A Druid, a Werewolf, and a Vampire walk into a bar…
That is not exactly how the story goes- it is more of a meeting around a campfire, but the intent is the same. Men coming together with a purpose, sharing their tales, weaving ancient woe into camaraderie. There purpose is a little less traditional, for they are meeting with unsung heroes and ancient Powers with the sole purpose of killing the god Thor for past bloody indiscretions. That scene in Hammered, where Atticus, Leif, and Gunnar meet with a Russian thunder god, a Finnish magician and a Chinese immortal around a campfire, eating stew and telling their tales, is one of my favorites. It is the most elegant way I have ever been presented with back story and character motivation, and worked perfectly with both the characters and the flow and feel of the story.
Atticus is warned, on more than one occasion and by more than one Power, to cease his current course of action- that attempting to kill Thor will only end in disaster of horrific proportions. But Atticus has given his word to aid in the attempt on Thor’s life, and he will not be forsworn. Of course, the book starts with another trip up to Asgard as Atticus made another promise to collect Idunn’s apples for an ancient witch who helped him previously. Atticus has some powerful allies, but it seems his alliances often come with dangerous costs. He manages to retrieve an apple, and keep his word, but not without shedding blood in Asgard, and gaining the attention of the All Father. It is not a very comfortable position to be in- especially when your next visit is planned to involve killing one of Asgard’s major players.
Hearne continues his excellent work at pulling the sugar coating off of a good chunk of the pantheons the modern world is familiar with, and in the process makes everything more interesting. Atticus himself grows a bit in this one, moving beyond being just an ancient, powerful and rather flip druid. The reader can sit back and appreciate how much he values the things in live he loves now that he is very close to losing it all. Riddled with high stakes action, brilliant pop culture references, and pleasantly irreverent humor, Hammered is another great addition to the Iron Druid Chronicles.
“They say the end is nigh. I think we’re living in the aftermath already (Dragon Virus, pg. 69).”
It looks like such a small book- unassuming, taking up so little shelf space. But it is a trick. As soon as you start to read it will spread through your brain, unavoidable as the spread of the virus the book tracks. It is a cascade in six parts, a staggering move through religion and science before settling firmly into a desperate dig at humanity itself.
There have been many looks at mutation, but there has been nothing ever written that hits like this. Ms. Gilman cuts through to the bare bones of what it is to be human, lays it there for all of us to examine and accept or reject as we see fit. No punches are pulled amidst her beautifully stark prose. Dragon Virus is a book that is saying something.
But the reader has to decide whether or not they are willing to listen.
It starts with the little uncomfortable things- visions of apocalypse, Raptures full of dragon wings. And then the dragons become all too real. It is an unexplained mutation, the Long gene, dragons come down to warp the basic recipe of humanity. Babies die, born with mutations that could not support life. No known cause. No treatment.
But then babies start to live, the mutations becoming viable, and the real problems start.
Dragon Virus is a stunning book, weaving words into image and emotion that will kick you in the gut and pull you through page after page- desperate to see just what sort of resolution will be reached. It is beautiful- the harsh beauty of everything grand and dangerous in nature. And just as enthralling.