Hounded – Kevin Hearne – Luke Daniels

I kind of loved this when I read it a couple of years ago. I tried the audiobook for the second book and was driven off by Luke Daniels’s rendition of Oberon. Recently I (shall we say) came across Hounded in audio, and decided to give the medium another shot. While I tolerated the Oberon voice better this time around (I’ll come back to that), unfortunately I enjoyed the book less.

See, I love Harry Dresden. Really, really love. Like hands-clasped hearts-in-eyes “My hero!” love. And one incident not too far into Hounded illustrated very clearly why I don’t and will never feel that way about Atticus O’Sullivan. The Morrigan, with a fine disregard for 21st century proprieties is confronting him in his store, stark naked. Two frat boys straggle in hoping to score some pot, see a beautiful naked woman, and react in the only way stoner frat boys could possibly react. The Morrigan takes offense at their temerity and issues their death warrant. Atticus mildly tries to derail her vengeance, but she is set on killing those who dared look upon her and make note of her nudity, and he gives a mental shrug. Oh well. Guess they’ll die. And that’s the end of that episode. Now, unless I’m gravely mistaken, that is not how the story would run if it was Harry and not Atticus by-standing; I can’t believe Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden would not have found a way, some way, to save the two morons, however undeserving they might be – and however much of his own blood and pain it might cost him.

I can’t help being judge-y about a great and powerful druid whose two thousand years have honed him into a really very self-serving and self-centered person.

It was also a little troubling that he takes moral objection to Laksha’s nasty habit of bumping souls out of their bodies – it’s terrible and unforgivable – but the slightly eye-widening body count he racks up is perfectly fine. He excuses it at some point by pointing out that his druidic beliefs include reincarnation – killing someone just ensures that they’ll be moving on to their next life that much sooner. But Laksha’s faith says much the same thing.

Good lord, werewolves in this universe can’t control themselves better than to just change in front of a muggle? That’s pathetic.

I did very much like “Shut up. I’m Irish.” But I was otherwise not nearly as favorably impressed by Hearne’s take on Irishness this time around. Yeah, Atticus O’Sullivan is not one of my favorite people right now.

And, sadly, neither is his hound Oberon. I loved him to pieces when I first read the book, as most people seem to. This time I had a harder time reconciling the not-quite-smart but very-much-not-stupid dialogue assigned to him with the fact that he’s an adult Irish wolfhound. It made me a little queasy, actually – what did Atticus do to him to make him this way? At times he came off as a child, irrepressible and sometimes silly; at times he came off as much more intelligent, pulling out references that seemed unlikely, and providing tactical and philosophical insight; then a little while later he’d be making me cringe again with his obsession with Genghis Khan. I didn’t remember the inconsistency in his portrayal, but it felt glaringly obvious this time. And the whole French poodle fixation was nauseating. That little tag at the end in which he gets his surprise made me surprisingly – well, again, queasy. That’s kind of my takeaway from Oberon this go-round: deep uneasiness.
Not to mention that this time round I was for whatever reason less forgiving of what was basically a ripoff of H. Beam Piper’s Fuzzies, in which adorable furry teddy-bear-appearing sentient [sic] creatures develop obsessions on historical figures and throw themselves into recreating those figures as accurately as diminutive furry creatures can.

The narration by Luke Daniels was excellent – mostly. Accents, and voices young and old, male and female, stoner and werewolf and goddess – all well done. But you know what I still hated? Oberon. Every single time he voiced a line from the wolfhound I expected it to end with a “Ruh roh, Raggy!” or a full-on silly Don Messick Scooby giggle. This might have had a lot to do with my Oberon issues described above – but not everything.

Some books you just want to read over and over, and love more with each revisit. Some books, apparently, should be read only once.

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