Tricked is book four of the Iron Druid Chronicles. The series starts with Hounded, which I highly recommend. The story starts off with a bit of a wrap-up from the previous book, but is otherwise pretty well encapsulated. You won’t feel too lost if you start with this one, but you might as well start at the beginning - the earlier books are every bit as good.
These are not dark gritty urban fantasies. They’re light, quick reads with plenty of humor to balance the darker elements.
Atticus O’Sullivan is the last surviving druid from ancient Ireland. He’s been around for a couple thousand years, carefully using his herb lore to stay young. He likes living in Arizona with his dog Oberon and his apprentice Granuaile.
In this book, Atticus runs into a lot more trouble than he expects while working off a debt he owes to Coyote (the Native American trickster god).
Atticus’s Celtic mythos interacting with other cultures is a recurring theme in these novels. This time out there’s a bit of the Norse mythology, but also quite a bit more from the Native American side of the fence. Apparently skinwalkers are really evil.
This book is set on an Indian reservation in north-eastern Arizona. This pretty much gives it a blank slate to work with. There’s no worrying about getting seen carrying a sword down a city street, or attracting attention with weird lights at night. Time-wise it’s set roughly in the current day. I don’t think there are any dates mentioned, but they’re driving SUVs and working on a renewable energy project to provide for future growth.
The protagonist even reaches for programming references when trying to explain things. We get to hear how aspects of druidic magic are like boolean operations and writing macros.
Granuaile turned to consider the hogan, which was lined in the red glow of the setting sun.
“So how do you create a ward, anyway?”
“You can think of it like a Boolean search on the Internet. You begin by defining your boundary—‘all life is okay in here’—and then you layer on the exclusions. ‘And not frakkin’ Cylons and not douche bags and not Imperial Stormtroopers.’”
Atticus comes across as a very likeable guy. He’s smart and tends to do the right thing in any given situation. I have no complaints about the protagonist being an idiot.
He doesn’t so much have flaws as he has weaknesses. You don’t see him agonizing over things or being tempted to do bad things a lot. I suppose that makes sense - if you’re not pretty firmly settled into yourself after 2000 years you probably have some kind of psychological problem.
This is the traditional urban fantasy first person point of view. It flows naturally and you don’t notice any obvious tricks being used. That’s because Hearne is really good at telling stories and he just makes it all seem like that’s the only way it could be.
The story moves beautifully. Atticus and his friends go from one obstacle to another all on their own. You never feel Hearne’s hand pushing them along or manipulating things. I was home sick the day the novel came out and it sucked me in and I read the whole thing pretty much in one sitting. No cringe moments, no slow spots, no urge to take a break anywhere.
As I said, I plowed through Tricked over the course of two days. The story sucked me in and devoured it. I then went back and re-read the first book of the series. It wasn’t that long ago that I read it for the first time, and it stood up to re-reading again. I attribute that to the way Hearne rests these books on strong characters, instead of plot twists. The twists are there, but even if you know they’re coming it doesn’t spoil the book for you.
The Iron Druid Chronicles is one of my favorite current series and I hope Hearne can give us many more stories of Atticus, Oberon and Granuaile.