Tricked. Well, I wasn’t really. Atticus was, though, by friends, foes and everyone in between. I was Entertained, but while it was certainly an improvement on its predecessor, Hammered, character underpinnings and over-referential, jokey dialogue continue to limit greatness.
I’ve come to realize my most significant problem with the ‘Iron Druid’ series is Atticus’ overwhelmingly young behavior and voice, firmly rooted in current American culture. By ‘firmly,’ I mean that he makes references to microwaving Peeps, TARDIS, Elmo and the Sturgis biker rally, the Pacific Coast Highway and Lou Ferrigno. Atticus couldn’t get any more current than if he was a forty-some-year-old white American male who grew up geek. The incongruity inhibits my enjoyment of the series, especially when keeps drawing my attention to it–interactions with Oberon and his own internal dialogue make it unavoidable.
Throughout the book, there is ever-ending repartee between Oberon and Atticus. It is humorous, but it is overplayed and doesn’t quite fit. The joking also overly roots the story in modern culture–for instance, Atticus explains the Schwartzenegger Pun Reduction Treaty rule to Oberon.
Add the modern underpinnings to a relatively infirm sense of responsibility for an earth-connected druid and it equals a severe cognitive dissonance headache. If I completely ignore the fact that Atticus is supposed to be a 2000 year old druid responsible for the health of the earth, we get along fine. Unfortunately, the first offending sentences show up on page 3, so it’s not like I had a choice of forgetting it: “the world desperately needs more Druids. So my choices were to stay on earth and die or leave earth and let the world slowly die of neglect–which wouldn’t truly help, since all planes connected to earth would die at the same time.” Riiight. So he’s essential to the earth’s health, which is why he’s only recently taken an apprentice, why we’ve only seen him working to rebuild a forest once and why he spends all his time helping ‘friends’ and not the earth.
Once I took some Advil for the dissonance-headache, I found it to be a relatively enjoyable book. It was a ‘hero’s task’ story, with the task chosen by Coyote in return for helping fake Atticus’ death. To no one’s surprise when dealing with a Trickster, completion did require a number of side journeys and unexpected obstacles. Several conflict points from previous storylines were also continued, interrupting the task, including the Morrigan, various Norse gods, and Leif the vampire.
Positive notes include the background on the Dine culture to be well-researched and respectful, a pleasure when there is often cultural misappropriation of Native culture, ignorantly applied. Each section of story was well written, inciting my interest, even if I didn’t understand the logic (spoilers follow) of why Atticus never told Granuaile to talk to elementals in another language before now? Why did Granuaile need to die at this point in time? It seemed abruptly introduced and handled, and did little for the main plot . The opposition was formidable, and Hearne cleverly hamstring’s Atticus’ power in a number of ways including opposition by a different spiritual background, constraining his earth magic.
At the end of the day, I’d rate Tricked above the average April Fool’s Day joke, and somewhat below Houdini. I enjoyed it, as long as I turned off the character-logic section of my brain. So, three and a half stars, rounding up for being respectful to Dine culture and for enticing a re-read despite not believing the central character.