I wanted to give my three loyal readers a little break from Kevin Hearne after plowing through the first three volumes of the Iron Druid Chronicles, but I just couldn’t hold off on “Tricked” ($7.99, Del Rey) any longer.
Atticus O’Sullivan, the world’s last living druid, has not made many friends lately. After leading a band into Asgard to take on Thor in the last volume, “Hammered,” Atticus is on the run from what remains of the Norse pantheon, as well as a few other thunder gods who are offended on principle. In order to continue his work healing a large swath of Arizona that was drained of life by the Celtic love god Aenghus Og and training his apprentice, he has to die – and die convincingly. That’s where Coyote comes in.
The Native American trickster god has agreed to help Atticus die and disappear off the radar of his enemies in exchange for convincing the earth elemental that lives in the land beneath the reservation to move a gold mine into a place where there really shouldn’t be one. Coyote’s plan seems a win-win for Atticus, since he intends to use the money to create clean-energy jobs for his people.
As always, though, when dealing with Coyote, there’s a little more involved than Atticus bargained for. In this case, it’s a couple of skinwalkers – men possessed by evil spirits with superhuman strength and the ability to shift shape – who have laid claim to the territory where Coyote wants to build his plant.
Meanwhile, Atticus’ vampire lawyer Leif Helgarson is recovering from his experience in Asgard, but a bunch of new vampires are popping up, hoping to lay claim to his territory – including Leif’s maker.
Sadly, there seems to be a little less fun in “Tricked” than the previous installments in the series. Hearne does address my only complaint about “Hammered” with a healthy dose of Atticus’ Irish wolfhound companion Oberon in this volume. He remains my favorite character in the series, though even he goes through some tough times in this book.
“Tricked” is a transitional tale, and much of it seems to be laying a groundwork for the remainder of the series. That means that it doesn’t move along quite as breathlessly as the previous volumes, and the humor, though still ever-present, seems to be a little muted. Perhaps it’s a harbinger of darker times to come in the tale of Atticus. Still, the story ends with a big bang and sets up a fresh start for Atticus, Oberon and Granuaile, though there are still plenty of threats lurking.
To me, “Tricked” is probably the weakest of the four volumes in this series so far, but that's certainly not saying it's a weak book. Hearne's work remains head and shoulders above most of the urban fantasy field right now.