Well hello, friends! We’re back for another sporking!

As you can imagine, Atticus is still not in any rush to prepare for the oncoming monster attack, because he’s not really in a rush to do anything. And it makes sense considering the threat doesn’t show up in this chapter either. We start the chapter with Atticus informing us that he’s had “quite a busy morning,” but at lunch time he’s going to Rula Bula, the Irish pub in town where he’s to meet his werewolf lawyer, Hal.

He has to tell Oberon (who I remind you is magically camouflaged) not to sniff trees or fire hydrants on the way. He’s upset about that, but Atticus cheers him up by telling him that he can torture his neighbor’s cats.

No really.

You can play around at the widow’s house. You can chase her cats in camouflage and totally freak them out. Heh!

Oh, now that sounds like a good time! I can sneak up on that calico one and bark right behind it. It’ll hit the ceiling.

Oberon told me about his plans to just put his paw down on the Persian’s tail and watch what happened.

I get that he’s a dog, and this is something a dog would love if he had the power to be invisible. At the same time it’s a little weird and petty. Considering Atticus is supposed to be friends with his neighbor (who is always referred to as either ‘the widow’ or with the word ‘widow’ before her name), it’s a not great that he’s letting his dog terrorize her cats.

I know I’m probably taking this too seriously, so let’s move on to the next bit.

Hal Hauk had already secured a table inside Rula Bula near the window, and he had ordered a pint of Smithwick’s for each of us. I was both pleased and disappointed by the gesture, for it meant I wouldn’t get to go to the bar myself and take a whiff of the barmaid.

That’s not as creepy as it sounds.

Nah, brah, it’s pretty creepy.

So the deal is this: the bartender at the place is Granuaile, a super mega hawt Irish redhead. Atticus is convinced that she’s not human. According to him, “her scent was my only clue” because she “gave off an ineffable scent that was not quite floral, more like a pinot grigio and mixed with something that reminded me of India, like saffron and poppies.” So Atticus is determined to figure out what she is, and instead of asking her or minding his own business he’s been racking his brain to find out.

He’s ruled out a few options; she’s not Fae, because he can see through glamours and she doesn’t have one, nor does she seem to care about his magic iron amulet. She’s not a vampire because she works during the day and in this universe vampires can’t go out in the day (which wasn’t a thing until the movie Nosferatu came out in 1922 but okay). She’s not a werewolf, and not a witch. Atticus says she’s not a demon because apparently those always smell of brimstone, which is dumb, but we’ll talk about demons later. So Atticus is convinced she must be some kind of goddess going incognito, albeit a non-Irish one because he’d recognize an Irish goddess right away.

I’m a little unclear how this rules out all the options, but more than that I’m unclear why he’s decided she’s supernatural. There is no mention of performing supernatural feats, or any sort of magic. She’s just incredibly beautiful and smells weird. Somehow this is evidence that she’s somehow supernatural. It can’t be that she has a weird perfume. No, clearly this woman must be a goddess.

Oh, and did you think Hearne declined to describe just how hawt Granuaile is? Well you clearly haven’t been keeping up with how this book works, friendo!

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.

You know what, I’m cutting off here, ‘cause screw it, you get the point, right? It’s most of the description anyway.

There’s nothing wrong with an author going to extreme lengths to describe his or her characters. But in this book you’ve seen how this level of attention is only paid to female characters, and they’re of course the ones that are obscenely hot. You could argue that Atticus paying this close attention to women’s looks and not men’s is a character flaw rather than the author’s personal preferences, but that doesn’t really make Atticus look very good in my eyes. He’s a two thousand-year-old Druid, and he’s still drooling over college-aged women? Really?

Granuaile smiles at him, making him wonder if she knows who he really is or not. He walks past the bar, leading her to ask why he isn’t sitting with her. Oberon teases Atticus about his crush, and Atticus flirts with her a bit until Hal reminds him he’s there for a reason and he will be charging him for his time there as his lawyer. Oberon even slips in a jab about how Atticus is hypocritical because he always tells Oberon to stay away from poodles at the dog park.

Hal, being a werewolf, can smell Oberon there, and seeing that Atticus has a sword slung across his back (which apparently no one else notices?), freaks out because he realizes that it’s Fragarach, the McGuffin that everyone’s after. He asks Atticus if it was a part of the park ranger getting killed, and then asks if he needs to tell the rest of the werewolf pack. Which is creatively called “the Pack.” The Druid tells him the sword wasn’t part of it, and that the Pack doesn’t need to get involved.

Atticus insists that he needs to talk to Leif (the vampire lawyer in the firm) as soon as he wakes up tonight. Hal asks how he’s going to get paid, because, fun fact, Atticus sometimes pays Leif in blood. Yup, turns out that vampires really dig that two thousand-year-old Druid blood, and since Atticus can just heal himself he doesn’t really mind. Apparently there are no downsides to this whatsoever; Leif just gets extra powerful. Atticus thinks it might because Leif is hoping to fight Thor one day. Or something.

[Also when Atticus asks Leif to be sent over, “Hal looked up as if I had just asked him to lick up vomit.” Why? I dunno. I think this is part of the whole “vampires and werewolves don’t like each other” thing but it’s not really explained why. They just do, because that’s what they’re like, I guess.]

They order fish and chips, and an extra plate for Oberon, neglecting that it’s really not that great an idea to feed your dog a fish with too much oil, like, say, one that’s been fried.

Atticus tells Hal most of what happened, but leaves out the Morrigan because… Reasons. Hal asks what the fudge Fir Bolgs are anyway, which is a good question because they’ve been mentioned at least twice now and we still haven’t been told. Atticus explains that because of glamour they’ll look like bikers. But really, “they’re giants with bad oral hygiene and a predilection for wielding spears.” They’re hired muscle for the Tuatha De Danann these days.

In truth, Atticus is less concerned about them posing a threat to him as much as causing damage and making a bunch of noise, which might bring the authorities into it. He asks what he should do, and Hal tells Atticus that he should basically just do what he’s already doing. Then he should lie, say his dog ran away, and after a while say he’s adopting a new dog, then undo the camouflage and pretend he’s a new dog who just happens to look exactly the same.

And also not go hunting in a public park anymore, which Oberon whines about, but that’s common sense. You shouldn’t have been doing that in the first place.

Hal asks if the police have shown up asking questions yet, and Atticus says they haven’t, but he’s sure they well because he thinks Aenghus is behind this whole thing in the first place.

[raises hand] How?

No really, how? How is Aenghus Og tricking the police department into doing his dirty work? Is he appearing in disguise? Does he have his agents there in disguise, working as cops? Is he bribing them? Is he threatening them? Has he controlled them all along?

I don’t need all the details, but you can’t just say “The police department is investigating Atticus because they’re under the influence of the Irish god of love,” and not give us any clues as to how that works. For all we know, Aenghus is just beaming into the police department and handing out pamphlets.

Atticus asks Hal “what to do if I don’t want to lie.” This throws Hal for a loop, wondering if Atticus is growing a conscience.

Hal stopped chewing and regarded me steadily for a few seconds. “You don’t want to lie?” he said, completely off his guard.

“Of course I do! I just want to know what else I can do that I haven’t thought of already. That’s why I pay you, Hal. I mean, shit, come on.”

I’m not sure why this comes up, considering it’s not really discussed after this brief exchange. They never come up with a plan that doesn’t involve lying, and really there’s no reason to. It’s as if Hearne wanted this bit of dialogue but it doesn’t make any sense to be here.

Atticus: What if I don’t want to lie?
Hal: You don’t want to lie?
Atticus: Well obviously I want to lie, but let’s imagine a scenario!

…what purpose does this serve? Atticus has to lie about his name and identity all the time anyway, so why should he even consider this?

Oh, and after this exchange, Hal tells him “You really sound like one of these modern kids. I have no idea how you do it.” Take a shot. But really, look at the above dialogue in the blockquote and tell me if that really sounds like “The kids these days.” ‘Cause it doesn’t look like it to me.

What they end up actually discussing is what would Atticus do if he didn’t have magic powers. Basically, the plan Hal comes up with is saying that the cops need a warrant to search his house, and if DNA testing comes up, Atticus should protest that testing his dog’s DNA is against his religion.

I looked at him as if he were trying to sell me the ShamWow and the Slap Chop for only $19.99 plus shipping and handling.

Yeah. Guy blends into modern times like a chameleon, I tell you.

Atticus tells Hal that it’s complete BS, Druids don’t care about DNA testing as “We didn’t know what the hell DNA was in the Iron Age.” Hal shoots back that it’s hardly likely the cops know that, and he’s glad to get that tidbit about the Iron Age. Turns out, Hal doesn’t know exactly how old Atticus is, and has been trying to guess for ages, and Atticus hasn’t told him and is trying to keep it secret.

Which…isn’t bad character writing. It sounds like something that would actually happen in a friendship between two supernatural beings. I just hate Atticus so I’m not invested.

Hal acknowledges that claiming religious rules for his dog is probably not going to work, but it might buy him some time.

…you know, I’ve said this ten times over, at least, but if Atticus is truly as paranoid as he claims, he’d just get up and leave town. Or at least disappear from public life. He has magic enough to change his appearance with glamour or something; that’s all he had to do. But instead he’s coming up with a convoluted plan with his lawyer and how to avoid the law.

Even ignoring his whole “I’m so paranoid!” claims, he clearly doesn’t care about legality, so why is he bothering? None of this matters! It’s all for show! He doesn’t need to outsmart the cops legally, he just needs to not be there when they look for him!

Anyhow, he asks Hal where the next time the Pack is going to be hanging out and wolfing out next full moon, and Hal invites him along if he’d like. We get some explanation of his status in the wolf pack; apparently another werewolf named Magnusson doesn’t like him because of wolf politics BS, and there is some weird talk of alphas and how Magnusson would “have to be submissive to me”1. Basically Atticus when he turns into a hound is “friend of the Pack” which means his a guest outside the hierarchy to avoid causing too many problems and just—

[sighs]

All right, guys? We do know that this whole ‘Alphas’ thing is nonsense, right? Despite what all the werewolf media you read/watch will tell you, wolves don’t actually build their social interactions this way. At all. At least, not in the wild. What we think of as the ‘Alpha Male’ and ‘Alpha Female’ of a wolf pack tend to be the parents of the other wolves in the pack. Because they’re family units. So unless Hal is actually the father of the other wolves in the werewolf pack, they don’t need to be submissive or bow to him or anything. Same for Atticus.

Writers of werewolf fiction tend to not actually read anything about wolves. More to the point, this is yet another example of Hearne just copying his werewolves from other urban fantasy authors. The social structure, the weakness to silver, the turning on the full moon? Despite Hearne insisting on his faeries being different than the Hollywood image, his werewolves fit Hollywood ideas to a T, instead of the actual mythological creatures.

This is pointless anyhow, as Atticus says it falls close to Samhain, a holiday he celebrates, so he can’t join them. So we got a digression about Atticus’s role in the Pack… for no reason.

Great.

Hal covers the bill, Atticus leaves, and flirts with the bartender again on the way out. Oberon points out that it’s entirely possible that she doesn’t like him, she’s just doing that because, you know, it’s her job to be nice to customers, but then he suggests that it’s easier for dogs because they can sniff each other’s butts to see if they like each other. The reason I bring this up is that it’s another instance where this book is this close to making a good point.

Atticus goes back to the store, and there is Emily/Emilia, waving her check around. She wants this potion made right away. Atticus “made a show of examining it carefully, because I knew it would annoy her.” Or because he’s a dick, basically. It clears his once-over though, and so he makes the potion.

Then we get this bit of dialogue with Oberon:

We are not being very nice to each other.

So I gathered. But why not? Isn’t she the sort of female you normally find attractive?

If that was really what she looked like, sure, I said. But in reality she’s probably pushing ninety or so, and besides, I don’t trust witches.

There’s a lot to unpack here.

Let’s start with how Oberon points out that Emily/Emilia looks like the sort of girl that Atticus usually finds attractive (and presumably, sleeps with, as it’s indicated he has a pretty active sex life). She looks about twenty-one. This isn’t news to you guys, I imagine, but I want to spell out that this means that Atticus’s type is usually the age of the average American college student. Now that’s an adult, but isn’t just… a little bit sleazy, you think? That this Druid who is thousands of years old prefers to have sex with women who have just entered adulthood?

It’s also inconsistent in how Atticus acts. Despite this woman being very attractive, Atticus acts like he’s not bothered by it at all, because she’s a witch and they’re dangerous. Which is fair! But when the Morrigan shows up in his shop naked, he can’t help but ogle her. I suppose the Morrigan was naked, and an actual goddess, but the impression from that scene and the dialogue in it is that Atticus simply cannot help himself around beautiful women. He admits in that chapter that he’s almost humping her leg, and says so aloud, until she slaps him; here, he’s acting like a beautiful woman is no big deal because he knows she’s a witch and doesn’t trust her. And yet despite that he’s okay flirting with the Morrigan, an actual violent goddess of war that has brutally murdered people for less? And then he has sex with Flidais, despite admitting that he doesn’t trust her completely.

And hey, what’s the first thing that Atticus says when Oberon asks why he’s not attracted to Emily? It’s because that’s not really what she looks like, she’s actually old and ugly. And also, she’s a witch and he doesn’t trust them. Her untrustworthiness comes second to the fact that she’s ugly. Atticus is that shallow.

This shouldn’t be that much of a surprise either; we saw that he didn’t trust Flidais entirely either, but he was more than happy to have sex with her and go hunting alone with her, because she’s a hot goddess.

It isn’t even as if any of these female characters need to be sexualized at all, either. But they are, and for whatever reason the fact that Emily’s attractiveness if faked is counted as more important than whether or not she can be trusted. Looking at his track record, this is where Atticus draws the line; it’s not that she’s untrustworthy, or that she’s dangerous. The reason Atticus isn’t nice to her is because he’s not sexually attracted to her, because she’s ugly.

[The widow is a different sort of example, in that she’s old but still a sympathetic character, but she also admits she wants to have sex with Atticus and helps him because it’s convenient for the Plot.]

So Atticus is sure that Emily is going to try something, though he doesn’t know quite what yet. Oberon tells him that he should just call off the deal if he’s sure something’s up, but Atticus, as “paranoid” as he is, doesn’t do that, and doesn’t even offer an argument as to why he’s not following this good advice. He finishes the potion, sets it out, and Emily drinks it. Like, full-on chugs it.

And when she’s finished, in the last sentence of the chapter, Emily tells him that the man the potion’s targeted towards, to render impotent2 “none other than Aenghus Og.”

Uh… okay? What does this accomplish, exactly?

No, really. Emily’s acting like this is a thing that will ruin Atticus’s life. And it isn’t great for him, true, but she is the one that took the potion. She paid for the potion. By check, which means there’s definitely a paper trail. When Aenghus Og gets whammied with impotence, or just not being interested in her (seriously, which does this potion do?), and he gets upset, who is going to be upset with? The one who made the potion, or the one who went out of her way to get it and paid ten thousand dollars for it? Or both? Either way, Emily’s on some thin friggin’ ice.

Wait, how would he know Atticus made it? Doesn’t Atticus himself tell us that the witches could do stuff like that themselves? If I got whammied by some curse from a witch, I’d probably assume it was the witch or her coven that were behind it.

And hang on, Aenghus Og is the Irish god of love. Shouldn’t this potion be in his domain, sort of? Shouldn’t he be… I don’t know, immune, or resistant to its effects? You’d think being a god relating to the subject, would make it a different effect?

This whole thing makes no sense at all.

[sigh]

At least I’m not reading Angelopolis again.

Join us next time, where Atticus kills a god with almost no effort whatsoever.

1 A secret group of friends where some of the guys have to “be submissive” to others in the group? Boy, has that not aged well.

2 Wait, I thought this was just to make her unattractive to an individual man? There’s a huge difference between making someone unattractive to a specific person and rendering him impotent.

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Comment

  1. The Smith of Lie on 9 January 2019, 15:47 said:

    I know I’m probably taking this too seriously, so let’s move on to the next bit.

    It’s the type of stuff that one could pass if a character who is less of an asshole did it. Sure it’d still be somewhat mean, but not in a way that makes the character bad, maybe little inconsiderate but still reasonably innocent.

    But given Atticus’s history of being a terrible person it just works to confirm and underline just how much of an arsewipe he is.

    [Atticus trying to figure what the bartender is]

    This illustrates a sadly limited reference pool of urban fantasy. He named a handful of creatures, most of them in their pop-culture guise rather than in any way shape or form referring to the original myths and legends (though I can give that one a pass, given how many regional variants of werewolves and vampires seem to exist).

    Just to throw out examples of slightly more exotic beings that could fit the bill – Skinwalker, Naga, Valkyrie, Rusalka – each of them could easily appear as human female (though why any of them would choose to become a bartender in an Irish pub… well, that’d probably make for a more interesting story than what Atticus has been up to.) Yet we only get the most standard set included in his deliberations.

    No, clearly this woman must be a goddess.

    And I am betting she’ll turn out to be one. Because Atticus thinks so and he can’t be ever wrong. At least not when it does not include doing something stupid, like say taking an animal form in front of goddess of animals…

    But in this book you’ve seen how this level of attention is only paid to female characters, and they’re of course the ones that are obscenely hot.

    This reminds of something I saw discussed in regards to Dresden Files. I was never bothered by it, but apparently Butcher is also known to indulge in such descriptions. One interesting defense I’ve seen though points that they happen much less and are less pronounced in those books, in which Harry is in a relationship.

    Coincidence, subtle character portrayal or just fan looking for an excuse? Judge on your own, I just find the idea interesting, even if it’s wrong.

    and seeing that Atticus has a sword slung across his back (which apparently no one else notices?)

    Well that was one shitty camo enchantment that he got on it. I think he should get a refund.

    bq, [raises hand] How?

    Donuts. He offered a year supply for the whole precinct.

    Hal stopped chewing and regarded me steadily for a few seconds. “You don’t want to lie?” he said, completely off his guard.

    I like a guile, cunning hero as much as the next guy. But this here just builds up the asshole characterization of Atticus. It implies that trying to find some solution that does not involve deception is out of character.

    Atticus should protest that testing his dog’s DNA is against his religion.

    This to me sounds like a very weak attempt at humor. Not to mention that it is a murder case, no one is going to ask you about your religious feelings.

    [The bit of Werewolf internal politics]

    I don’t mind it not mirroring the wolves properly, I guess I’m inured to that stuff. But it annoys the heck out of me that this is just another excuse to give Atticus special status. Because of course he has special standing among werewolves, he is a Sue after all.

    Uh… okay? What does this accomplish, exactly?

    It causes reader to go “dun Dun… DUN!”?

    Join us next time, where Atticus kills a god with almost no effort whatsoever.

    Oh good. He does it with almost no effort instead of with no effort at all. Here’s the proof that he is a well rounded protagonist with flaws and weaknesses and not a complete Mary Sue.

  2. Juracan on 10 January 2019, 16:22 said:

    But given Atticus’s history of being a terrible person it just works to confirm and underline just how much of an arsewipe he is.

    Exactly. There are a few things that I would normally not consider to be a big deal, but given how terrible Atticus is all-around, I’m not inclined to be considerate towards him.

    This illustrates a sadly limited reference pool of urban fantasy. He named a handful of creatures, most of them in their pop-culture guise rather than in any way shape or form referring to the original myths and legends (though I can give that one a pass, given how many regional variants of werewolves and vampires seem to exist).

    Just to throw out examples of slightly more exotic beings that could fit the bill – Skinwalker, Naga, Valkyrie, Rusalka – each of them could easily appear as human female (though why any of them would choose to become a bartender in an Irish pub… well, that’d probably make for a more interesting story than what Atticus has been up to.) Yet we only get the most standard set included in his deliberations.

    This is another thing that bugs me with “All myths are true” urban fantasies—usually, they just boil everything down to fairies, demons, vampires and werewolves. Some spice it up by mentioning those as the main ones, and then being clear that there are hundreds of possibilities, and I like that better. In Jim Butcher’s Proven Guilty for instance, when finding out that the monsters responsible feed on fear, it doesn’t narrow it down because there are hundreds of creatures that fit the bill.

    Here, Atticus, despite being a two thousand-year-old Druid, can only think of a handful of possibilities for a supernatural being in disguise. It’s a bit odd.

    And I am betting she’ll turn out to be one. Because Atticus thinks so and he can’t be ever wrong. At least not when it does not include doing something stupid, like say taking an animal form in front of goddess of animals…

    Actually, no. But we don’t find out until right before the climax, and the answer we get comes right the fudge out of left field.

    This reminds of something I saw discussed in regards to Dresden Files. I was never bothered by it, but apparently Butcher is also known to indulge in such descriptions. One interesting defense I’ve seen though points that they happen much less and are less pronounced in those books, in which Harry is in a relationship.

    I don’t want to get too much into that conversation here, but in short: I think Dresden Files has some definite issues in regards to women, especially in that so many of them are overtly sexualized. But that being said, those characters have lives and personalities that are entirely independent from the protagonist, even if their interactions with him are meaningful. Heck, most of the women who are actively trying to have sex with/seduce Harry are trying to take advantage of him or kill him.

    Not so for The Iron Druid Chronicles. The women we are introduced to in this book so far are: the Morrigan, Flidais, the old Irish neighbor, Emily and Granuaile. A goddess who makes out with him naked for no discernible reason, a goddess who has sex with him, an old woman who would like to have sex with him, a witch who he doesn’t get along with, and a bartender who he flirts with every time he sees her.

    Out of the five female characters in this book, only one of them’s interactions with Atticus are not relating to sex at all. And that’s not because he doesn’t like her, it’s because she’s actually old and ugly.

    [Although I don’t even know if that counts because she is asking him to make an impotence potion? I guess that has to do with sex, doesn’t it?]

    This to me sounds like a very weak attempt at humor.

    This didn’t even cross my mind, because it’s not the least bit funny.

    But it annoys the heck out of me that this is just another excuse to give Atticus special status. Because of course he has special standing among werewolves, he is a Sue after all.

    And they come help in the climax of the book because Atticus can make them do that, I guess? There isn’t any reason that Atticus should have any special status with the werewolves, especially considering he can’t turn into a wolf. Presumably he would be a hound when he runs with them, but still—not a wolf. If he has guest status, he should still not be above any of the wolves who are actually members of the Pack.

  3. sidhecat on 12 January 2019, 14:37 said:

    I’m sure author didn’t intend this but now I’m getting impression that Aenghus just showed up in police department and everybody just started scrambling for his attention. I mean, he is god of love right? I’d actually read story about that.

    And of course witches are ancient crones using illusion to look like hot young girls.