Atticus O’Sullivan, last of the Druids, lives peacefully in Arizona, running an occult bookshop and shape-shifting in his spare time to hunt with his Irish wolfhound. His neighbors and customers think that this handsome, tattooed Irish dude is about twenty-one years old—when in actuality, he’s twenty-one centuries old. Not to mention: He draws his power from the earth, possesses a sharp wit, and wields an even sharper magical sword known as Fragarach, the Answerer.
Unfortunately, a very angry Celtic god wants that sword, and he’s hounded Atticus for centuries. Now the determined deity has tracked him down, and Atticus will need all his power—plus the help of a seductive goddess of death, his vampire and werewolf team of attorneys, a sexy bartender possessed by a Hindu witch, and some good old-fashioned luck of the Irish—to kick some Celtic arse and deliver himself from evil.
People’ve been asking me to have a go at this for a while, and what do you know, it turns out to be exactly the same type of excrement as Jim Butcher! Misogyny? Check. Wish-fulfillment bullshit? Oh yes. Juvenile Gary Stu material, aka Rothfuss? You fucking bet.
There are many perks to living for twenty-one centuries, and foremost among them is bearing witness to the rare birth of genius. It invariably goes like this: Someone shrugs off the weight of his cultural traditions, ignores the baleful stares of authority, and does something his countrymen think to be completely batshit insane. Of those, Galileo was my personal favorite. Van Gogh comes in second, but he really was batshit insane.
Thank the Goddess I don’t look like a guy who met Galileo—or who saw Shakespeare’s plays when they first debuted or rode with the hordes of Genghis Khan. When people ask how old I am, I just tell them twenty-one, and if they assume I mean years instead of decades or centuries, then that can’t be my fault, can it?
At this point the book is about half a chapter in and it’s been nothing but this type of info-dumps, which are heavy on Attic-Us yowling on about how jaw-droppingly awesome he is–you know, he’s known all these historical celebrities personally, has witnessed the rise and fall of blah blah blah do you find him sexy yet. Basically it’s page after page after page of wish-fulfillment vomit and we aren’t even out of the first goddamn chapter.
Underneath their human guises, they looked like the typical faery—that is, no wings, scantily clad, and kind of man-pretty like Orlando Bloom’s Legolas, the sort of people you see in salon product advertisements.
Ahaha we’re one word away from Attic-Us hissing “metrosexual manwhore” under his breath. Because you see, Kevin Hearne’s wish-fulfillment avatar is a man’s man, a proper man, who is rugged and shit and I think has a staff lying around somewhere to go with that magic sword–why put up with one phallic symbol when you can tote two? There’s a certain type of straight men who resent “man-pretty” men, either because women find them attractive or because they’re insecure in their heterosexuality, and I’m going to guess for Hearne’s Gary Stu it’s both.
As I sank my feet into the grass and drew power from it for healing, I also sent out a call—sort of an instant message through the earth—to an iron elemental I knew, informing him that I had two faeries standing in front of me if he wanted a snack. He would answer quickly, because the earth is bound to me as I am bound to it, but it might take him a few moments.
“Us get killed?” Sword Guy spluttered at me for being so ridiculous. “When it’s five against one?”
“It’s two against one now, just in case you missed the part where I killed three of you. Maybe the person who sent you knew it would happen like that.”
GUYS ATTICUS IS AWESOME, OKAY?? Never worry he might be in any real danger–if his awesomeness doesn’t make his enemies wilt on the spot he’s got conveniently placed buddies whom he can essentially text. What’s more, he will always have contacts who are exactly anti-whatever his enemies are, D&D style. Fairies? Iron elemental. Presumably when Atticus fights women he’s got a squad of screeching MRA on speed-dial.
It perched itself on a bust of Ganesha, spreading its wings and ruffling its feathers in an aggressive display. It was the Morrigan, Celtic Chooser of the Slain and goddess of war, and she called me by my Irish name. “Siodhachan Ó Suileabháin,” she croaked dramatically. “We must talk.”
“Can’t you take the form of a human?” I said, placing the pitcher on a rack to dry. The motion caused me to notice a spot of blood on my amulet, and I removed it from my neck to wash it off. “It’s creepy when you talk to me like that. Bird beaks are incapable of forming fricatives, you know.”
More “Gary Stu is AWESOME!” moments. Now this is fairly common in urban fantasy: writers without imagination love nothing better than shortcuts that show just how amazing and unfazed their protagonists are. One of those shortcuts is that the protagonist is extremely blase about dealing with figures of legend–they rub shoulders with archangels or Jesus and have drinks with Lucifer in a pub down the street, ho ho, and make sly little asides in the text about how Lucifer’s not that bad a bloke really once you get to know him. In this case it’s the Morrigan. Do you see how blase (and educated!) Atticus is? He snipes at her over fricatives! Nothing can awe or faze or stun Mr “2100-yr-old Babyface” Druid here, oh no! (Yes, the point about him looking twenty-one is made. Several times. Actually, a fucking load of times. Hearne himself, I’m guessing, is a good bit older than twenty-one. You throw a white beard on him and he’ll look like Santa Claus.)
“We do. That does not mean we are incapable of conversing together. I was relaxing in Tír na nÓg, thoroughly sated after a trip to Mesopotamia—have you been there recently? It is magnificent sport.”
“Begging your pardon, but the mortals call it Iraq now, and no, I haven’t been there in centuries.” The Morrigan’s ideas of sport and mine varied widely. As a Chooser of the Slain, she tends to enjoy nothing so much as a protracted war. She hangs out with Kali and the Valkyries and they have a death goddesses’ night out on the battlefield.
“I, on the other hand, stopped thinking war was glorious after the Crusades,” Atticus insists, just in case you thought he could go two sentences without being a sanctimonious fuck.
This is what you don’t do if you’re a white westerner (or a westerner period, really–or even a non-Iraqi): you don’t trivialize the Iraq thing by joking about “death goddesses’ night out” in your lazy illiterate wish-fulfillment trash. Know why? Because it’s not your joke to make. Given that Hearne is a white western male we should stone him to death. It’ll be great community-building fun.
The Morrigan and I have a certain understanding (though it’s too uncertain for my taste): She will not come for me as long as my existence continues to drive Aenghus Óg into twitching spasms of fury. It’s not exactly a friendship—she’s not the sort of creature that allows it—but we have known each other a long time, and she drops by every so often to keep me out of trouble. “It would be embarrassing for me,” she explained once as she was ushering me out of the Battle of Gabhra, “if you got yourself decapitated and yet you didn’t die. I would have some explaining to do. Dereliction of duty is difficult to justify. So from now on, do not put me in a position where I must take your life to save face.”
In case you thought Atticus was not an invulnerable Gary Stu. Literally a death goddess refuses to take his life. I’m happy to shit on Neil Gaiman any time, but even Hob Gadling isn’t this insufferable despite getting much the same deal. It helps that Gadling isn’t some great, ultra-powerful THE LAST OF THE DRUIDS who goes around shagging goddesses or whatever.
She had her brown hair pulled back in a ponytail, as carefully considered a decision as the makeup applied to her face and the pink gloss on her lips.
She was wearing a white bebe tank top and a pair of oversize white-rimmed sunglasses. She carried a pink cell phone in one hand along with a jangling key ring. Her tanned, silky legs were bare beyond a pair of turquoise cotton shorts that strained at the boundaries of modesty.
While I don’t wear makeup, just what the fuck is it with men who obsess over makeup being a calculated decision on women’s part? Oh, of course, it’s because cis men think women revolve around them and their gaze and their dicks–let’s chop those off by the way, it’ll be fun–so, naturally, women wearing makeup are out to seduce and attract men. There can be no other reason.
Drug addicts perplex me. They’re a relatively recent development, historically speaking. Everyone has their theories—monotheists like to blame it on Godlessness—but I think it was a plague that developed in the sooty petticoats of the Industrial Revolution and its concomitant division of labor. Once people specialized their labors and separated themselves from food production and the daily needs of basic survival, there was a hollow place in their lives that they did not know how to fill. Most people found healthy ways to fill it, with hobbies or social clubs or pseudo-sports like shuffleboard and tiddlywinks. Others didn’t.
I’m not sure what the fuck this even is, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the author believes this little tidbit is some kind of profound insight. Of course it’s juvenile as fuck and doesn’t take into account that substance addiction can arise out of abuse or any such thing, because what did you expect, human empathy? Pshaw. Atticus/Hearne is the highest moral authority and they’re here to judge you, silly fuckers.
Granuaile, the redheaded siren behind Rúla Búla’s bar, was not entirely human, but I still didn’t know what she was, and her scent was my only clue. She was a mystery to me, and a beautiful one at that. Long locks of curly red hair cascaded over her shoulders, which were always covered in a tight but otherwise chaste T-shirt. She did not earn tips from her cleavage, like many barmaids do, but rather depended on her green eyes, her pouty lips, and the light dusting of freckles on her cheeks. She had pale, creamy skin and a few fine golden hairs on her arms, which led eventually to fingernails she had painted green to match her eyes.
Gods Below, but she was a vision! Her red hair was still curly and damp from a shower she must have taken right before coming to work. Her teeth flashed white at me for a moment, and then she sauntered over to me with a lopsided smirk on her face.
You know, I literally can’t tell this apart from Jim Butcher’s writing (barring that Granuasldg is, at least, not a woman Atticus has known since she was a toddler. High bars!).
“I was born in 1277 in Madurai during the reign of the Pandyan king Maravaramban Kulasekaran, whose name I honor by taking it myself,” Laksha said. “I met Marco Polo when I was sixteen and through him realized how large the world must be to contain people like him in it.
“I married a Brahmin and played the dutiful wife while he was at home. While he was away, I played with the demon kingdom. I saw no other way for a woman in a caste system to free herself from that system.
“The things I have learned are mostly horrible—rakshasas have nothing delightful to share. The trick of transferring one’s spirit from place to place I learned from a vetala. You have heard of them?”
“Yes,” I replied. “Vedic demons. They possess corpses.”
“Precisely. I use the same principle to transfer my spirit into a gem or into a person.”
Lasksha shrugged Granuaile’s shoulders. “I wanted a new life—a new world. I decided to leave India. In 1850 I bought passage on a clipper ship that ran opium to China. Once there, the owners of this ship, called the Frolic, wanted to capitalize on the gold rush in California. So they loaded the ship in China with expensive silks, rugs, and other luxuries that would be sold in San Francisco and insured it heavily.
“This was an opportunity I could not pass up. America was much newer than China, a place where a woman could own a business if she chose, and so I bought passage there too, bribing the captain with promises of sexual favors to keep my name off the list.
What is this even.
There’s a brown woman. She’s a witch who actually consorts with demons (Atticus’ “Scary Witch-O-Meter had been traveling further and further into the red”). She uses sex as a weapon. She’s a body-snatching witch. She inhabits the body of a super-white barmaid (literal whitewashing!) and she’s the only person of color in the whole book. And only very technically. Oh, and of course she looked to the Glorious, Mighty West as the place where she can find FREEDOM!!!! because fuck yeah American, amirite. It’s not even just that it’s offensive and racist–though it is–but it’s a bland checklist.
That’s how the entire book could be described: it’s skeevy in general, sexist and racist as par for the course, but it’s also really hideously fucking boring. The writing is shit, nothing happens, Atticus spends a lot of time sitting down and lecturing people about how AWESOME!!! he is, blah blah self-insert authorial neckbeard wish-fulfillment, etc. It’s nearly word for word a clone of Jim Butcher, if you ever doubted straight white men are basically churned out of a fucking factory.