One of my favorite fantasy series, Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid Chronicles, is currently being re-issued with new and beautiful cover art. And I’m feeling inspired to do a re-read! Per its publisher, the Iron Druid Chronicles is a collection of “hilarious, action-packed tales of a two-thousand-year-old Druid pursued by ancient gods in the modern world.” And it is indeed that. But it’s a lot more!
If you have not, by chance, sampled this excellent 9-book series yet, here are nine spoiler-free reasons to dive in today!
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In many ways, Atticus O’Sullivan, the last Druid on Earth, is wise at the beginning of the series. He’s smart and curious, and he’s learned quite a bit about human (and god-like) nature throughout his long life. But he’s also more than a little bit cocky. Watching Atticus stumble his way toward truer wisdom over the course of the Iron Druid Chronicles is not just entertaining. It’s inspiring. Atticus is proof that you’re never too old to become a better version of yourself.
Even if you’re not a dog lover, I think it would be hard not to love the character of Oberon, Atticus’s Irish wolfhound and best friend. He’s loyal, funny and brave – an excellent companion. And if you are a dog lover? Who among us can’t read our dog’s body language and know what they’re saying without hearing the words? Atticus gets to hear the words – and Hearne captures this dynamic so charmingly.
The Morrigan, of all the many great characters that populate the Iron Druid Chronicles, could have easily been written one-dimensionally. Such is her power and personality; she still would have been a great character! But I don’t think Kevin Hearne writes one-dimensional characters. And throughout the series, as the layers of the Morrigan’s character are revealed to Atticus – and us – she goes from a campy figure to a very poignant one. Her personal journey is one of the best in the series.
Vampires and Werewolves
I’ve read my share of vampire fiction. I’ve enjoyed everything from Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles, to Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian, to myriad paranormal romances. But I think the Iron Druid Chronicles’ inherently pragmatic (and occasionally hilarious) take on vampires as a species is my favorite of all. I haven’t read as much werewolf fiction for comparison. That being said, I think it would be hard to top Hearne’s approach to werewolves with me. His depiction of the subtle dominance games alone is fantastic.
Hearne’s Mastery of First-Person Storytelling
I won’t be specific here in the interest of not giving spoilers. But the fact is, we don’t only see through Atticus’s eyes. As the series progresses, we get into the heads of two other characters. And with that, Hearne’s command of the first-person storytelling perspective explodes into full view. He’s so very good at jumping between these three very different personalities. Much as I enjoy Atticus as a primary character, seeing events unfold – and watching Atticus himself – through other eyes was something I really liked about the later books in the Iron Druid Chronicles.
Whether detailing the city of Taipei, some little town in Poland, or Ouray, Colorado, Hearne does an amazing job of painting a scene. I like the way he envisions other realms, too (Tír na nÓg, for example.) But the real-life places were so much fun to read. I actually looked up Ouray after a character ventured there. And the area looked just as appealing in pictures as he made it sound in words! It’s actually on my bucket list of places to go now.
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Lots of Further Reading Tucked Inside
Hearne was a high school English teacher at one point. And his appreciation for, and knowledge of, literature shines out through the Iron Druid Chronicles. Atticus adores Shakespeare, for one thing – which makes for some funny verbal sparring with his friend, Leif.
But he also tells Oberon stories about history and culture to distract him while he gives him baths. And Hearne is really clear about what books, etc., he’s referring to in these moments – providing titles and authors. It makes it really easy, if you’re interested, to explore the material yourself. I read The Book of Five Rings, by Miyamoto Musashi, because of an Oberon bath story. And that’s just one example.
This isn’t limited to Atticus, either. Granuaile’s introduction to the poetry of Wisława Szymborska inspired me to pick some of that up, too. I don’t typically read much poetry – or many Japanese swordsmanship-inspired books, for that matter! But both were worth it.
An Expansive Worldview
The Iron Druid Chronicles series is a great starting point for teaching yourself about various world mythologies and religious systems. I love that about the series! Atticus is Celtic – and it’s that culture that is closest to him and so features most predominantly throughout the series. But through the course of the series, he touches so many others. From the familiar (to me) Greek, Roman and Norse traditions to Native American, Eastern European and Hindu traditions, I’m less familiar with. And many more besides.
This opportunity, provided by Hearne, to expand my mind and teach myself a little bit while reading such a fun story is my absolute favorite thing about the Iron Druid Chronicles.
Exploring What Really Matters
I think the overarching theme of the Iron Druid Chronicles is this:
At the end of the day, it’s the simple things that really matter and give your life meaning.
It’s laughter and companionship. It’s good food and music. And it’s stories shared with good friends – and through that, camaraderie and understanding. That’s what makes life worth living. It’s what makes it worthwhile to continue, even over a thousand-year-life. And even – maybe especially – when things look black and you’ve screwed up really badly. (And if you need a reminder of this at any time, just look to your dog!) It’s a theme that simply feels good to revisit at the end of the day. I feel good when I read these books.
The Iron Druid Chronicles is a truly fantastic series. I don’t really need pretty new covers to be enticed back into rereading it (though they really are pretty!) It’s a series I’ll happily revisit multiple times. What about you? Have you read Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid Chronicles? What parts have most stuck with you? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!
Article written by Maggie Plummer
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