Review

Scourged by Kevin Hearne

“Two-thousand-year-old Druid Atticus O’Sullivan travels to Asgard and faces off against the Norse gods to try and prevent Ragnarok in the final battle for the fate of mankind.”

Two notes: This book will be published on April 3, and this review contains some spoilery stuff.

Well, that’s it.  The Iron Druid Chronicles is officially over.  And I feel… well… I’m feeling pretty neutral about the whole thing.  While I have certainly had many moments where I enjoyed the series, I think that this book in particular encapsulates why my initial thrill at this series petered out into something like a shrug.

Scourged is split between three different points of view: Atticus, who is involved in the main conflict of Ragnarok; Granuaile, who spends time training with Sun Wukong (the Monkey King); and Owen, who handles some minor things and makes friends with a sloth.  Yeah, that last part happened.  Don’t think I’m not suppressing the desire to make a bunch of Zootopia jokes, because I am.  The problem lies not just in the fact that the characters are separated all over the globe and have almost no interaction with each other.  Embedded in this issue is the deeper issue that the only plotline that has any bearing on the overall story arc is the one starring Atticus.  Granuaile and Owen are just side-trips that have very little to do with how the plot plays out.  Granuaile has been sidelined into a fight that she didn’t need to be in, simply because Atticus wanted her out of the way.  Owen is bounced around putting out fires (quite literally) that are merely distractions from the main fight (also quite literally).  And of course, there’s the sloth.

What I see in this book is Hearne’s fondness for telling stories within stories.  He began this with the third book in the series (Hammered), when he had a bunch of gods sitting around a fire telling their backstories for a non-inconsiderable chunk of the novel.  He’s also demonstrated this propensity in the first book of his new series, A Plague of Giants–I’ve only gotten a few chapters in, but it is literally a bunch of stories being told to a bunch of characters.  I feel like I’m seeing that again here, as Owen and Granuaile are off on their own journeys of personal growth.  While I have no problem with characters growing, these vignettes would have been better as novellas separate from the main novel series.  They don’t add anything to the overarching plotline.

I was also underwhelmed by the final battle.  For some reason, I didn’t get a sense of tension in the action, and a lot of the big conflicts don’t involve Atticus directly.  In fact, at one point a character sacrifices themselves to let Atticus fulfill a promise that he made, and there was almost no drama in this scene.  After eight books of build-up, I guess I expected something more spiffy in the series finale.  Oddly, it all seemed too easy, which seems weird to say about an apocalyptic conflict among Greek and Roman gods, Norse mythic figures, and a bunch of undead soldiers.

That’s not to say that there’s nothing good about this novel.  As much as I might marvel at the whole sloth thing, I liked Owen’s interactions with her.  (I just think they belonged somewhere other than this book.)  There’s a little bit of Oberon, our favorite wolfhound, along with his new friend Starbuck, whose limited vocabulary is charming.  I enjoyed the Monkey King and his promptings to Granuaile to think outside the box.  A few characters from past books make an appearance, although not all of them.

Overall, I enjoyed reading this book, but it certainly isn’t my favorite of the series, and I feel a little let down.  I wish I had seen Hearne rediscover the blend of humor and action that made the first few books so much fun to read.

This book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

(Description nicked from Goodreads.com.)

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