Friday, 3 June 2011

‘Hexed’ – Kevin Hearne (Del Rey)

Urban Fantasy, the genre that winds me up to the nth degree but never fails to pique my interest whenever a new title comes through the door... I’m getting a headache just at the thought of being caught between these two extremes!

On the one hand, I’m heartily sick and tired of the genre’s overreliance on the whole ‘feisty yet strangely vulnerable girl kicks ass in the supernatural community and totally falls for the hot werewolf/angst ridden vampire/ghoul with chronic halitosis’ thing (actually that last one hasn’t happened, as far as I’m aware, I would read this book in an instant) in order to shift more books. I’m not as widely read here as I’d like to be but the whole thing seems to come across as formula driven to a ridiculous degree.
On the other hand though... Urban Fantasy offers a great escape into worlds that are familiar enough to feel comfortable in with just enough difference to generate the spark that hooks you. This is what keeps me coming back (and I’m looking at authors like China Mieville, Mike Carey, Neil Gaiman and Kate Griffin in particular here).
So whenever an Urban Fantasy comes through the door then it could really go either way for me (unless the cleavage on the cover art is bigger than the authors name, I don’t bother with those books...). Kevin Hearne’s ‘Hexed’ was the latest arrival, I hadn’t read the first book but the blurb caught my eye so I gave it a go. Having finished the book last night, ‘Hexed’ falls firmly into the ‘wow, I like this’ category albeit with one reservation...

Atticus O’Sullivan is the last of the Druids and, as such, will do anything he can for a quiet life. That’s why he’s about to sign a non-aggression pact with the local witches coven despite his general dislike of the breed. An encroaching coven of German witches (who Atticus ran across during World War Two) though? That’s a different deal, Atticus doesn’t want them on his turf and will do whatever he can to remove them (up to and including rocket propelled grenades, seriously...)
Before he can deal with these witches though there’s a fallen angel eating high school kids and a trickster god who thinks that Atticus is responsible and should take care of business. If that wasn’t enough, Bacchants from Vegas are in town and looking to kick off their own lethal brand of hedonism, Atticus finds himself volunteered to take care of business on that front as well.
Who’d be a druid?

‘Hexed’ is a lot of fun and had me seriously wondering why I didn’t pick up the first book when I had the chance. Oh well, I’ll just start right here as ‘Hexed’ is a book that allows you to dive straight in and get going without necessarily having read the first book. There’s just enough background information to give you a decent grounding (without crowding out the plot) and then you’re off and away.

When ‘Hexed’ gets going it sets out to do so with a fast moving plot that’s stripped down to get you in between all the cool bits without having to hang around too much. There are plenty of cool bits and if you’re anything like me then you won’t fail to be entertained.
The issue I found though (and to be fair, it’s the only real problem that I had with the book) is that there is too much of a dividing line between the three main elements of the plot itself. Atticus sorts out ‘Job A’ and there’s a real sense of closure that stops ‘Job A’ linking into ‘Job B’ (and so on). It felt to me like ‘Hexed’ was actually three short stories cobbled together into one novel and the pacing suffered as a result. I felt like I had to keep stopping and starting... Having said that though, while you’re reading these ‘short stories’ the pace is fast and furious even if these ‘mini plots’ are a little linear.

And then you get dialogue like this (the reason why I’ll be around for the next book)...

“If I want to grow this back I’ll have to endure the most terrifying sex imaginable! Gaahhhh!”

I’m not going to tell you who lost what but ‘Hexed’ is full of lines like this, lines that show the book isn’t taking itself too seriously (and maybe poking a little fun at the same time...) and just wants to have a little fun. I love that ‘Hexed’ is so open about what it is and believe that this approach really benefits the story itself. No mucking around, lets go out there and have fun telling an exciting tale. And ‘Hexed’ is an exciting tale, Atticus is a man out of his depth and having to use everything he’s learnt (over the course of millennia) in order to survive. He’s totally up against it and you genuinely don’t know what will happen to him next. At the same time though, Atticus’ devotion to his faith offers a nice counterpoint that fleshes out the character and has you rooting for him that little bit more.

The supporting cast have equal attention lavished on them by Hearne who does well to give his readers a little world full of believable characters who add to the plot in the best possible way. There’s scope on display for further developments and interactions, I’ll be around to see how it all pans out.

Structural issues in the book itself prevent ‘Hexed’ from being the truly excellent read that it could have been. Wit, honour and a dose of heavy ordinance balance things out though and make ‘Hexed’ a book that will hook you from the off. Bring on ‘Hammered’...

Eight and Three Quarters out of Ten


Milo MJ said...

Hey Graeme, nice review.

If you're intrested in checking out another good Urban Fantasy read may I reccommend "Vegas Knights" by Matt Forbeck? (Angry Robot).

Fantastic read.

SQT said...

I have the same love/hate thing with urban fantasy. There are a few authors who really do it well, but a lot who don't do it for me. I'd say I like 1 out of 5 that I read.

Kat Hooper said...

Just got these on audio, so I'm glad to here you like it.

Graeme Flory said...

BaneofKings - Once I've whittled down the reading pile a little I'll see what I can do about that recommendation :o)

SQT - I know just what you mean and the only way to find the good stuff is to take pot luck and pick up random books...

Kat - It was a lot of fun, I reckon you'll enjoy it :o)