Welcome back! Sorry for the delay; I’ve been busy. Had a long depressed period, I started playing an Assassin’s Creed game from four years ago, re-read Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, the new season of American Gods began, my brother got married, Saint Patrick’s Day happened… yeah, it’s a lot.

So now we’re back with Atticus and Oberon. He’s about to be attacked by monsters. He yells “Time to go home!” and makes a dash for his house because “I had to get away from the widow’s house or she could become a casualty.” Which is weird, because he didn’t feel this way about a Fomorian god appearing on the street in front of him. Look, if your characters act as if mook monsters are more deadly and likely to cause collateral damage than literal GODS then maybe you should rethink this worldbuilding?

As they dash, Atticus tells Oberon (who is still magically cloaked) that when the Fir Bolgs arrive for the fight, to go for the Achilles tendon, then dash away before they can do anything. The Fir Bolgs themselves appear, and though with their glamours they look like “nine assholes in Harley-Davidson riding gear” they are, in reality, almost naked and waving spears and shields around.

Uh… why? If a bunch of bikers ran around chasing a guy, wouldn’t you be alarmed? Yeah, it’s more subtle than half-nude giants with spears, but not by much. It’s still pretty obvious that they’re up to no good. The idea should be to avoid drawing attention, and it doesn’t do that at all!

So Atticus gets back to his house, but there’s someone already there! Only it’s Leif, his vampire lawyer. And of course, Leif agrees to get into a fight he had little reason to expect to take part in because… Reasons. Admittedly he is reluctant to do it, but Atticus offers him another glass of Druid blood when it’s over, and the Fir Bolgs are seriously almost right on top of them.

Also there’s this:

He grinned, his fangs lengthening as he smiled. “I have not had my breakfast yet.”

“Look at it like an all-you-can-eat buffet,” I said.

Okay, but there’s like nine of them.

It’s not that the book doesn’t give reasons for Leif to involve himself in this, it’s that I don’t think they’re good ones. By all logic, Leif should say, “Yeah, no, I’ll sit this out to make sure I don’t die.” Yeah, he’s a vampire, but their opponents? Are also magical creatures. Imagine if one of your friends/clients asks you to help him fight off nine gangsters to the death. It doesn’t matter if you’re a badass or not, Atticus is asking him to help fight off nine giants, and Leif agrees because he’ll get some food out of it.

It shouldn’t be this easy. But of course, it is, because this is Hounded and we can’t have this be too difficult for our protagonist.

So Leif leaps at the lead Fir Bolg’s throat and takes him down.

We get a description of Atticus’s tattoos lighting up as he absorbs power from the Earth. And by “a description,” I mean too much description:

I drew power from my front lawn, exulting in the feeling as it coursed through my cells after channeling through my ancient tattoos. The intricate knotwork traveled from the sole of my right foot, up the outside of my ankle and right side, until it snaked over my right pectoral muscles and around to the top of my shoulder, where it fell like an indigo waterfall to the middle of my biceps; there it looped around five times until it threaded down my forearm, ending (if Celtic knots can be said to end at all) in a loop on the back of my hand. The tattoos were bound to me in the most intimate way possible, and through them I had access to all the power of the earth, all the power I would ever need, so long as my bare foot touched the ground. In practice, that meant I would never, ever tire in battle. I suffered no fatigue at all. And if I needed it, I could whip up a binding or two against my enemies or summon up a temporary burst of strength that would allow me to wrestle a bear.

Two things:

ONE: I know I’ve harped on this a lot, but Atticus is overpowered. He never gets tired of battle as long as he’s touching the ground? I mean, that’s not an uncool power, and in a decent narrative I’m sure that would mean that he’d get challenged by snipers on rooftops or something. But you know how this book goes, so you know that’s not going to happen. All the enemies are going to fight him on the ground, where he’s strongest and won’t ever get tired.

TWO: That’s… an awful lot of description of how the tattoos run across his skin, isn’t it? I know we haven’t seen this before, but I would have thought something like “That tattoos leading from my feet up to my chest and arms lit up with magical power” would have worked? As it is, it seems as if Atticus is very concerned with explaining to us precisely how those tattoos run across his body, which is just weird.

I hadn’t been in a scrap like this since I’d waded into the mosh pit at a Pantera concert.

Who?

Anyhow Atticus puts his back to a tree, and then he points at a Fir Bolg and says “Coinnigh” which holds the target in place by opening the earth under him and closing it again around the feet. Except the Fir Bolg in question apparently is moving forward too fast, and so he actually ends up breaking off his feet with the momentum? That seems… unlikely to me, but that’s what happens, so he falls to the ground screaming.

Real fights don’t look as pretty as the ones you see in movies. Those are choreographed, especially the martial arts ones, to seem so beautiful that they are practically dances. In true combat, you don’t pause, pose, and preen. You just try to kill the other guy before he kills you, and “winning ugly” is still winning. That’s what Bres failed to understand, and that’s why I got rid of him so easily.

Just a mo.

First off Hearne, don’t lecture us about how “realistic” fights go when you just had one of the mooks rip off his own feet. I’m sorry; I don’t buy it! I don’t care how heavy, strong or fast he is, that’s a hard pill to swallow. Maybe it is possible, but it seemed more as if you’re just writing in a bloody action set piece and you wanted to get rid of another one of the enemies before he bothered the protagonist.

Secondly, do you watch martial arts movies? Because there’s pausing and posing, yeah, but preening? That’s not common in movies I’ve seen, for people to go out of their way to make themselves look good. They tend to look good anyway, because they’re actors and in makeup and all, but I can’t think of a single instance in my head where in the middle of a fight scene a character stops to make sure he or she looks good and straightens the outfit. If it does happen, it’s certainly not the norm. Like with the Jane Austen example in a previous chapter, it seems like Hearne is satirizing what he thinks is a common trope in a specific form of media, and it’s… not a Thing.

Thirdly: No, that’s NOT how Bres died. He was trying to be practical, remember? His plan was to use his glamour to make you think he was just talking while he tried to kill you, and you just happened to see through it. It was absolutely nothing about him trying to face you in one-on-one combat; his entire plan hinged on you not realizing the level of danger you were in.

So three Fir Bolgs are poking spears at him. I wasn’t planning on quoting too many details because I don’t care, but… let’s talk about this language, shall we?

If I rolled forward, beneath their thrusts, they’d just stomp on my dumb ass.

That meant that I had less than a second to do some impossible shit.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t swear in books, okay. Just because I’m making an active effort to swear less in my writing, doesn’t mean everyone else has to. But here it just reads so amateur. I’m cherry picking, yes, as it’s not as if he’s swearing every other word, but it sticks out. As if Atticus (and Hearne by extension) is trying really hard to sound like a hip adult. You ever encounter someone, online or in real life, who thinks the secret to being cool or funny is just adding swear words to sentences? There are ways to do it, for sure, but this ain’t it.

Yadda, yadda, Atticus cuts three spears, but they still stab him in the shoulder and gut, he binds another one with earth and that one does not rip off his own feet, and he kills some Fir Bolgs, I don’t care…

I wished I could do one of those ridiculous fairy-godmother routines, where you just wave a wand, some sparkly lights fill your vision, and then everything is all better, but my magic doesn’t work like that.

It kind of does though? Atticus goes on to explain that he doesn’t heal instantly, but reading this book it’s clear that he heals pretty fast, considering a bad guy hacked into his arm with a sword in the first chapter and he mostly had to deal with it feeling a bit sore for the next few hours. He can shapeshift, make amazing potions, heal himself, is immune to death and has super strength and endurance. So no, his magic isn’t quite ‘wave a wand and everything’s fixed’ but it’s pretty darn close.

I’m tired of how when we talk about urban fantasy there’s a tendency to be like, “_Dresden Files_ does it better!” but… Dresden Files does it better. Harry Dresden is a good wizard, but he’s more of a brawler, magically speaking. So he can call up fireballs well, but more subtle stuff, like healing and invisibility? Not his strengths, and he has to work harder for those and can’t do them on the spur of the moment.

Atticus doesn’t have those limitations, really. He’s really good at melee combat, casting spells, healing and shapeshifting all on the fly. Again, yes, he’s immortal so he’s had practice, but it makes for a really boring protagonist who can do everything and has no troubles in battle. The best the bad guys could do is slightly inconvenience Atticus. At no point in here does he act like he’s at risk of actually getting killed.

So right, they kill all the Fir Bolgs. I could do a play-by-play, but I don’t care.

Oh and there’s this one Fir Bolg, who is going to try to whack off Atticus’s head, and so Atticus compares him to a golfer? And there’s this:

I put some earth power behind it, so I was fairly launching myself at the Fir Bolg’s would-be Phil Mickelson.

Who?

So this, and the Pantera concert comment above, I kind of wanted to add to the ‘Atticus makes pop culture references to seem kewl!’ count, but I had no idea who either of these were before Googling them. Was it a time thing? Are these Arizona things? This one is, because Mickelson went to the university in Tempe, where the book is set. But he’s certainly not the first person to people’s minds when you try to name a famous golfer.

I don’t know.

Moving on…

I cast camouflage on myself and my sword, and then I crept up behind the two immobilized Fir Bogs and stabbed Fragarach up into their kidneys. Cowardly? Bleh. Tell you what: Let’s debate the meaning of honor and see who lives longer.

You. You’ll live longer, no matter what, because you’re an ageless superpowered Druid who, oh yeah, IS IMMUNE TO DEATH!

Atticus feels the need to remind us that being practical instead of being “honorable” is smarter, but, like, duh. I don’t think your audience needs constant reminders of that. You can establish this character trait without spelling it out every time he does something “dishonorable” in a fight. And it’s incredibly hollow from a guy who made a deal with the Morrigan in the first chapter to prevent him from getting killed.

So there are nine giant corpses in the street and yard in front of his house. Atticus decides he can’t “ask the earth to swallow these guys” (that’s how he usually gets rid of bodies), because there wasn’t time and he thinks that he’s already asked too much of it already?

Uh, dude? It’s the Earth. I don’t know if it has those kinds of limitations. He talks as if the Earth is a sort of entity here, but it’s not like he talks to it, or it talks to him. They do each other favors, I guess? Anyhow, he can’t move soil around that fast.

But he hears police sirens! Ohes noes! The cops are on the way!

As if on cue, I heard sirens in the night air, and that drew my gaze to the parted living-room blinds of my neighbor across the street, whose large round eyes were staring fearfully at me as if I was the bad guy. Great.

You and your friend just slaughtered a bunch of giants (who were glamoured to look like bikers) in front of him! How did you think that was going to look, you shisno?! It doesn’t matter if they attacked first, seeing a guy and his friend wiping out nine bikers with a sword in front of my house would freak anyone out!

Atticus asks Leif, who is currently pigging out on the Fir Bolgs’ blood, to help him hide the bodies. Atticus tells Leif to go inside his house and get changed into his own suit, and bring out a fresh shirt for him (because there was apparently no blood on his pants?). Then to use his “freaky memory thing” on his neighbor across the street, as that guy was the one that called the cops.

And? Are you saying no one else in this neighborhood called the police or witnessed these events? Again, this is an American suburban neighborhood, as far as I can tell. People can be oblivious, but a battle in the street is kind of hard to miss.

Atticus uses his magical super-strength to drag the bodies and stack them in the back of his yard away from his driveway and then uses magic to camouflage them. To be clear: he doesn’t bury them, or even take them to the backyard, behind his house. Those bodies are still in his front yard, in a stack, just not near the driveway and not visible to the ordinary mortal. If someone came snooping through his yard, or a kid ran through there on his way to a friend’s house, he would discover those bodies. He even says later that people can still run into them “If they went snooping around the east side of my lawn”! And yet he’s not too worried about that.

The bodies that are in the street though? He can’t do anything about it, because Reasons. He says that his amulet’s power will drain too quickly if he tries to drag those away too, but that seems like an odd limitation right out of nowhere. So he just casts camouflage over them and the blood and calls it a day. You would think a car would run over the bodies if it drove on the road, but this doesn’t seem to occur to Atticus.

And he magicks his sword to be invisible too.

Leif returned in a minute, wearing a suit I had bought at the Men’s Wearhouse.

Why should I care where you bought the suit?

The narration also tells us that it doesn’t quite fit on Leif, as he’s a bigger guy. This book has a weird preoccupation with people’s clothes and fashion, actually…

Leif takes the bodies out of the street. Which Atticus just said he invisible’d? I don’t know how he saw them then. And then Leif goes to the neighbor, Mr. Semerdjian and mesmerizes him into forgetting all about it. And yes, the mandatory “Jedi Mind Trick” comment is there.

Atticus apparently doesn’t get along with Mr. Semerdjian?

He had held me in deep suspicion from the day I moved in, because I did not own a car.

Or maybe it’s because you look and claim to be twenty-one years old, and yet you don’t go to college, own a large house, always hang out with your expensive lawyers, own your own New Age store, sells herbs to college students, and constantly do things to draw attention to yourself like leave in the middle of the night to go hunting and entertain mysterious visitors. And given that you haven’t told us how long you’ve been living here, he might have picked up that you’ve been pretending to be twenty-one years old for years.

Also how does the “vampire hoodoo” that Leif do work? All we’re given is that he looks into the neighbor’s eyes and says “Look into my eyes. You didn’t see anything.” That’s it! We’re told that he can do that and accept it because he’s a vampire. We’re not really given any context as to how being a vampire works in this universe. Like with the werewolves, Hearne assumed that it’s fine to copy and paste the pop culture cliches onto his creatures without doing anything new. It doesn’t matter that Leif having this power wasn’t previously established until it was Plot-necessary, you’re supposed to presume he has it because, y’know, vampire.

Speaking of powers never previously established:

As they wailed down the street, I muttered a little something to magnify the scent of local plant life, which would hopefully mask the scent of so much spilled blood.

Yeah. That’ll work.

Three police cars roll up, “alerting all my other neighbors that the noise they had been ignoring was something to worry about after all.” No, duh. I think they’d have worked that out before the police arrived.

Six officers come out, with their guns out; one orders them to freeze, one orders them to put their hands up, and a third tells Atticus to drop the sword. And that’s where the chapter ends. Will Atticus face serious consequences for his actions?

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Comment

  1. The Smith of Lie on 25 March 2019, 14:36 said:

    Welcome back! Sorry for the delay; I’ve been busy. Had a long depressed period, I started playing an Assassin’s Creed game from four years ago, re-read Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, the new season of American Gods began, my brother got married, Saint Patrick’s Day happened… yeah, it’s a lot.

    It’s good that you at least keep at it. So no excuses required as far as I am concerned.

    He yells “Time to go home!” and makes a dash for his house because “I had to get away from the widow’s house or she could become a casualty.”

    Way to keep the main character act consistantly between chapters ther Hearne. Sorry but I don’t buy Atticus now suddenly giving a crap about the old lady. Its almost like someone pointed that bit of druid-dickery to Hearne but he just felt the joke about Time of Troubles too good to change the scene, so he added this bit as a hand wave.

    Uh… why? If a bunch of bikers ran around chasing a guy, wouldn’t you be alarmed? Yeah, it’s more subtle than half-nude giants with spears, but not by much. It’s still pretty obvious that they’re up to no good. The idea should be to avoid drawing attention, and it doesn’t do that at all!

    Eh. Nine guys in any kind of clothes chasing him would be suspicious.

    Who?

    My personal bias shows here, because I had no problem identifying the band. They are not my cup of tea, but apparently as far as American metal goes they were quite influential. I guess being a big fish in metal pond does not exactly translate to mainstream awarness.

    I’m tired of how when we talk about urban fantasy there’s a tendency to be like, “_Dresden Files_ does it better!” but…

    As much as I love Dresden Files and I do love that series quite a bit, I think this is more telling in regards to the Urban Fantasy genre than Dresden Files. There are exactly two good Urban Fantasy series that I’ve found besides Dresden Files (Skullduggery Pleasant on the YA side and Rivers of London). Of the others they run the spectrum from trash to mediocre.

    So yeah, we keep running back to Dresden, because the alternatives are sparse.

    Who?

    Ok, this one I drew blank as well. And while I can sort of see Atticus use the metal band that is obscure for mainstream people as a part of building his tastes and giving him a scrap of characterization, there is no excuse to use some obscure, local celebrity when making this type of joke. Want to make a golf joke? Go with Tiger Woods. Sure, it is not fresh but at least people will know who you are talking about.

    Atticus feels the need to remind us that being practical instead of being “honorable” is smarter, but, like, duh. I don’t think your audience needs constant reminders of that.

    Except if he was practical he’d have legged it long ago. Or he’d shoot the Fir Bolg full of holes with an HMG. Or blast them to Kingdom Come with mines. Or baid a band of mercs to watch his back.

    But his whole preparation was a night of sleep and waiting for them to show like a gormless bastard. He is not practical and he is not smart, he just fights dirty. And believe you me, if I want to read about combat pragmatists, there are much, much better books out there for that.

    Also how does the “vampire hoodoo” that Leif do work?

    I am on the fence about that one. On one hand various types of hypnosis or mesmerism has been part of vampire lore for a while, so it is not exactly ass pull. On the other the way he just does it out of a blue with no apparent set-up is pretty meh.

    Will Atticus face serious consequences for his actions?

    Given the pace I’m working on my grand spite fic? He will, but it’ll be around 2525 byfore that heppens.

  2. Juracan on 26 March 2019, 21:59 said:

    So no excuses required as far as I am concerned.

    Thank you, friendo!

    Eh. Nine guys in any kind of clothes chasing him would be suspicious.

    It would! But bikers, at least in American society, tend to stick out a lot and already have a reputation as being a rough sort.

    As much as I love Dresden Files and I do love that series quite a bit, I think this is more telling in regards to the Urban Fantasy genre than Dresden Files. There are exactly two good Urban Fantasy series that I’ve found besides Dresden Files (Skullduggery Pleasant on the YA side and Rivers of London). Of the others they run the spectrum from trash to mediocre.

    …someone should do some sort of dissertation on that, actually. Because I think there’s good urban fantasy out there, there has to be, but there’s not a lot of it. I’ll look into it.

    And while I can sort of see Atticus use the metal band that is obscure for mainstream people as a part of building his tastes and giving him a scrap of characterization, there is no excuse to use some obscure, local celebrity when making this type of joke. Want to make a golf joke? Go with Tiger Woods. Sure, it is not fresh but at least people will know who you are talking about.

    I was kind of torn on this, because on the one hand, I really like the idea of an urban fantasy set in not New York or London that has a bunch of references to local culture that people not from that area might not get. But on the other hand, outside of geography and landmarks, there’s really not that much to go off of. It’s just random comments like this. And a bunch of pop culture and famous historical figure references.

    Except if he was practical he’d have legged it long ago. Or he’d shoot the Fir Bolg full of holes with an HMG. Or blast them to Kingdom Come with mines. Or baid a band of mercs to watch his back.

    But his whole preparation was a night of sleep and waiting for them to show like a gormless bastard. He is not practical and he is not smart, he just fights dirty. And believe you me, if I want to read about combat pragmatists, there are much, much better books out there for that.

    …I probably should have gone with that instead.

    I am on the fence about that one. On one hand various types of hypnosis or mesmerism has been part of vampire lore for a while, so it is not exactly ass pull. On the other the way he just does it out of a blue with no apparent set-up is pretty meh.

    Fair. But as I’ve said before, I’m not in the mood to be charitable towards this book. At times Atticus feels the need to sit down and explain stupid details about faeries and witches as if we were idiots, but when it comes to werewolves and vampires he just goes with the pop culture examples without bothering to mention it. It’s lazy.

    Given the pace I’m working on my grand spite fic? He will, but it’ll be around 2525 byfore that happens.

    Well if it happens at all I’ll be glad to wait.