiting for you to discover them. It’s not a whole world. It’s many worlds and they are all yours to explore.

Ever After is a very satisfying read. Magic, love, passion, battles. Complicated relationships, love in bloom, hope, loss, and danger. I mourned the fallen, exalted for the living and dreamed about the future. It’s not the only good book I’ve read recently, but it sure is among the top few.

If a witch, an elf and a demon can come together to save the world, anything is possible.

All of the Hollows are available as paperbacks, on Kindle and as audiobooks.

Druids Vs. Olympians — Hunted by Kevin Hearne — The Audiobook

Not content with having read the book, I also had to listen to it. Usually, if I like the book in one form, I like it equally well (or nearly so) in another. This, however, was not the case this time. I still love the book. But I have issues with the narration.

Hunted, by Kevin Hearne, is the sixth book in the Iron Druid Series. It’s an action-packed run-for-your-life tour of Europe. Atticus and Granuaile should definitely have taken a cruise, or something relaxing. I’m pretty sure as honeymoon’s go, this wasn’t the best choice. Not that they had any choice in the matter.

Atticus O’Sullivan, the 2000-year-old last of the Roman Druids is running top speed across Europe. Romania, Germany, Holland, France … then swimming the English channel to get to the woods by Windsor Castle. This is not exercise — it’s survival — and as he (Granuaile and Oberon) race, they are fending off two angry, homicidal Olympian goddesses — Artemis and Diana. And as experienced hunters, they are formidable adversaries.

Atticus messed with Bacchus and put him on a slow time island. Although it was self-defense, the Olympians aren’t interested in why. They are just pissed off. Actually, more than that, watching the druids try to outrun the goddesses has become a sporting event for a wide range of deities.They don’t seem so upset about Bacchus as they are eager to kill Atticus as well as Granuaile and Oberon. Freeing their crazy family member and co-deity is not their biggest issue.

The usual ways open to Druids of shifting to the safety of Tír na nÓg, are closed. Every tree and grove is guarded. The old ways are locked tight — leaving them running long, hard, and fast in whatever physical forms and using whatever magic they can. They no longer have Morrigan’s help, though they get some assistance from other immortals.

It does seem that just about everyone and everything is out to get them. Old enemies and new, vampires, gods and goddesses, dark elves, and some weird things who fit no category. Sea monsters. And Loki’s on the loose bringing Ragnarök with him. The world is going to end. That’s sort of Atticus’ fault. Sort of. Sides are forming up for the big battle at the end of the world — Ragnarök – the Apocalypse — is it the end? Of everything? Could there be a new beginning? It’s never happened before, so who’s to know?

No one’s banking on anything but death and destruction, so avoiding it as long as possible seems the sensible choice.

Sensible isn’t part of the equation anymore. No one wants to negotiate, no one feels like chatting. It’s kill or be killed. It’s magic, weapons, a race to find a safe haven — hide and seek along the way. No matter where they go, what they do, the Druids and all of their allies — and enemies — know the big finale is unavoidable. It will leave no one untouched. Meanwhile, the goal is to stay alive.

Atticus and Granuaile have almost no time in this book — to my disappointment — to develop the relationship they began after Granuaile was finally bound to Gaia and became a full Druid. There’s no time now … and given the perils, there may never be time. Not enough, anyway. A day, a few hours, grabbed here and there. This couple is not going to get that leisurely honeymoon, unless you count touring Europe in various forms – stag, horse, sea-lion, sea otter, falcon, mountain lion, wolfhound — and of course, invisible. Most of the time, naked, a traditional form of battle dress for Celts, but not romantic.

Luke Daniels, the narrator is skilled and he does a fine job with Atticus and Granuaile … and all other humanoids, but I really disliked his voicing of Oberon. It sounded like Bugs Bunny and was, to my mind, definitely unsuitable for the great wolfhound. I let it slide by me, but every time the voice came one, I got annoyed. I also didn’t like his voicing of a bunch of the other secondary characters. Fine on the two Druids, but not fine on the others. Fortunately, there’s more good narration than bad … but be warned: if you don’t like the idea of a dumb sounding Oberon with a lisp or cartoon deities from various pantheons, you won’t like this audiobook.

This is the most high-speed book of the series to date. I had hoped for more character interaction and a bit less breathless and perpetual motion. If you like action — and who doesn’t? — there’s more than enough fighting, battling, scheming, running, swimming, dying, recovering — but not much conversation. No down time. Not much relationship development. The book is a bridge to the next. Which is necessary. But you won’t get resolution, not yet. Next book soon please!

It’s beautifully written (as always). This is the first book in which Granuaile has her own voice. She’s a full character now, co-equal with Atticus. Chapters alternate in the first person, her speaking, him speaking. At first, it jarred me a little, but then, I liked it. Nice to have both a male and female primary character in a fantasy novel. I can’t remember if I’ve ever read a book in this genre where both sexes had equal roles. It takes a bit of getting used to, but it’s all good.

I’m not going to give anything away. No spoilers, sorry.

If you are a fan of the series, you will like the book. It’s probably not quite what you expect, but it’s a critical link for what’s coming.

It’s Granuaile’s coming of age — and in its own way, also Atticus’ coming of age. Although you would think he’s seen it and done it all in his very long life, not so. He hasn’t had a lot of human friends, much less lovers. There’s a lot of new stuff for him to work his way through. Having a real relationship with a human woman requires relearning old habits. Like any relationship, come to think of it.

There are a lot of plot twists. Not all endings are happy. There are victories and temporary wins. Holding actions. I’m not sure there are solid victories to be had as the world draws ever closer to Ragnarök. It’s all about survival, treachery and slippery alliances. The fate of the world hangs on a razor’s edge. See you next book!

If you have not read the previous books, don’t start with this one. There is a lot of history and the characters have all been built through the entire series. They won’t make sense without the earlier books.

The book is also available in paperback and on Kindle. And, obviously, as a download from Audible.com. This is the first of the audio versions I’ve read. I don’t know that I will try another. I think I’ll stick with printed words for this series.

Trapped, Iron Druid Chronicles, Book 5, by Kevin Hearne


I got the notice from Amazon. Kevin Hearne’s latest new book in the series — HUNTED — was delivered to my Kindle today. I’m not going to have time to read it for a while. I have a long list of books to review and many pages to go read before I can read anything not on my “to read and review” list.

In honor of the new release, here’s my review of Book 5, TRAPPED.

This book was released November 27, 2012. I had it in hand the day of its release. I took several weeks to read it. It wasn’t terribly long, but I wanted it to last. Then, after I finished reading it, I got the audiobook and read it a twice more. Just to make sure I didn’t miss anything.

I read the first three books Hounded, Hexed, and Hammered. I liked them. I wasn’t overwhelmed, but I enjoyed them enough so that when the fourth book came out, I bought it. I liked it better than the first three and when this most recent book was released, I was right on top of it. Each book has been better than the one before it and I can hardly wait for the next volume.

Trapped is the fifth installment of the Iron Druid series. It is wonderful. The writing has smoothed out, the characters have become more solid, three-dimensional, real. Atticus finally has a human companion. He’s always had a companion, of course, his faithful wolfhound Oberon. More about Oberon later. But now, it’s the beautiful Granuaile, his apprentice now about-to-be Druid.

One of the things I most like about Kevin Hearne‘s writing is the care with which he constructs his world. It has rules, axioms, standards. Within his world, his characters and nature obey. There is symmetry, logic and order. The world feels right. Although it’s a different reality than ours, but makes sense. Nothing falls up.


The story has more than adequate action to satisfy any fantasy reader, but it is also graceful and elegant. Add to that a hefty dollop of wit, humor, historical tidbits and mythology. It scratches all my literary itches at the same time.

Many authors supposedly base stories on mythology, but really, they use names taken from mythology but that’s as far as it goes. Hearne’s gods, from whatever pantheon they are drawn, are remarkably true to their namesake. My very first literary crush was on Apollo via Bullfinch and I’ve come a long way since then, but my affection for gods and goddesses and their many descendants remains.

sausage-festThen there’s Oberon the wolfhound. If I had no other motivation, I think I’d read these books just for Oberon. He has a wonderful “dog’s eye view” of the world and human relationships. He is the first “talking dog” who is a dog, not a furry human. He thinks doggy thoughts, lusts after sausages and poodles. He has a big vocabulary and great communication skills, but he is a real dog. And funny.

I liked everything in this book: an intelligent plot, fully realized characters, lots of action, care for the details. Best of all,  the story is unpredictable — full of  surprises, plot twists and wonderful words.

I would not — as others have — compare Kevin Hearne to Jim Butcher. Although both write in the fantasy genre and I love both authors, the worlds about which they write are very different. I’m sure Harry and Atticus would like each other and enjoy a glass of brew, but they move in different circles. I’ve never liked comparing authors as if they were interchangeable parts. There’s more than enough room for everyone and plenty left for those who have yet to set pen to paper.  Atticus isn’t going to replace Harry or vice versa.

Should they find reason to join forces, that would be very cool. I bet Oberon and Mouse would get on  too … but if they never meet, I’m sure that both will do their part in saving this sad old world of ours.

The Iron Druid Chronicles — Hounded to Trapped — by Kevin Hearne


The Iron Druid Chronicles includes (to date) five books: Hounded, Hexed, Hammered, Tricked, and Trapped. The books follow the adventures of the last of the Druids,a  2100-year-old survivor of the Roman massacre of the Druids back in the reign of Claudius (41 AD to 54 AD).

The Beginning: Hounded (May 2011)

Atticus O’Sullivan — not his real name, but we never find out what his real name is, though many hints are dropped — survived the long ago massacre by fleeing to North America which had not yet been discovered by the Old World. After many years, he has established a peaceful life in Arizona where he runs an occult bookshop, does a bit of  shape-shifting that lets him enjoy hunting with his Irish wolfhound, Oberon. Atticus’ shifted shape is also a Wolfhound and his friendship with Oberon goes far beyond dog and master or even dog and dog.

Atticus’ appearance suggests a young man in his early 20s, belying his two millennium life. Through his long years of survival Atticus has gained a great deal of power, drawn mostly from the earth to which he is bound.  Personally, he’s pleasant, witty and hyper aware of the forces of earth, air, water and other. He has not survived for so many centuries without gaining enough wisdom to know when to fight and when to run. He has power, but he is also a survivor, choosing his battles with great care.

In the course of ages, he has come to possess a magical sword — Fragarach, the Answerer. Fragarach is coveted by an ill-tempered and powerful god. Although Atticus initially prevails and keeps the sword, many wheels are set in motion by the battle for its possession and the scene is set for the next five books in the series.

From the Paperback edition

Hounded was recently reissued as a Mass Market Paperback.

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Most Recent: Trapped (November 2012)

I’ve followed the adventures of Atticus, Oberon, and more recently, the beautiful Granuaile, his apprentice who is now about to become a full Druid in Trapped, released November 27, 2012. I had Trapped in hand the day of its release. I finished reading it, then got the audiobook and read it a couple more times. Just to make sure I hadn’t missed anything. That is a pretty fair indicator that I very much enjoyed the book.

Hounded was the first of the series and while I did enjoy it, I felt each subsequent book has been better than the one before it. Trapped was the best to date. With Hunted due to be released soon, I can hardly wait!

All of the books are rousing good fantasy yarns. Even better, Hearne has done his homework. His Pantheon(s) of Gods are pretty accurate, much more so than most fantasy books that call on various gods. The writing is intelligent, witty, fast-paced and original. Kevin Hearne‘s world is constructed with care. Within that world, the characters and nature itself are subject to natural law and logic. There is symmetry and order. The world feels right. It’s a different reality, but nothing ever falls upwards.


Each story has more than enough action to satisfy any fantasy reader, but it is graceful and elegant.

sausage-festAtticus is the kind of character I’d love to hang with, but if I had to take my pick of one character with whom to spend some quality, it would have to be  Oberon the wolfhound. Oberon has a delightful “dog’s eye view” of the world and human relationships. He is the first “talking dog” who is a dog, not a furry human. He thinks doggy thoughts, lusts after sausages and poodles. He has a big vocabulary and exceptional communication skills, but he is a dog. And a funny dog at that. He has a thing for poodles which I have actually heard criticized as sexist. Folks, if this bothers you, perhaps you are taking life too seriously. Really.

The Iron Druid has it all: intelligent plots, fully realized characters, lots of action, great detail. Best of all,  the stories are never entirely predictable. There are enough surprises and plot twists to keep you hooked. The words are delightfully well crafted. For me, books are always about the words … and Kevin Hearne uses words beautifully.

I would not — as others have — compare Kevin Hearne to Jim Butcher. Although both write in the fantasy genre and I enjoy both authors, the worlds about which they write are significantly different as are the personalities and lifestyle of their protagonists. I’m sure Harry Dresden and Atticus O’Sullivan would appreciate each other and might enjoy a glass of brew together, but they move in different circles. I’ve never liked comparing authors as if all writers in the same genre are essentially interchangeable parts. There’s more than enough room for everyone and plenty left for those who have yet to set pen to paper.  Atticus isn’t going to replace Harry and Harry is unlikely to be at home in Atticus’ world.

And that is the way it ought to be. Should they find reason to join forces, that would be cool. I bet Oberon and Mouse would get on well … but if they never meet, I’m sure both will play their part in saving this old world of ours.

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