SCOURGED is the final book in The Iron Druid Chronicles and we get it all: war (Ragnarok!), character growth, teamwork, comeuppance (multiple instances), and even a little romance. But how does Hearne deliver?
After many books and short stories, Kevin Hearne has regaled us with the two-thousand-year-old druid Atticus and his feats of bravery, cleverness, and stupidity. I knew when I read book 1, HOUNDED (EBR review), those many years ago, that I was in for a treat. An interesting character amongst other interesting characters, plenty of clever magic, capricious gods, compelling fight scenes, and fun prose and plotlines to carry it all out.
While here at the final book, yes there’s the characters we’ve come to know and love, yes there’s some magic, and loads of capricious gods…the story and the way it’s told falls unfortunately flat. Hearne’s been promising us Ragnarok, we know it’s been coming since early in the series when he interferes with the Norse pantheon, but I guess I was expecting Ragnarok to be, well, grander.
Let’s start with the war itself, and I’ll try not to be too spoilery. Since it is Ragnarok, we are promised The Battle to End All Battles. There are some side-wars in a few other locales that take advantage of the chaos, but the fight in Scandinavia, the origin of the Norse, is the battlefront. I was expecting lots of death, blood, and chaos–and crazy cleverness from Atticus–and we get all that in a certain amount, but ultimately it felt meh. Various pantheons arrive on the battlefield to fight Loki and his army, and Hearne does provide adequate detail about all the players, but the battle itself happens so fast it’s often disappointing. I don’t want to spoil anything, but sometimes Atticus side-steps fighting completely, which is in character for him, but also feels too easy considering what he’s up against and the stakes involved. And then as it goes on, there are some events that feel like they aren’t representative of the character and his/her choices, so I was ambivalent about the outcome. Sure there were a few scenes and characters that were counterpoints of exciting and clever moments in the battle, but they were too few and overshadowed by the battle at large.
Meanwhile, Owen has been tasked with putting out the occasional blips that would occur and take Gaia’s direction–such as suppressing Kobolds in Bavaria who were causing earthquakes. His role on the backburner is to protect him from Ragnarok itself and protect druidic presence on the earth. Owen’s story was one of the more interesting ones as he moves from place to place and puts out fires that could kill locals and destroy ecosystems. His story does get a little campy as he befriends a sloth and carries her with him on his adventures, and even an old coot like Owen is willing to learn a life lesson from a sloth (pardon me as I roll my eyes). I’m guessing it was the comedic relief to counter the battle from Atticus’ PoV.
Granuaile’s story was the most problematic for me. She is sent to Taiwan to deal with evil gods there and helps the Monkey King, while at the same time learning from him. This story feels like it works in fast forward because the montage-like references to training without actually seeing or knowing what she was learning. And why are they doing this right before a battle? Granuaile eventually learns an important bit of information and then makes a completely stupid decision with it, making her appear petty and self-important. So annoying. I’m sure some readers won’t agree with me, but I’ve always had a problem with her personality/choices and have never felt like she’s well-drawn enough to be a PoV character.
Ultimately the book felt like Hearne was worn out on the series (I guessing he spent all his writing energy on KILL THE FARM BOY) and wanted to get it done so he could move on–note how short the book is in comparison to others in the series. He moves through scenes quickly and even his snarky prose suffered as he forced his way to finish the story. The end is a bit of a mess and while he tries to make the consequences fit the crime, I was left disappointed.
- Recommended Age: 13+
- Language: A handful, not much
- Violence: It's Ragnarock, so there's fighting and death
- Sex: Referenced briefly