Happy Valentine’s Day! Welcome back to Hexed! Did you miss Atticus? No? Too bad! This chapter’s pretty boring, so I apologize. That is, in part, why it took so long for me to spork this.

So we begin with Leif launching himself into Atticus’s front yard with his fangs out, which is apparently not very noticeable in this suburban neighborhood, but okay. Atticus notes that whoever was casting this spell could easily do it from a distance, and so had no reason to be anywhere within sight.

The spell didn’t work, and it’s already starting to fade, because of our next count:

Make It Easy!: 1

Yeah, Atticus has already shut off his pain receptors and is healing himself, taking off his shoes so that he can walk barefoot in his yard and get healing Earth power. The worst part is that the amulet has apparently fused itself to his skin, because it was so hot, but given Atticus’s healing powers that’s hardly likely to be permanent either, is it?

Also dialogue in this book sux. Have I made that clear?

Bq.. “I would agree that you are a victim of witchcraft, but I sense no one nearby but the usual residents,” Leif said as he continued to search for trouble. “However, now that you have delicately broached the subject—”

“Is that what I just did?” I said, tension straining my voice. “Delicately broached the subject of witches? Because I thought I was doing something else entirely, like getting my ass flame-broiled by witches.”

“I beg your pardon. I was flailing about for a segue and utterly failed to find a facile one.

Leif’s dialogue doesn’t read like an old-fashioned person or someone who uses big words. I mean the first bit isn’t that bad, but his reply to Atticus? Like, when I’m trying to write in a way that sounds overly formal or old-fashioned, I tend to just watch a bunch of clips from Elementary and model the dialogue after Sherlock Holmes. The reply reads as if Hearne raided a thesaurus store for words. Like he’s intentionally trying to tick me off.

Anyhow, Leif goes on to explain that he had an official reason for meeting Atticus tonight that wasn’t to beg him to go kill his enemies for him. See, Malina Sokolowski, the good witch from the last book? Well, she made a formal agreement with Atticus, a nonaggression treaty, which Leif has come to report that she agreed on the treaty without making any special requests.

Atticus, because he hates women witches, jumps to the conclusion that Malina, a character with no motivation to do so, was the one who tried to kill him. He assumes that because the nonaggression treaty hasn’t actually been signed yet, Malina can get away with taking a shot at him. Or something. He briefly recaps the witches’ role in the last book before adding that “despite all Malina’s noises about doves and olive branches, I still believed she would take any chance she got to avenge them.”

Again, this makes no sense. Now to be fair, coherent motivations weren’t the last book’s strength either—the villain was the Irish god of love, morphed into a rabid, foaming-at-the-mouth sociopath for no discernible reason—but we are shown time and again that Malina has been nothing but polite and helpful to Atticus, even when he’s being rude to her face. And because Atticus hates witches, for reasons that aren’t clear other than probably sexism and definitely elitism, he repeatedly tells us that he expects her to betray him.

I just want you to think about that. Our protagonists hates a certain group of people for the reasons of “They can’t by nature be trusted,” and “I’m a better class of mage than them.”

Anyhoo.

When Leif asks if he wants him, as the lawyer, to go visit Malina, Atticus resolves to visit the witch in person, to which Leif replies “You relieve me excessively.”

I told you this dialogue sucked.

But Mr. Semerdjian, Atticus’s elderly neighbor who hates him for entirely justifiable reasons, is apparently snooping around, watching through his window. Atticus asks Leif if he can sense anything supernatural about him, because he thinks the only reason anyone would dislike him is because they’re a supernatural monster with a vendetta, I guess. Leif says there’s nothing weird about him.

Leif chuckled wryly and shook his head. “The world will never plumb the depths of your paranoia.”

[sigh]

You Keep Using That Word: 2

I want to reiterate: the gods of apparently every mythology, and the entire supernatural community, all know where Atticus lives and are willing to send emissaries, scam artists, and salesmen to his house…and Atticus doesn’t care. The whole point of moving to Arizona was, according to Atticus, to be away from the gods, and yet they can just pop in whenever anyway.

Atticus is as paranoid as my sock drawer.

“I hope not, because then it might catch me unprepared for something.

Atticus is NEVER prepared for anything! So much of what happened in the last book caught him completely by surprise. He got through it because the villains were really, really stupid. He always reacts with absolute surprise when someone delivers news to him, and then he doesn’t do anything. His “preparedness” is entirely built on him being too powerful for anything the narrative throws at him! He’s the most reactive protagonist I’ve ever seen! He’s not like Batman even his worst incarnations, because he’s too stupid!

I remind you that in the last book, when he thinks it’s possible that Radomila, the evil witch that betrayed him, has taken away the sample of her blood he has, the one bit of insurance to prevent her from using magic against him, you know what he does? Does he go and check to make sure he still has it?

Nope. He just goes about his business, telling himself he’ll ask about it later. After all, he’s got to go to his favorite bar, flirt with the bartender, and talk to his werewolf friend.

[Who, like half an hour later, gets kidnapped, and he doesn’t even notice.]

Atticus asks what Mr. Semerdjian smells like and Leif says “Like a chili dog with mustard and cheap light beer. His blood courses with grease and alcohol.” I don’t know what to say other than Hearne wants to dump on this character as much as possible.

Also there’s a joke where Oberon says he thinks that smells good because… I don’t know, Hearne thinks this is comedy I guess. I’m on the border of starting the new bad joke count right now.

Nah, we’ll move on.

Leif says he’ll go home so that Atticus can do his witch hunting business. But before he goes, he requests that Atticus “at least consider” joining up with a group of people to go kill Thor, as favor because they’re friends. Atticus says he will as a favor to his friend—

But, honestly, Leif, I do not wish to give you any false hope here. Killing Thor is an honor I dream not of.”

I mean this is a pretentious way of saying, “Sure I’ll consider it friend, but f*** you I’m never going to do it.” Like, I get that going and storming Asgard to go kill Thor is a really stupid idea, even by Iron Druid standards, but Leif has made it clear this whole thing is apparently causing no small amount of anguish to himself, and if Atticus was any sort of friend he’d try to at least talk Leif down and try to help him resolve his issues.

[SPOILER ALERT: He doesn’t do that. He eventually agrees to storm Asgard because he’s an idiot.]

Icy glares from vampires are far icier than icy glares from people. And when the vampire giving you an icy glare is originally from Iceland, you are confronted with the archetypal origin of the term, and you shouldn’t be surprised if your core body temperature drops a few degrees.

…Iceland’s the green one.

Anyhow this exchange is stupid because what happens is this:

Leif threw me one such glare at me for a few seconds, then said quietly: “Are you mocking me? When you quote Shakespeare, it is often to mock someone or to point out their folly.”

Whoa, he’s got you there, Atticus, Oberon said.

“No, Leif, I’m just under a bit of stress here,” I said, gesturing at my sweating face and the still-steaming amulet dangling from my neck.

“I think you are lying.”

“Come on, Leif—”

“Forgive me, but our association has allowed me some small knowledge about the way you think. You quoted Juliet just now. Are you suggesting I am something like Romeo here, Fortune’s fool, perhaps driven to rash and ill-considered confrontation with Tybalt out of revenge for Mercutio’s death? And you think perhaps I will end tragically, like Romeo, if I pursue this course of action against Thor?”

…heh?

But wait… there’s MOAR!!!

“That is not what I meant at all. That is not it, at all,” I said, “but if that were my intent, I would have chosen to speak as Benvolio rather than Juliet: ‘Part, fools! You know not what you do.’”

Leif stared at me, utterly still, the way only vampires and pet rocks can manage. “I’ve always preferred _Hamlet,_” he finally said. “‘Now could I drink hot blood, and do such bitter business as the day would quake to look on.’”

Alright, first a

And now a

And finally:

Better Than You: 3

See how smart these guys are? They can quote Shakespeare at each other! And explain the quotes! It’s not just quoting Shakespeare, which by itself wouldn’t be that bad, but Hearne is drawing attention to the fact that they’re doing it, and then has Leif explain what one of those quotes mean. Someone just tried to assassinate our main character, and everything grinds to a halt so that we can make jokes about Atticus’s nosy neighbor and these two can measure their dicks show off how smart they are by quoting and explaining Shakespeare.

It’s like Hearne’s trying to beat you over the head with how clever these people are.

Also right after a conversation about modern people are stupid and talk stupid and you’ve got to talk like them or you won’t fit in, loser.

Dude. If that was a Shakespearean quote duel, he just kicked your ass.

I know. But I slipped in some T.S. Eliot and he didn’t catch it. Hopefully next time I won’t be recovering from an assassination attempt, and then I’ll do better.

Huh? All Leif did was say he wants to kill Thor! That’s basically it! That he’s tired of waiting, and wants to go ahead and do it! He didn’t win anything! He didn’t demonstrate better mastery of Shakespeare quotes than Atticus! He just explained that he understood them and that he thinks Atticus is calling him an idiot, and then shoots back a vampire-appropriate quote to explain he’s going to kill Thor.

You both know what you’re talking about! That’s all! I supposed if they were doing Shakespearean insults. at each other, one can win, but that’s not what Leif did just now. It was just… him saying he wants to kill Thor. In Shakespeare. Who cares?

Atticus wants to do something about this murder attempt, but because his neighbor’s watching, he can’t. So he asks Oberon to distract Mr. Semerdjian by going into his yard and staring at him. Not do anything, just sit in the yard and stare at the man, because they know it’ll unnerve him.

It was a shame that Mr. Semerdjian and I didn’t get along. A slightly pudgy Lebanese gentleman on the wrong side of sixty, he tended to get excited quickly and loudly and would probably have been great fun to watch a baseball game with. We might have gotten along famously if he hadn’t been such a jerk from the moment I moved in—which is kind of like saying the drowning victim might have lived if only he had been able to breathe water.

“Yeah, it’s a shame that he’s such a jerk. Why is he a jerk? Because he doesn’t like me!”

As has been mentioned, Atticus expects everyone to just bow to his whims, and when his neighbor, weirded out by his weird behavior and claims to be an ordinary twenty-one-year-old who owns his own store and house in the suburbs and can apparently hand out thousands of dollars on a whim, very justifiably acts like there’s something fishy about this guy, he’s just a jerk, ya know?

So while Mr. Semerdjian is staring at Oberon, Atticus calls up some fog to hide himself and then heals himself. Then he goes to his garden hose and pours water on his amulet to cool it down. When Mr. Semerdjian starts telling Oberon to get off of his lawn, and Atticus instructs him to growl if he gets closer, which he does, and Semerdjian immediately backs off and calls for Atticus to get his dog out of there. Atticus tries to act as if nothing is wrong.

Mr. Semerdjian threatens to call the police, and Atticus reminds him of the last time he called the police on him, which because of Leif’s brainwashing powers, he remembers as a false alarm that he got in trouble for. He retreats back to his house, calling Atticus “a spooky bastard”* (which he is).

Oberon and Atticus have a quick conversation, in which Atticus has to tell his dog what the word ‘prank’ is, and then he compares them to the Merry Pranksters of 1964? For Reasons? That was a group of people who went around the country doing hallucinogenic drugs (because 60’s, am I right?). See, because they’re gaslighting Mr. Semerdjian, screwing with his head, it’s like they’re giving him drugs, isn’t that funny, te-he!

…they’re psychologically torturing this man.

Atticus is going to call Malina and brag that her spell (because she’s totally the one who did it, right?) didn’t kill him. Then Oberon informs us that Mr. Semerdjian smells like demon. And even though they’ve walked down the street, Oberon still smells it. But Atticus deduces that it’s not Mr. Semerdjian, it’s something else! He says they’ve got to run back to the house to get his sword now.

A block ahead of us, something shifted in the shadows. It moved unnaturally above the ground, the size of a small Volkswagen, and then I discerned what was moving it: grotesquely long insectile legs, supporting a bulk that vaguely resembled a grasshopper. Insect size is supposed to be restricted to six inches or so, due to the limits of their tracheal systems, but apparently this demon didn’t get the memo.

See, it’s not a bad description, but it’s in this book so I can’t help but find things wrong with it. Like, why does the demon look like a bug? We talked about this a bit at the end of the last book, but mythological beings are supposed to be shaped by the beliefs of people? And look, most people who believe in demons don’t think of them as looking like giant insects. So while this isn’t a bad idea for a demon image (Dresden Files has something similar, with Imariel appearing as a large mantis-like creature), this goes against established worldbuilding.

Also, the need to tell us that insects being that large contradicts how insects’ bodies work. This coming up in any other work I think I’d let it pass, but coming from Atticus, right here instead of in dialogue or something, makes me feel like Hearne just tacked it on to make himself look smart. In a scene that’s supposed to be tense, because of there’s an actual demon lurking in his neighborhood, Atticus stops to tell us that it’s a biological impossibility.

Well duh.

Atticus tells Oberon to run home, and the demon starts chasing after them. We’re told that they won’t make it to the house, and so there’s no time to grab the sword.

Isn’t he so paranoid? That he leaves his house without a means of defense? The guy is apparently worried about being jumped by bad guys all the time, but the second one shows up, he tells us that he needs to go grab a weapon. And no, him walking around with a sword idea wouldn’t be smart either (except he did it in the last book), but you’d think if he was anywhere near as paranoid and well-prepared as he claimed just earlier this chapter, he would have some other kind of weapon or spell on him, or some way of summoning the sword to himself on short notice.

You Keep Using That Word: 3

You know, maybe we should combine two chapters? Put Chapter 3 in here too. How does Chapter 3 start anyway?

[flips page]

Demons smell like ass—nasty ass that slithers down your throat

[shuts book]

Okay never mind.

[puts in a folder labelled ‘Next Time’s Problem’]

Make it Easy!: 1
Better Than You: 3
You Keep Using That Word: 3

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Comment

  1. LoneWolf on 14 February 2021, 12:31 said:

    Yeah, not much happening except two jerks quoting Shakespeare at each other.

  2. The Smith of Lies on 14 February 2021, 17:18 said:

    Did you miss Atticus?

    Yes, but unly cause authorial fiat redirected the bullet.

    So we begin with Leif launching himself into Atticus’s front yard with his fangs out, which is apparently not very noticeable in this suburban neighborhood, but okay.

    Everyone was out grabbing a coffee, so no one was there to see Leif. Simple and well established back in book 1.

    The worst part is that the amulet has apparently fused itself to his skin, because it was so hot, but given Atticus’s healing powers that’s hardly likely to be permanent either, is it?

    Oh, you are not thinking Atticus enough. I am certain that this is either foreshadowing or a first step on the way to making Atticus absorb the amulet and making its properties innate to his being. Because it being a seperate item introduces weaknesses that Sue can’t allow.

    Atticus, because he hates women witches, jumps to the conclusion that Malina, a character with no motivation to do so, was the one who tried to kill him. He assumes that because the nonaggression treaty hasn’t actually been signed yet, Malina can get away with taking a shot at him. Or something. He briefly recaps the witches’ role in the last book before adding that “despite all Malina’s noises about doves and olive branches, I still believed she would take any chance she got to avenge them.”

    Ok, lets for a second assume that Atticus has a point here and Malina has a reason to go after him. How stupid would she need to be to go after him just as they were negotiating a cease-fire and do so in a way that implicates her in a unique fashion? It not only destroys her credibility in the community and breeds distrust, it also points her as a guilty party instantly.

    Now if Malina were not as dumb as an average Iron Druid Chronicles character, she’d bide her time, pretend good will towards Atticus and then had someone pump him full of led in a drive-by. It wouldn’t stick, obviously, but it’d make for a better plan.

    But given how stupid everyone, including Atticus, is the chances are 50/50 that it is her or that somoene is framing the coven.

    Aaaaand this is about all the Atticus I can take for tonight. I’ll continue my comment on the morrow.

  3. LWE on 14 February 2021, 17:43 said:

    Tbh, I can predict the plot of the book already: Atticus gets into a couple of troubles which he disposes of without much effort because he’s so cool and so many deities respect and support him, and ultimately kills Thor because Atticus, unlike Thor, knows kung-fu well. During all this, he seduces Brigid or Morrigan or some other hot goddess.

  4. Juracan on 15 February 2021, 23:18 said:

    Yeah, not much happening except two jerks quoting Shakespeare at each other.

    Yeah. I’m sorry this wasn’t more exciting. Like I said, I considered combining this chapter with the next one for the sporking, but I had already taken way too long in getting this one out, so I figured I should show you guys something.

    Yes, but unly cause authorial fiat redirected the bullet.

    At least you tried. Good man, Smith!

    Everyone was out grabbing a coffee, so no one was there to see Leif. Simple and well established back in book 1.

    Of course! After all, makes it easy, right?

    Oh, you are not thinking Atticus enough. I am certain that this is either foreshadowing or a first step on the way to making Atticus absorb the amulet and making its properties innate to his being. Because it being a seperate item introduces weaknesses that Sue can’t allow.

    Fudge, I didn’t even think about this. Slight spoiler: if that does happen in the series, it’s not in this book.

    Now if Malina were not as dumb as an average Iron Druid Chronicles character, she’d bide her time, pretend good will towards Atticus and then had someone pump him full of led in a drive-by. It wouldn’t stick, obviously, but it’d make for a better plan.

    Look, if anyone just walked up and unloaded a gun into Atticus it’d be smarter than anything any of the villains have done thus far. I remind you, Aenghus Og’s plan involved rendering himself impotent and challenging Atticus to a sword fight.

    Tbh, I can predict the plot of the book already: Atticus gets into a couple of troubles which he disposes of without much effort because he’s so cool and so many deities respect and support him, and ultimately kills Thor because Atticus, unlike Thor, knows kung-fu well. During all this, he seduces Brigid or Morrigan or some other hot goddess.

    Good guess, but I can tell you that fortunately (?) the Boss Fight with Thor doesn’t happen until the next book, Hammered.