The story of the last living Druid, Atticus O’ Sullivan, continues in Hammered the third volume of Kevin Hearne’s entertaining Iron Druid Chronicles. The brimming sub-storyline from the previous two books –the hatred all pantheons and the majority of supernatural creatures hold for Thor, the Norse God of Thunder – comes to a full head in what closes out the initial trilogy.
As a result of enlisting the aid of his Viking vampire lawyer Leif Helgarson in the past, Atticus made a promise to help the vampire get into Asgard so that the vampire could attempt nothing less than the murder of a god. Knowing what a difficult task lay ahead of him, Atticus goes about intensive preparation and scouting while also discussing the mission, and potential ramifications, with no less than Jesus Christ himself. As part of his preparation, Atticus journeys to Asgard early in the novel to retrieve an apple from Iðunn’s tree, which grants youth, as payment to Laksha, the sorceress who assisted Atticus defeat the Bacchants in the previous volume Hexed. In his initial journey into Asgard, Atticus befriends Ratatoskr a giant squirrel as he travels along Yggdrasil and makes his presence felt in the land of the Norse gods.
Of course, since plotting to kill a major god isn’t enough for one Druid, Atticus is beset by a sect of Kabbalistic Russian Jews calling themselves the Hammers of God, warnings from the Morrigan, the increasing time spent tutoring his Druid-in-training Granuaile, keeping watch over his widow friend Mrs. MacDonagh, and last but certainly not least, taking care of his Irish Wolfhound Oberon.
Along the way of the narrative, Atticus’s group of three – Atticus, Leif the vampire, and Gunnar the Werewolf – grows to include Perun, the Russian God of Thunder, and the Finnish wizard Väinämöinen. In order for the group’s strength, and more importantly Atticus’s ability to transport the group to Asgard, to be assured, they must bond. Hearne’s method for this bonding worked very well as he paralleled the Canterbury Tales, allowing each of Atticus’s four companions to tell their tale of woe at the hands of Thor. Each ‘episode’ was entertaining and could work as a short story or modern fable in their own right. In fact, I don’t think it would be such a bad thing should Hearne turn his pen to stories of this type to flesh out some of Atticus’s past.
So, with Hammered, Hearne has done a lot of things well. For starters, he pays off an undercurrent subplot from the previous two novels. He continues to flesh out his mythological world, and by including Jesus Christ, really shows he isn’t really restraining himself. Hearne also changes up the type of story he’s telling. Whilst the previous two novels had a bit of a quest and battle feel, Hammered adds the feel of a heist/thriller to the mix – both in Atticus’s first foray into Asgard, and the final onslaught with his companions. What he also shows in Hammered is that nothing should be taken for granted and that nothing is safe.
My only criticism, and it is minor, is that due to the nature of Atticus’s onslaught of Asgard, we don’t get to see as much of Oberon (who is growing into my favorite literary canine) as we did in previous volumes. While it makes complete sense, as told by Atticus throughout the narrative, I still missed the big Irish Wolfhound.
Hammered is a thrilling, and often humorous conclusion to the original story arc, with great payoff. While the stakes are initially implied to be raised throughout the novel, that promise is (for the most part) felt. It ends on a high, but an epilogue hooked me into the ever important What Will Happen Next. Around the time the third book was published, it was announced that Del Rey will be continuing the publication of Hearne’s Iron Druid Chronicles with two novels in 2012. Five novels in two years –quite impressive and though I’ve said it previously, it may be possible that Hearne and Atticus could be the logical heir to Butcher and Dresden.
© 2011 Rob H. Bedford