Hearne, Kevin. Scourged. Del Rey, 2018.
Content advisory: scattered F-bombs, some violence, and innuendo. (if you are a long time reader of this blog, you should be used to that.)
From the publisher, “Kevin Hearne creates the ultimate Atticus O’Sullivan adventure in the grand finale of the New York Times bestselling Iron Druid Chronicles: an epic battle royale against the Norse gods of Asgard.
Unchained from fate, the Norse gods Loki and Hel are ready to unleash Ragnarok, a.k.a. The Apocalypse, upon the earth. They’ve made allies on the darker side of many pantheons, and there’s a globe-spanning battle brewing that
“An owl hoots in the night, spooky as five hells and a jar of creamy peanut butter—that shite’s unnatural.”
― Kevin Hearne, Scourged
ancient Druid Atticus O’Sullivan will be hard-pressed to survive, much less win. Granuaile MacTiernan must join immortals Sun Wukong and Erlang Shen in a fight against the Yama Kings in Taiwan, but she discovers that the stakes are much higher than she thought.
Meanwhile, Archdruid Owen Kennedy must put out both literal and metaphorical fires from Bavaria to Peru to keep the world safe for his apprentices and the future of Druidry.
And Atticus recruits the aid of a tyromancer, an Indian witch, and a trickster god in hopes that they’ll give him just enough leverage to both save Gaia and see another sunrise. There is a hound named Oberon who deserves a snack, after all.”
Some minor spoilers are ahead. I will attempt to not ruin the story, but ye have been warned.
Scourged is the ninth and final novel in the “Iron Druid Chronicles” by Kevin Hearne. Hearne did it, he ended it, and we are sadly at the close of Atticus, Oberon, and more. At least for now. Hearne has been quoted in saying that he may visit these characters in the future, but for right now their story arc is completed. Sadly, all I can say is book nine was weak sauce. It is easily the worst of the nine.
Book nine starts with a funny conversation between Atticus and his hounds. “Yes, Food!”
“Ragnarok will begin in the next few days, and it won’t end well for anyone, because apocalypses tend not to include happy endings.”
― Kevin Hearne, Scourged
They are lovingly talking about the joys of meats and gravies. Which most readers will agree with. Myself included. The almost impromptu conversations that flow between Atticus and his hounds throughout the series are Kevin Hernes’s writing at its best. Oberon’s commentary is a welcome addition to almost any scene in previous novels. Sadly, Oberon was sidelined for most of book nine. His missing analysis was sorely missed and the levity it brought.
Now into the meat of the story. Ragnarok is happening, and Loki is letting forth his pent-up daddy-issues upon the world. It is time to marshal the troops in opposition. The gods and goddesses of various pantheons join together for the fracas. Thus enters some pretty interesting characters we have met before: Sun Wukong who is also known as the Monkey King, Granuaile, Owen, Coyote, Flittish, Laksha, the Morrigan. Each has a specific role to play in this war, both predestined and not. Here is where I think the story begins to go off the rails. Kevin Hearne wrote this book to be single fight scenes or dialog scenes that are strewn across the world. All happening at different times with the span of a few days. Loki’s actions have affected the world at large, not just small segments of it. Thus the main characters are needed in various parts of the world. These scenes feel chaotic and disjointed. Instead of exciting and climatic scenes, we get boring, unessential, and insignificant ones. The action scenes, which in previous novels where trim and concise, are so irregular and hardly understandable that it knocks the reader right out of the story. They are literally scratching their heads and saying “what the f$%?”
The denouement of some of these characters is a complete train wreck. At some point between book eight and book nine of this series, Hearne decided that a complete rewrite was needed for their personalities. It feels like he was very done with writing these characters. Especially Granuille. Her ending was ridiculous. It felt vicious, cold, and mean-spirited, in a very “kick them when they are down” kind of way. Which is out of character for her. There must have been a better way to carry out the meat of that scene without making her seem so coldhearted. Atticus made her into what she is primarily, and she kicked him while he was at the lowest point in his many centuries. I suppose there is a school of thought that says writes owe their readers something when it comes to their characters. That’s not true. Writers owe their readers nothing. But it is in bad form for the author to take such a beloved character like Granuille and weirdly ruin her for many people. Bad form man, bad form.
Atticus deserved a lot of what was heaped on him, and I understand what Kevin Hearne was attempting to write regarding Atticus’s end of the journey. But instead of the bittersweet ending, he was looking for, it came off as a whole lot of bitter, and absolutely nothing sweet. Except for maybe his interactions with his hounds at the end. This is a sad end for this series. It really felt like the proverbial punch in the gut.
I have no idea what to tell you to do. If you have loved this series as I have through all eight books and side stories, you will want to go on and finish the series. There is nothing for it, you need an end. But that ending will feel like someone dropped a load of rocks on your big toe while simultaneously stealing your wallet and telling you are ugly. If you haven’t started the series yet, I still say go for it. It is a fun and wild ride till the end where you will unceremoniously have rocks dropped on your toes, your wallet stolen, and be emotionally injured with name calling. You are seriously damned if you do or don’t.