Chapter Three’s pretty short so we’re covering it and Chapter Four at the same time.

So last time the Morrigan, the goddess of violent death, appeared in Atticus’s bookshop to warn him that his old enemy Aenghus Og was coming to town to murder him, was sending Fir Bolgs, and that he was in danger. She also makes him even more immortal in exchange for the recipe for his Super Special Awesome iron amulet recipe, and makes out with him before leaving. Atticus, all the while, is not concerned about the Plot because he doesn’t think Aenghus Og will really get off his butt.

We open chapter three with Atticus mentioning that since the good ol’ days of ancient Ireland, he’s believed in the superstition that bad things come in threes. He’s had the faeries attack him, the Morrigan deliver bad news (not that he took it seriously), so he’s expecting something else bad to pop up and ruin his day. So he closes up the shop early and decides to bike home and—

Usually I took my time and enjoyed the ride: I would say hello to the dogs who barked a greeting at me or stop to chat with the widow MacDonagh, who liked to sit on her front porch, sipping sweaty glasses of Tullamore Dew as the sun set. She spoke the Irish with me and—

She “speaks the Irish”? Is that a thing anyone says? I’m genuinely asking here.

Sorry, carry on.

told me I was a nice young lad with an old soul, and I enjoyed the conversation and the irony of being the young one. I usually did her yard work for her once a week and she liked to watch me do it, declaring loudly each time that “If I were fifty years younger, laddie, I’d jump yer wee bones and tell no one but the Lord, ye can be sure.” But today I hurried, tossing a quick wave at the widow’s porch and churning my legs as fast as they would go.

We can’t go very far without the book reminding us that Atticus is extremely sexually attractive, can we? If it was one or two characters, that’s one thing, but so far we’re three chapters in, and we’ve already had the Morrigan kiss him naked, and now his old Irish neighbor tells him that she wishes she was young enough to have sex with him.

Here’s the thing: the widow MacDonagh isn’t in this scene. She’s not in this chapter. Not really. Atticus is describing his way home and his neighborhood, and he just decides to describe his old lady Irish neighbor and he goes on a tangent about how they like to talk and how she totally wants to have sex with him. It doesn’t have to do with what’s going on. Hearne easily could have left this description of the neighbor until she, you know, actually shows up, but Atticus can’t help but tell us everything in excruciating and boring detail, so here we are. Oh, and she wants to have sex with him.

Alright here’s a pro-tip, authors: if you’re writing a story, don’t constantly remind us how hot your lead is and how much people of the opposite sex want to have sex with him or her. I’m sure there are exceptions to that rule that you could make because writing is a varied and complex art, but in general I think it’s a good rule. Because it all it does is make me think that you’re writing a self-insert wish fulfillment character.

Do you remember that list of superpowers that Atticus has from last chapter’s sporking? Maybe add ‘Every woman so far wants to bone him,’ to that list, yeah? I imagine this instance is a joke, considering that the woman in question is an elderly widow, but given how Sue-ish Atticus already is, it’s still pretty egregious. If MacDonagh was written to say something like, “He’s a handsome young man,” I’d have let it go, but nope, she explicitly says if she was young she’d be having sex with him.

Atticus describes his house a bit [yawn], checks his magical defenses and realizes that there’s someone there in the house. He knows it can’t be a faerie or a human because they can’t break through his defenses for… Reasons. It’s magic. So he decides it must be a member of the Tuatha de Danann, and he’s a bit worried. Which he should be. His defenses don’t protect him from a god marching into his house? Or at least tell him when it happens? That’s a pretty shoddy defense system, my dude.

Atticus thinks that it could be Aenghus Og, but again Atticus refuses to believe that the bad guy would actually leave Tir na nOg to kill him so he dismisses that idea. So he asks his dog.

Meet Oberon. He’s an Irish wolfhound. He’s Atticus’s dog, with whom he communicates telepathically, and also the character Hearne identifies the most with, using him to put as many of his own quips into the story.

No really. The dog is the self-insert.

Anyhow he asks Oberon “How goes it, my friend?” and Oberon, who is pretty cheerfully chilling out in the backyard, reveals that a female someone is in the house, and he likes her because she’s friendly and compliments him, comparing him to the older Irish wolfhounds in the Middle Ages. This leads to Atticus talking about wolfhounds and how he adopted Oberon but it’s all boring so I’m skipping it.

What is important is that not a lot of people can talk to Oberon like Atticus does, and this intruder was able to.

When Atticus tells Oberon that the visitor was not invited, Oberon gets a bit worried asking “”, which, hey, full points to Hearne, this actually sounds like something a dog would get worried about and be ashamed of. Atticus assures Oberon that he’s fine, but that if their visitor turns hostile that he should kill her.

< I thought you said never to attack humans. >

She hasn’t been human for a very long time.

That’s… actually really good dialogue.

And then there’s a bit where Oberon calls her nice for an “inhuman,” and Atticus corrects him because that’s an adjective and the correct term is “nonhuman” and Oberon points out that English isn’t his first language and dear Lord this conversation should have ended with “She hasn’t been human for a very long time.”

In general, I don’t have too many issues with Oberon, but he tends to have make unnecessary dialogue so that Hearne can put his quips into the story. They’re not even bad quips! But they kill the tension. There’s someone in Atticus’s house right now! We don’t know who! We don’t know if she’s friend or foe! This should be super tense! They should only be saying what’s absolutely necessary.

But sure, let’s have some dialogue about Atticus correcting Oberon’s grammar I guess.

Oberon circles up front to join Atticus so they can enter the house together. They find nothing wrecked or stolen, but there’s a woman angrily failing to make a strawberry smoothie in his blender. See, because she’s an ancient goddess, she doesn’t realize that you have to plug things in. Once Atticus tells her to plug in the blender, she is much happier, and Atticus relaxes because this is one of the Irish gods that he’s on good terms with: Flidais, goddess of the hunt1.

Chapter three ends with Atticus lamenting that he didn’t know it yet, but Flidais brought the third problem and he had no idea until it was too late. Because who needs foreshadowing when you can have the characters tell us things are going to happen!

Chapter Four begins with Flidais explaining how she learned about smoothies (because they don’t have those in Tir na nOg), and so she takes roughly two pages to say this: she was hunting with Herne, found a poacher, followed him to a smoothie joint, killed him and took his smoothie. That’s it.

Also Atticus asks if she was invisible while she was chasing the dude, and Flidais gets very offended because it implies she isn’t the Best Huntress Evah and Atticus apologizes. And then describes her outfit for Reasons.

It’s leather. I don’t care enough to type out the entire description Hearne gives.

Also Flidais has to be told what a parking lot is? Or at least what the word for it is is. And again, I’m kind of bothered. I really hate this idea in modern urban fantasy that the gods are all stupid old people who don’t understand modern society. Maybe it’s because I’m thinking of fiction like American Gods or even Percy Jackson and the Olympians wherein the gods have adapted to the modern world. In PJO they’re explicitly timeless archetypes who fit ideas rather than specific cultures and historical periods, so of course they don’t stumble around the modern world oblivious to the fact that they’re not in the Bronze Age, confounded by basic aspects of the modern world.

Here, and in too many other works of fiction, the gods are just stupid. They know nothing about modern technology. Flidais isn’t even familiar enough with the modern words to remember the name for parking lots. It just reeks of lazy writing to me. Have the gods really not spent a significant amount of time in the mortal world for the past hundred years or so? I know Atticus tells us that the Tuatha de Danann don’t get out much because they can be killed, but you know what? I can be killed and I don’t spend all my time in my own house.

“Well the gods are cowards!” Well if that’s the case then you’re not writing characters as much as making the deities into strawmen so you can bash. Because this characterization isn’t taken from the myths.

It’s dumb writing.

Anyhow, Flidais tells Atticus that she killed the poacher and hid the body she took the guy’s smoothie which leads us to this:

See, sentences like that are why I nurture a healthy fear of the Tuatha De Danann. Now, I will be the first to admit that human life was not worth much to my generation in the Iron Age, but Flidais and her kind are forever rooted in Bronze Age morality, which goes something like this: If it pleases me, then it is good and I want more; If it displeases me, then it must be destroyed as soon as possible, but preferably in a way that enhances my reputation so that I can achieve immortality in the songs of bards. They simply to not think like modern people, and it is because of them that the Fae have such twisted senses of right and wrong.

Hey

Hey

Hey

You’re a Druid. You don’t get to complain about how the social system that the gods are used to was weird and immoral and disconnect yourself from it. You were a part of that system. You upheld that system. Stories about the gods were passed down by the Druids. This preoccupation with reputation wouldn’t happen if the Druids didn’t keep the system running. So while yeah, the gods are problematic in their attitudes, don’t act like you have no part in it because you’re Iron Age and she’s Bronze Age.

Furthermore it isn’t as if there weren’t rules in the Bronze Age. The idea of murder being a way to break that law shouldn’t be new.

And Atticus doesn’t care much about human life either! The Morrigan told you she was going to murder those guys and after a weak protest you did nothing but shrug and say “Oh well.” Yeah the Irish gods might have screwed up rules about morality, but you’re complicit if you do nothing to stop them. Especially because you can! You would think that the Druids, the priests of the Celtic gods, would make it their responsibility to nourish a healthy relationship between the gods and humanity. But nope! It’s not his business. The gods are just dicks and there’s nothing he’s going to do about it.

[And yes, I KNOW that in this series Hearne characterizes Druids not as being priests of the Celtic gods, but as protectors and servants of the Earth. This isn’t actually explained outright until much later in the book. It’s weird and New Age-y but it still doesn’t free Atticus from being complicit in the deaths of the gods’ victims.]

Flidais asks what name he’s using now, and Atticus tells him that he goes by ‘Atticus’ these days. She points out that it’s Greek, and asks if anyone thinks he’s Greek, and Atticus answers with “Nobody pays attention to names here.”

Uh, yeah, they do. If you mean ‘here’ as in ‘this time period,’ I suspect you’re an idiot. When I went to the UK people told me they were surprised because my (Hispanic) name “wasn’t American,” because a lot of people on both sides of the Atlantic assume that Americans all have English names. If you mean ‘here’ as in ‘the US’ I also suspect that people would care. Atticus is a somewhat unusual name, and people will comment on it, though it’s not too out there so it’s probably not a huge deal.

Furthermore, Greek names are pretty common? And from someone who was used to the ancient world, it shouldn’t be a surprise. Greek became the de facto language of the educated for a while before Latin was, and so anyone who wanted their kids to sound educated gave them Greek names. You’ll still meet people today with Greek names. Alexander? Sophia? Anastasia? Nicholas? Georgia? Jason? Iris? They’ve been Anglicized, yeah, but they’re Greek names.

Atticus explains that people today only care about crude displays of personal wealth, and I’m compelled to point out that it’s not a new thing. Anglo-Saxon kings gave out gold bling to their thanes. Yeah, the currency is different, but it’s not a new concept.

Atticus decides that he wants some smoothie, and instead of saying so, or getting it because it’s his house, he stares at the blender and hopes Flidais gets the hint. She does, and offers him some smoothie, and he calls her considerate in reply.

I thought of the stoners who came into my shop earlier, probably already dead at the hands of the Morrigan, and how they would have been equally dead had they found Flidais in their kitchen. They would have seen her and said something like “Yo, bitch, the fuck you doin’ with my strawberries?” and those would have been their last words. Bronze Age manners are tough to fathom for modern men, by and large, but it’s fairly simple: The guest is to be treated like a god, because he may, in fact, be a god in disguise. I had no doubts on that score when it came to Flidais.

Alright let’s take this step-by-step:

ONE: Oh hey, remember the stoners from chapter two? Atticus tells us they’re probably dead by now. Just so you know. Those guys had their hearts ripped out and eaten. Not that Atticus cares.

TWO: And yes, Atticus thinks they would assume they’d say “the fuck you doin’ with my strawberries?” instead of, y’know, probably telling her to leave or calling the cops. Because that’s what normal people would do.

THREE: Yes, it’s commonly presented that in the ancient world rules of Guest and Host are sacred, but Atticus (and Hearne) are missing an important detail about this situation: that the guest is also supposed to act incredibly politely and not offend his or her host.

Flidais isn’t a guest. She wasn’t invited; she broke into Atticus’s house while he wasn’t there. It’s possible she didn’t see it that way, and Oberon let her walk around and talked to her, so it’s possible that she didn’t consider it a break-in. Alright, fine. Let’s say she is a guest by ancient standards. But then she took some of his food without asking and tried operating one of his devices that she didn’t really know how to use to begin with.

FOUR: Atticus, as host, shouldn’t have to ask for some of the smoothie. It’s his fruit, his kitchen, and his blender. Flidais should have asked permission to use it and drink the smoothie in the first place.

If someone barges into your house, eats your food and starts messing with your stuff, then you don’t owe them jack squat. Someone can’t demand you be a good host if she’s being an awful guest. Yes she’s a goddess so Atticus is smart to not offend her, but let’s not act like this is a guest-host thing.

The two of them go to the front porch to talk, and Atticus asks where she parked her chariot, and she explains that her chariot and the stags that pull it are invisible in a park nearby. She continues that she’s here to tell Atticus that Aenghus Og knows he’s here.

Except he already knew that, and he tells her that the Morrigan told him after lunch.

But then she adds that Fir Bolgs are coming.

Except he already knew that too. He doesn’t care.

But then she says that, gasp, Bres is also coming!

And finally, this gets a reaction and Atticus spits out his strawberry smoothie.

Also this is terrible writing. I mean, it’s not Angelopolis terrible because that’s a special kind of terrible. But it’s not great. This is a repeat of the whole “The Morrigan is proving that she knows bad things are going to happen!” bit from Chapter 2. It went like this, only longer.

The Morrigan says Aenghus is coming because he hinted so in conversation, Atticus doesn’t care. She says she saw omens, Atticus doesn’t care. She says she cast the wands, and then he seems to pay attention, but in the end he doesn’t care.

Same thing here. Flidais says Aenghus knows he’s here, Atticus doesn’t care. She says Fir Bolgs are on the way, Atticus doesn’t care. Then she says Bres is coming, and again, he seems to pay attention, but by the end of the chapter he doesn’t seem to care. He doesn’t decide to pack up his bags and ditch town or try to hide or anything. Two goddesses have dropped into Atticus’s life to tell him that his life is about to go pear-shaped because the Bad Guys know where he lives, and Atticus doesn’t care.

Adding to that, it’s a terrible way to ratchet up tension. Nothing has actually happened since the first chapter, but people keep coming in to tell Atticus that things will happen. Instead of the Plot organically piling up and tons of independent problems getting stacked on top of the protagonist as the narrative goes on, like in Dresden Files or Skulduggery Pleasant, characters drop in to give Atticus a checklist of the bad guys he has to fight in this book.

[sigh]

So who the fudge is Bres, anyhow?

Bres was one of the meanest of the Tuatha De Danann alive, though he was not particularly bright. He had been their leader for a few decades, but eventually he was replaced for being more sympathetic to the monstrous race of the Fomorians than to his own people. He was a god of agriculture and had escaped death at Lugh’s hands long ago by promising to share all he knew. The only reason he had not been killed since then was because he was husband to Brighid, and no one wished to risk her wrath. Her magical powers were unmatched, save perhaps by the Morrigan.

So this more or less matches up with the majority of his Wikipedia article. That doesn’t mean it’s all accurate though. Someone feel free to correct it if they know better. The real problem is that Atticus’s description feels like a short article. Unlike with the Morrigan or Aenghus Og, I get no sense of history, no sense of the idea that he and Atticus personally know each other. It’s summing up his mythology without adding much to it.

And really, it’s another example of Hearne telling instead of showing us stuff. I’m four chapters in, and so often the action has stopped so that Atticus can turn to the audience and explain in-detail who characters are, how things work, or snippets of his own backstory. If he didn’t do this every time it wouldn’t be as egregious, but he does, and it halts the flow of every scene. There are really easy ways to avoid this, like having him explain these things to another character, or giving only the small bits that are necessary and letting the audience fill in the gaps. Hearne does none of this.

Anyhoo Flidais explains that Aenghus probably bribed Bres with something to make him come to kill Atticus2. Flidais straight-up tells Atticus that she wouldn’t care if he killed Bres, because Bres “does not respect the forest as he should.” Which, uh, yeah I get the goddess of the forests (or not, look at the first footnote again) wouldn’t get along with the god of agriculture responsible for cutting down those forests to make fields, but if the gods are so terrified of getting killed that they hardly leave Tir na nOg, you’d think they wouldn’t encourage someone to go and kill one of their own?

Atticus does not have any good response to his guest essentially egging him on to kill one of her family members (which I imagine is also not a great thing to do as a guest, but no one asked me), so after an awkward silence she starts talking to Oberon. Oberon talks about how he and Atticus hunted bighorn sheep in Papago Park.

[You need a permit to hunt bighorn sheep, and less than two dozen people held those permits in the year that this book was published; not that anyone cares because Atticus shapeshifts into a hound to do it.]

Flidais is amazed at the idea of hunting sheep, because, well, they’re sheep, how can that be any fun? Sheep are slow and dumb. Atticus and Oberon explain that bighorn sheep aren’t like domesticated sheep, they’re bigger and harder to bring down. Flidais, astounded that she hasn’t heard of these before, decides she would very much like to hunt them because she’s apparently not hunted anything new in centuries (again, that’s dumb but let’s roll with it).

Atticus agrees, but he tells her that if they’re going to go hunting, they need to wait until after dark when the park closes so they can hunt without interference. Flidais agrees, but it’s a few hours until dark, so what are they going to do until then?

She decides to have sex with him.

No really.

Her eyes appraised me and I pretended not to notice, keeping my gaze locked on my bicycle still lying in the street. “You appear to be in the summertime of youth,” she said.

“My thanks. You look well as always.”

I am curious to discover if you still have the endurance of the Fianna or if you are hiding a decrepitude and softness most unbecoming of a Celt.”

I stood up and offered her my right hand. “My left arm was injured earlier this afternoon and is still not fully healed. However, if you will follow me and assist in mending it, I will do my best to satisfy your curiosity.”

The corner of her mouth quirked up at the edge, and her eyes smoldered as she placed her hand in mine and rose. I locked eyes on hers and didn’t let go of her hand as we returned inside and went to the bedroom.

I figured, to hell with the bike. I’d probably feel like jogging to work in the morning anyway.

That’s how Chapter Four ends.

So that happened.

Atticus has been told by not one, but two goddesses of his own pantheon that the bad guys are coming to punch his face in, and what is he doing now? Is he packing his bags? Is he rallying his allies and preparing his defenses? Is he digging a deep dark hole to hide in? Nope. None of those things. He’s planning a late night hunting trip and having sex. You can’t tell me this is about being a good host; nowhere in this scene does that excuse fly, and it certainly doesn’t here. The fact is that Atticus repeatedly refuses to take the Plot seriously.

How am I supposed to read this story as anything other than wish fulfillment? We’re in the fourth chapter of the first book in the series, and Atticus has already made out with a naked goddess and is getting into bed with another. Atticus is immortal, nigh-unkillable, heals quickly, can talk to his dog telepathically, breathes underwater, shapeshifts, kills his most recurrent enemies by touching them, is insanely attractive and has sex with goddesses.

I remember when I read this book for the first time at this point I was beginning to wonder what kind of book I’d picked up. It’s not just that there’s nudity and sex, it’s that they don’t serve much purpose in the story or make much sense. It’s not that the protagonist had sex, it’s that a literal goddess decides to have sex with him after sharing smoothies with him. It’s not that the Plot is vague, it’s that the protagonist doesn’t pay any attention to it until bad guys start popping up in his face. He’s overpowered and oversexed, and he doesn’t care about what happens to the people around him.

No, it’s definitely not in the same league as Angelopolis but it’s not very good. And yet whenever urban fantasy comes up this series is often mentioned in the same breath as Dresden Files. It’s baffling. Maybe the later books in the series get much better, but judging from the first few I’m kind of doubtful.

Join us next time, when Atticus explains why it is exactly that Aenghus Og hates him so much!

1 Fun fact! She’s probably not really a goddess of hunting. That’s more of a New Age thing. But if gods are shaped by what people believe about them I guess she could have in-universe been retconned into being a hunting goddess? IDK, the whole ‘gods are shaped by belief’ thing raises so many questions once you stare at it for more than two minutes.

2 Okay well actually they’re not sure that Bres is coming to kill Atticus, but c’mon, what else would he be there to do?

Tagged as: ,

Comment

  1. blob on 21 August 2018, 18:51 said:

    ““If I were fifty years younger, laddie, I’d jump yer wee bones and tell no one but the Lord, ye can be sure.””

    I lived in Ireland for six months. No one talks like this. Absolutely no one. Including thickly-accented elderly people. This just does not happen.

    Hey did you know? Ireland is a real place! You can listen to people from there talking, and then put dialog in your story that actually sounds like how Irish people talk! Or, if you don’t want to do that, you can write about somebody else!

    “Bronze Age manners are tough to fathom for modern men, by and large, but it’s fairly simple: The guest is to be treated like a god, because he may, in fact, be a god in disguise. I had no doubts on that score when it came to Flidais.”

    In addition to the other points that you excellently summed up: This part feels so weirdly self-aggrandizing to me. ‘Those other people are bad hosts and stupid! I’m a good host!’ Okay Atticus you’re the best thing ever I get it.

  2. The Smith of Lie on 22 August 2018, 04:45 said:

    Atticus, all the while, is not concerned about the Plot because he doesn’t think Aenghus Og will really get off his butt.

    In a just universe this would come back to bite the aforementioned butt with a force of a bear trap snapping shut.

    We open chapter three with Atticus mentioning that since the good ol’ days of ancient Ireland, he’s believed in the superstition that bad things come in threes.

    If it is how the world actually works than it isn’t superstition…

    Here’s the thing: the widow MacDonagh isn’t in this scene. She’s not in this chapter. Not really. Atticus is describing his way home and his neighborhood, and he just decides to describe his old lady Irish neighbor and he goes on a tangent about how they like to talk and how she totally wants to have sex with him. It doesn’t have to do with what’s going on. Hearne easily could have left this description of the neighbor until she, you know, actually shows up, but Atticus can’t help but tell us everything in excruciating and boring detail, so here we are. Oh, and she wants to have sex with him.

    Who’d want to have a plot and action, while we can listen to Atticus bragging about his manly charm instead! Actually the main character of series I’m currently readin, Flashman Papers, likes to give similar statements. But in his case it is because he is a lecher and incorrigible womanizer. And he has more than enough character flaws to compensate for this. And, acknowledging the next paragraph of the spork, the reminders of Flashy’s talent with seduction mostly happen when it is relevant to the narrative (which it mostly is by the way of landing him in trouble).

    That’s a pretty shoddy defense system, my dude.

    Eh, there’s always someone better than you. I’m willing to cut Atticus some slack if a physical god can break his wards. I deduct points for not hauling ass the moment he discovered that someone powerful enough to do that broke in. That is just plain lack of survival instinct. Though given all the layers of plot armor he wears it is no surprise that Atticus lacks in that department.

    Oberon, who is pretty cheerfully chilling out in the backyard, reveals that a female someone is in the house,

    Oh goodie. I bet that Hearne will show us all the restraint and class he has by not implying or even outright stating that this female visitors would like to ravish Atticus… Haha, who am I kidding.

    he hasn’t been human for a very long time.

    Great, now,in a weird tangent, I’d like to read a book that explores the questions of trans-humanism vis magic.

    Chapter three ends with Atticus lamenting that he didn’t know it yet, but Flidais brought the third problem and he had no idea until it was too late. Because who needs foreshadowing when you can have the characters tell us things are going to happen!

    This is actually pretty prevalent theme in first person narrated books. “If only I had known…” is a cliché for a reason. Personally I’m willing to let it go, as long as it’s not overused.

    Chapter Four begins with Flidais explaining how she learned about smoothies (because they don’t have those in Tir na nOg), and so she takes roughly two pages to say this: she was hunting with Herne, found a poacher, followed him to a smoothie joint, killed him and took his smoothie. That’s it.

    Cool. But how is that relevant to her presence in Atticus’s place?

    It’s leather. I don’t care enough to type out the entire description Hearne gives.

    I think it’d be more funny and interesting if she wore a modern Ghillie suit or something similar. But I always found the idea of old gods adapting to the modern world more interesting than Hearne’s “they don’t keep up with the times” thing. It just makes so much more space for creative use of the classic characters if one allows for, I don’t know Odin as a CEO of PMC corporation.

    Also Flidais has to be told what a parking lot is? Or at least what the word for it is is. And again, I’m kind of bothered. I really hate this idea in modern urban fantasy that the gods are all stupid old people who don’t understand modern society. Maybe it’s because I’m thinking of fiction like American Gods or even Percy Jackson and the Olympians wherein the gods have adapted to the modern world. In PJO they’re explicitly timeless archetypes who fit ideas rather than specific cultures and historical periods, so of course they don’t stumble around the modern world oblivious to the fact that they’re not in the Bronze Age, confounded by basic aspects of the modern world.

    Exactly! And it is more interesting to see how the archetypes are brought into modernity, how they fit with the new world, rather than re-threading what the mythology and folk-lore already did, just with “fish out of water” twist.

    You’re a Druid. You don’t get to complain about how the social system that the gods are used to was weird and immoral and disconnect yourself from it. You were a part of that system. You upheld that system. Stories about the gods were passed down by the Druids. This preoccupation with reputation wouldn’t happen if the Druids didn’t keep the system running. So while yeah, the gods are problematic in their attitudes, don’t act like you have no part in it because you’re Iron Age and she’s Bronze Age.

    Not to mention that just two chapters ago, when Morrigan decided to kill the two stoners Atticus wasn’t particularly bothered by this, except for the mess it’d make in his shop.

    I think it’d actually be pretty interesting to read a book with protagonist who is sort of stack in the old ways and values human life very little, not because he’s evil but because he is a product of a different times. It would be a difficult thing to write and avoid making such character unsympathetic, but done well it’d be pretty fresh.

    The two of them go to the front porch to talk, and Atticus asks where she parked her chariot, and she explains that her chariot and the stags that pull it are invisible in a park nearby. She continues that she’s here to tell Atticus that Aenghus Og knows he’s here.

    At this point one has to wonder, what has Atticus done, that both Morrigan and Flidais pretty much trip over themselves to personally deliver warnings to him… Except being the protagonist, has it been even suggested that he in any way curried favor from Tuatha or something?

    Okay well actually they’re not sure that Bres is coming to kill Atticus, but c’mon, what else would he be there to do?

    Maybe he wants to drop in for a smoothie?

    She decides to have sex with him.

    Somebody better pick up that phone, because I called it!

    Atticus has been told by not one, but two goddesses of his own pantheon that the bad guys are coming to punch his face in, and what is he doing now? Is he packing his bags? Is he rallying his allies and preparing his defenses? Is he digging a deep dark hole to hide in? Nope. None of those things. He’s planning a late night hunting trip and having sex. You can’t tell me this is about being a good host; nowhere in this scene does that excuse fly, and it certainly doesn’t here. The fact is that Atticus repeatedly refuses to take the Plot seriously.

    You know, I could forgive him for not taking the plot seriously. It could be read as a character flaw and his overconfidence should load him into trouble, that’d be ok with me. But for the last four chapters that plot that he isn’t taking seriously has refused to materialize in any way other than goddesses throwing themselves at Atticus with amorous intentions. And that, outside more porn-y, titles is unforgivable.

    Join us next time, when Atticus explains why it is exactly that Aenghus Og hates him so much!

    Is it because he is jealous of the fact that Atticus is so perfect?

  3. Aikaterini on 22 August 2018, 09:41 said:

    She “speaks the Irish”? Is that a thing anyone says?

    I don’t know, but it sounds odd. Irish (or Irish Gaelic) is an actual language. It’s like someone saying, ‘She speaks the Spanish with me.’ If it was a person who wasn’t a native or fluent English speaker, I could see them saying this, but since it’s coming from Atticus, I’m just confused.

    now his old Irish neighbor tells him that she wishes she was young enough to have sex with him.

    Because of course she does. But remember, this is totally different from Mrs. Cope wanting to jump Edward’s bones in “Twilight.” And this is not potentially creepy in any way. Experiment: try rewriting this scene, but instead of an old woman telling Atticus this, it’s an old man. Or try rewriting this scene and keep the old man, but instead of Atticus, it’s Artemis. “Ohoho, if I were fifty years younger, lass, I’d jump yer wee bones and tell no one but the Lord, ye can be sure.”

    No really. The dog is the self-insert.

    Really? Not the handsome young man whom every woman wants to sleep with?

    I really hate this idea in modern urban fantasy that the gods are all stupid old people who don’t understand modern society.

    And Atticus is the only exception, right? Just so we know how much smarter and more ‘hip’ he is than the other gods?

    Atticus is a somewhat unusual name, and people will comment on it

    He’s like the opposite of Bella Swan: she commented that ‘Edward’ and ‘Alice’ sounded like old-fashioned and unpopular names, even though they really aren’t, at least not when compared to names like ‘Jasper’ and ‘Rosalie.’ But the fact that she did comment on them shows that, yes, people do notice names. If Atticus went around calling himself “Jermajesty,” people would notice.

    Not that Atticus cares.

    But it’s the Irish gods who have screwed-up rules about morality. Not Atticus, who’s trying to have his cake and eat it too by commenting on their morality, but not doing anything to contest it.

    If someone barges into your house, eats your food and starts messing with your stuff, then you don’t owe them jack squat.

    Which is exactly the rationale for the Beast’s behavior in Beaumont’s version of “Beauty and the Beast,” which also operated by traditional rules of hospitality. The Beast fulfilled his responsibility of host by offering Beauty’s father food and a place to stay for the night. The merchant broke his end of the bargain by taking the rose, an object that did not belong to him and that the Beast did not give him permission to take.

    Atticus doesn’t care.

    What does he care about, then? He doesn’t care about human lives, he doesn’t care about his life possibly being in danger.

    she would very much like to hunt them because she’s apparently not hunted anything new in centuries

    So, she doesn’t know how modern technology works and she hasn’t learned about new species to hunt. What has she been doing all these years? Like The Smith of Lie said, it’s interesting when gods, monsters, and fairies learn to adapt to the modern world. They can still keep to their traditions and appearances, but it would be interesting to see how they blend in or, if they don’t blend in, how they adapt.

    Atticus repeatedly refuses to take the Plot seriously.

    Just like the Shadowhunters from “City of Bones.” If they don’t care, then why should the reader?

    Atticus has already made out with a naked goddess and is getting into bed with another.

    Did Hearne just really want to write Irish mythology fanfiction? This is the exact same thing that happened with the Morrigan, only instead of just making out with the messenger, he’s going to sleep with her. He’s repeating the same scene and for what? Just so that we know how hot Atticus is supposed to be? Because Morrigan randomly making out with him and the old woman randomly saying that she’d like to bone him weren’t enough to convince the reader, apparently.

    when Atticus explains why it is exactly that Aenghus Og hates him so much!

    Let me guess, it’s because he’s jealous that Atticus has more goddesses inexplicably swooning over him than he does, even though he’s the god of love.

  4. Juracan on 24 August 2018, 17:01 said:

    Alright! Time I looked at comments.

    I lived in Ireland for six months. No one talks like this. Absolutely no one. Including thickly-accented elderly people. This just does not happen.

    Hey did you know? Ireland is a real place! You can listen to people from there talking, and then put dialog in your story that actually sounds like how Irish people talk! Or, if you don’t want to do that, you can write about somebody else!

    Yeah it’s kind of… terrible. I basically avoid writing accents into the words at all when I write, because I know it’ll end up terrible. I tend to just add that the character speaks with an accent. I remember in middle school we read a nonfiction short titled something like, “My Wild Irish Mother” (I was going to link to it but I can’t find it online for the life of me), and even it wasn’t anywhere near this stereotypical.

    Okay Atticus you’re the best thing ever I get it.

    I guess I can go home because you recapped the rest of the book right here.

    Who’d want to have a plot and action, while we can listen to Atticus bragging about his manly charm instead!

    Ah, but is it bragging if in the narrative he actually is that accomplished at bedding women and killing monsters?

    …yes. Yes it is.

    Eh, there’s always someone better than you. I’m willing to cut Atticus some slack if a physical god can break his wards. I deduct points for not hauling ass the moment he discovered that someone powerful enough to do that broke in. That is just plain lack of survival instinct. Though given all the layers of plot armor he wears it is no surprise that Atticus lacks in that department.

    I would give him credit if he had some sort of alarm that at least let him know when someone broke in that was too powerful to be kept out. Like you said though, for a guy who claims he tries to avoid trouble, he tends to have very few survival instincts.

    I think it’d actually be pretty interesting to read a book with protagonist who is sort of stack in the old ways and values human life very little, not because he’s evil but because he is a product of a different times. It would be a difficult thing to write and avoid making such character unsympathetic, but done well it’d be pretty fresh.

    Oh I agree. But instead of that Atticus keeps assuring us that he’s adapted by correcting other people all the time and bragging about how hip he is. If he honestly had trouble adapting in some obvious way, he’d be a much more interesting character.

    You know, I could forgive him for not taking the plot seriously. It could be read as a character flaw and his overconfidence should load him into trouble, that’d be ok with me. But for the last four chapters that plot that he isn’t taking seriously has refused to materialize in any way other than goddesses throwing themselves at Atticus with amorous intentions. And that, outside more porn-y, titles is unforgivable.

    What makes this worse it that he can afford to? When push comes to shove, Atticus is always able to repel any attackers with almost no effort, or do something ridiculous like summoning an iron elemental from nowhere to eat his enemies.

    I don’t know, but it sounds odd. Irish (or Irish Gaelic) is an actual language. It’s like someone saying, ‘She speaks the Spanish with me.’ If it was a person who wasn’t a native or fluent English speaker, I could see them saying this, but since it’s coming from Atticus, I’m just confused.

    I was also confused. It didn’t sound right to me, and I was wondering if it was an Irish thing, or a little joke or something.

    And this is not potentially creepy in any way. Experiment: try rewriting this scene, but instead of an old woman telling Atticus this, it’s an old man. Or try rewriting this scene and keep the old man, but instead of Atticus, it’s Artemis. “Ohoho, if I were fifty years younger, lass, I’d jump yer wee bones and tell no one but the Lord, ye can be sure.”

    I didn’t even consider that, but yeah, it’s pretty darn creepy. We’re not meant to see this woman as creepy though; she’s just the cute weird old neighbor character. Which she… isn’t. At all. But that’s what we’re supposed to get from it.

    Really? Not the handsome young man whom every woman wants to sleep with?

    Alright let me amend: Oberon is the self-insert that Hearne admitted to.

    What does he care about, then? He doesn’t care about human lives, he doesn’t care about his life possibly being in danger.

    He cares about his own skin, don’t worry. He’s just so overpowered and full of himself that it doesn’t come across very well.

    And to be fair, he cares about his dog, I guess.

    So, she doesn’t know how modern technology works and she hasn’t learned about new species to hunt. What has she been doing all these years?

    Unclear. Her account has her hunting in Europe somewhere with Herne, which seems to imply she only goes hunting in Europe? Which is weird. After the Americas were discovered by Europeans did she just not go? Does she not go hunting with hunting gods from other parts of the world than the British Isles?

    [shrug] I dunno.

    Is it because he is jealous of the fact that Atticus is so perfect?

    Let me guess, it’s because he’s jealous that Atticus has more goddesses inexplicably swooning over him than he does, even though he’s the god of love.

    Good guesses considering how the story’s been going, but weirdly enough, no.

  5. Epke on 26 August 2018, 05:33 said:

    She spoke the Irish with me and

    Never heard of this expression.

    “If I were fifty years younger, laddie, I’d jump yer wee bones and tell no one but the Lord, ye can be sure.”

    Is… isn’t this how older Irish people are stereotypically depicted as talking? Throwing in “wee” and “laddie/lassie” as often as possible? I looked it up, but I couldn’t find anything about Hearne actually having been to Ireland or talked extensively with Irish people to get the feeling or mindset of the Irish, so I assume this comes from… a Lucky Charms ad?

    Atticus thinks that it could be Aenghus Og, but again Atticus refuses to believe that the bad guy would actually leave Tir na nOg to kill him so he dismisses that idea.

    But the Morrigan and Flidais and Herne (although the latter isn’t actually a god: he’s a British folkfigure) all go out into the world, so why can’t Aenghus?

    No really. The dog is the self-insert.

    I’d be more inclined to say that the dog is the mouthpiece of Hearne, while Atticus is the wish-fulfillment.

    Flidais, goddess of the hunt

    Cattle, if I remember correctly. It’s only lately, and incorrectly, that she’s been compared to Artemis and Diana etc.

    Here, and in too many other works of fiction, the gods are just stupid.

    Which is interesting, actually. No, hear me out: in this series, the Tuatha are just humans who were so good at magic, they basically became demi-gods. At their core, they are still humans. But either because too much magic leaves them incapable of empathy with others/not aging also roots their mindset, or perhaps Tir na nOg, land of eternal youth, keeps them stuck in a certain mindset… anyway, they’re just magical humans.
    And so is Atticus. He’s basically on their power level (and as we see later, easily strong enough to kill gods), so he must be pretty damn good at magic, too. But Atticus is just as unempathetic as the Tuatha de Danann, but can handle modern technology. So is this inconsistency on Hearne’s part, or are the gods not really incapable of learning, they just don’t want to?

    You were a part of that system. You upheld that system.

    applauds

    It’s weird and New Age-y but it still doesn’t free Atticus from being complicit in the deaths of the gods’ victims.

    It’s SMeyer’s “vampires” all over again. Hearne needed a cool name for what his character was/is, and nicked one.

    The guest is to be treated like a god, because he may, in fact, be a god in disguise.

    Hm. That’s the Greeco-Roman interpretation of it though. Divine right of protection, divine right of hospitality and so on: in Zeus’ name, all strangers have guest right: a favour to be returned, should the former host be travelling as well. But like Juracan says, Flidais isn’t a guest. She’s a burglar.

    And really, it’s another example of Hearne telling instead of showing us stuff.

    The threat of Bres would have been much more impactful if Atticus actually showed some… I don’t know, panic at the thought. Small snatches of thought where he thinks of Bres’s past, perhaps.

    am curious to discover if you still have the endurance of the Fianna or if you are hiding a decrepitude and softness most unbecoming of a Celt.

    Hmmm? Was Atticus ever part of a fiann though?

  6. TMary on 26 August 2018, 06:30 said:

    flings hand in the air

    I’m gonna come back and comment on the last two sporkings properly, but for now I’m gonna step in and say that yes, “the Irish” is a thing. As is “the Gaelic” in Scotland. I’ve usually heard it in the phrase “I have/don’t have the Irish/Gaelic”; to “have” a language is another interesting phrase in Ireland and Scotland, coming from Irish and Gaelic, where you don’t say you “speak” a language or “know” a language, you “have” a language. Actually, “the language is at you”, because that’s how you say you have something, but we’re getting off the subject. Anyhow, I think you can say “she spoke the Irish with me”. I think. At the very least, it’s not absolutely wrong; people who speak perfect English – and pretty much everyone who speaks Irish does by this point – still talk that way.

    The rest of that accent is flippin’ awful, of course, but “the Irish” wasn’t wrong.

  7. Juracan on 26 August 2018, 16:11 said:

    I’d be more inclined to say that the dog is the mouthpiece of Hearne, while Atticus is the wish-fulfillment.

    That’s probably a more accurate statement than what I put.

    Which is interesting, actually. No, hear me out: in this series, the Tuatha are just humans who were so good at magic, they basically became demi-gods. At their core, they are still humans. But either because too much magic leaves them incapable of empathy with others/not aging also roots their mindset, or perhaps Tir na nOg, land of eternal youth, keeps them stuck in a certain mindset… anyway, they’re just magical humans.
    And so is Atticus. He’s basically on their power level (and as we see later, easily strong enough to kill gods), so he must be pretty damn good at magic, too. But Atticus is just as unempathetic as the Tuatha de Danann, but can handle modern technology. So is this inconsistency on Hearne’s part, or are the gods not really incapable of learning, they just don’t want to?

    That’s an interesting hypothesis, and my knowledge mostly extends to the first three books so I can’t say for sure. I want to say “No,” mostly because the next book has the Morrigan learning the process of making the iron amulet (though she has some trouble because it requires befriending an iron elemental and she doesn’t know how to genuinely be nice to anyone), so I think they can learn. But that’s magic, not modern technology, so I don’t know if it would even really count.

    And having only familiarity with the first three books, I couldn’t tell you if this turns out to be a thing later on. So your hippothesis might in fact be correct.

    Hmmm? Was Atticus ever part of a fiann though?

    I’m going to say “Yes,” to this one. I don’t know details of how that works, exactly, but as we find out in the next chapter he did fight in battles even in his native Ireland, so it wouldn’t surprise me if he was part of a fiann.

    The rest of that accent is flippin’ awful, of course, but “the Irish” wasn’t wrong.

    Oh good. Like I said, I didn’t know if it was wrong or not, because I could imagine it being a thing, but I’d never heard it before so it sounded off. Thanks for the clarification!

  8. CmdrNemo on 26 August 2018, 23:19 said:

    I want to hold to an position I’ve held for a long time now. I don’t care how powerful the character is. What I care about is how they use that power. Most importantly, how do they react to people with substantially less power. How do they treat the waiter?

    I’ve seen One Punch Man, Superman, Popeye, and Rick Sanchez operate with abilities far beyond anyone around them. Some of them have been handled poorly as often as well. But, the base power level just doesn’t tell me anything about the character. I don’t care if he’s overpowered, or underpowered, or perfectly balanced. All I care about is how he reacts to the world.

    Atticus there is a crap person. He clearly regards having power over those stoners as evidence of himself as a superior being. Which is completely hate worthy. He sees them in mortal danger and his reaction is. Well, if they knew what they were doing they wouldn’t have done that, sucks to be them. Which is just… douchebaggery. Everything he does is self serving and petty. I see ancient beings as either living in a world full of children or a world full of squirrels. He clearly lives in a world full of squirrels. He’d happily run them over. The only worry would be getting teeth in his tires. How am I, a squirrel in this analogy, supposed to sympathize with this?

  9. The Smith of Lie on 27 August 2018, 03:07 said:

    I’ve seen One Punch Man, Superman, Popeye, and Rick Sanchez operate with abilities far beyond anyone around them. Some of them have been handled poorly as often as well. But, the base power level just doesn’t tell me anything about the character. I don’t care if he’s overpowered, or underpowered, or perfectly balanced. All I care about is how he reacts to the world.

    Yes and no. Note one thing about your examples (I don’t count Superman, since he operates in the world where his abilities can be matched or negated). They don’t operate around dramatic tension stemming from conflict based around those powers. You never doubt that Saitama, Rick and Popeye will prevail in direct confrontation, their stories mostly base themselves around the comedy and showiness where this is concerned, while getting potential for drama from other sources – whether fights of other, less powerful characters or interactions that don’t require confrontation.

    It is also possible to have an overpowered character who is just so showy and fun, that their power level doesn’t detract from the story, even if there is no tensions. Hellsing and Ovelord come to mind here. And even here, with showy invincibility the stories often depend of having cast of less powerful characters, who can be put in real danger to build tension.

    But you can’t have all powerful character functioning within a traditional narrative, where the dramatic stakes are based on uncertainty if they can overcome their obstacles. If nothing can challange the character and you don’t compensate with comedy or showmanship, what is there for audience to enjoy?

    Therefore the problem with Atticus isn’t just that he is powerful. The problem is the context of that power within the narrative structure that doesn’t fit the Invincible Hero archetype.

    I’d even go so far as to say, that invincible heroes are better suited to visual mediums than books (though Ovelord light novels manage to pull it off) because it takes a great writing to make a description flashy and vivid enough, to compensate for the lack of tension regarding the outcome.

  10. Juracan on 27 August 2018, 16:07 said:

    I think both of you have very good points here so I’m going to try to talk a bit about both of them.

    Atticus there is a crap person. He clearly regards having power over those stoners as evidence of himself as a superior being. Which is completely hate worthy. He sees them in mortal danger and his reaction is. Well, if they knew what they were doing they wouldn’t have done that, sucks to be them. Which is just… douchebaggery. Everything he does is self serving and petty. I see ancient beings as either living in a world full of children or a world full of squirrels. He clearly lives in a world full of squirrels. He’d happily run them over. The only worry would be getting teeth in his tires. How am I, a squirrel in this analogy, supposed to sympathize with this?

    I don’t know if I’d say that Atticus would happily run us over, but he certainly doesn’t mind if we are. There’s a situation later in the book in which a regular guy gets killed right in front of him, and it distresses him, but the way that carries for the rest of the book isn’t so much that he feels bad to have been responsible or connected to the man’s death, but that he’s worried about being blamed for it and he doesn’t want to be held responsible. It’s not his fault, but he’s not exactly concerned about the fact that an innocent life has been taken.

    He’s a dick.

    And again I’m going on the first three books, so maybe it’s addressed later on. But Atticus’s friends are A) his dog, B) his apprentice, or C) other supernatural creatures. He doesn’t care at all about the ordinary humans, and considering the reader is an ordinary human (probably), that’s a problem, because we see a protagonist who doesn’t care about us at all.

    It is also possible to have an overpowered character who is just so showy and fun, that their power level doesn’t detract from the story, even if there is no tensions. Hellsing and Ovelord come to mind here. And even here, with showy invincibility the stories often depend of having cast of less powerful characters, who can be put in real danger to build tension.

    But you can’t have all powerful character functioning within a traditional narrative, where the dramatic stakes are based on uncertainty if they can overcome their obstacles. If nothing can challange the character and you don’t compensate with comedy or showmanship, what is there for audience to enjoy?

    Therefore the problem with Atticus isn’t just that he is powerful. The problem is the context of that power within the narrative structure that doesn’t fit the Invincible Hero archetype.

    I’d even go so far as to say, that invincible heroes are better suited to visual mediums than books (though Ovelord light novels manage to pull it off) because it takes a great writing to make a description flashy and vivid enough, to compensate for the lack of tension regarding the outcome.

    That’s… actually a really good point. There are a lot of characters in visual and interactive mediums that work very well in their original contexts that would be really boring to read about. And that’s fine. Different mediums should be different and play with how to express those differences in how they tell narratives and develop characters.

    Which leads to the other idea, that an invincible hero would work in a comedy. And this… isn’t really a comedy. There are bits of humor written in (which I don’t think are very funny but it’s subjective), but Hounded is not a comedy. If this was a parody of the urban fantasy genre I’d be a lot more forgiving, but there’s not a lot of subversion of tropes or expectations. Stuff just kind of happens and Atticus deals with it.

    And because we’re not being entertained with spectacle (like in a visual medium) or comedy (as in a parody), it highlights how much of a douche the main character is and how weird it is that he’s able to not care about villains coming to kill him or have goddesses jump into bed with him.

  11. CmdrNemo on 28 August 2018, 20:25 said:

    You’ve both made some really good points. I completely agree with where you are going. Especially that an overpowered hero can’t work in a traditional narrative.

    I just felt like talking about invincible and/or overpowered characters. They certainly work better in a visual medium. But, I don’t feel they need to be limited to those. For spectacle, yes absolutely. Novels just don’t have the spectacle visual stuff does and isn’t even in the same ball park as animated stuff. Where animated here just means: moving picture.

    In a novel with an overpowered hero you really need one of three things that I can think of. There might be more. You either go with a Paddington Bear approach. Where the conflict has nothing to do with the hero. The story is about how he effects the lives of those around him. They have conflicts, he helps resolve those conflicts, we see them change. Or the One Punch Man approach. Where the hero lives a life with no conflict, no challenge. Who then has no life. Everything is always boring. And again, the story is driven by how people around him react to him and where he fits into the world. If, as it is said in the Princess Bride “life is pain.” What would it be like to live without pain? Finally the philosophical limits. You have a character who can do practically whatever they want. But, they hold themselves back because of strongly held beliefs. Rick Sanchez should work in a novel. I don’t know how fun it would be. Everything he does is about finding the value of an individual within an infinity.

    I guess my point is. For characters who are not power limited the questions that drive them can’t be answered with power.