Friday, March 18, 2016

Book Review: Staked

Staked: The Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne

Print and audio book

I had this book on pre-order from the day it was announced.  I'm a huge and dedicated fan of the series and of Kevin Hearne.  I've read the books multiple times.  It's one of my geek things.

I just now finished reading the book, weeks after it arrived.  I'm not completely happy with it.  It isn't a happy book, really, although it is busy trying to tie up loose ends and plot threads.

I tried listening to the audio version first, and the things that had started to get on my nerved in Hunted and Shattered, the changes in Luke Daniel's reading, made me quit within the first chapter.  It was grating on me terribly.  So I started with the print version and I've read it in tiny bits for weeks now.

Why?  Why didn't I rip through it as quickly as I did the first 6 books (Yes, I read the first 6 books in less than a week and I've listened to the audio versions so many times I can recite parts of it.  I was less thrilled with Shattered, not because I don't like Owen, but because the splintered narrative kinda got on my nerves.  I like it well enough -- Owen is fun -- but it doesn't work as well because it does sprawl so much and lack a centering point in the plot.

Staked is the same -- multiple plot threads running around trying to be ended, and the actual ending of most of them was, shall we say, underplayed.  Sometimes almost incidental, despite the huge build up and importance.  I feel a bit as if the author is thinking "Damn, I gotta finish this up so I can go on to this other project."  Maybe it was because there was so much to be done that the actual doing of any of it was rushed, short-hand, even skipped over.  

There are a lot of important deaths in this book, and compared to deaths in previous books, these were...I dunno...edited for TV? Fight scenes felt rushed, banter was forced, and nothing had much depth to it.   I really didn't hook in like I did before, and that disappointed me.  I'm not used to that from this series.  Even the books that I like less felt satisfying in a character driven way.

Of course, there were in-story reasons I got my feathers ruffled.  I've never liked Greta, for instance, not because she dislikes Atticus, but because her anger and grief lead her to blame Atticus for the choices made by others than lead to their deaths.  She's always irritated me in her persistent denial of Gunnar Magnusson's agency, his choices and decisions that lead to his death. Atticus never encouraged Gunnar to go to fight Thor.  In fact, he tried very hard to get of it.  Gunnar made that choice (with Lief's encouragement, yes, but she seems to skip that conveniently) and she refuses to accept that.  Makes me want to slap her around.  There are events in this book, too, for which Atticus is saddled with blame that, as a reader, I felt more told than I saw was his fault.  Greta needs a solid ass kick, in my opinion.  I don't see her getting it, and so I don't like her or care about her, and that bleeds over onto Owen and....well, it's all in-story stuff, choices the author made that I can't agree with.  That's always a knock against a book, when as a reader I'm balking at the choices of the author.

The book does have some positives -- we find out a bit about vampire biology (it's supposed to be funny although I didn't laugh or even smile).  We see the Hammers of God as good guys, at last (still don't know what those beards are about).  The number of problems Atticus has to solve is not really reduced, but they are grouped a bit better.  I'm rather hoping that Owen will be too busy with how his story has developed and that his Grove is a writerly method for reducing his presence in future books.  Not having the werewolves involved would be interesting. Other characters have new goals, too, so despite not being enamoured of this entry into the series, I am never the less looking forward to the next book -- I can't imagine it as the last because, unless it is one huge book, there is still a great big lot of stuff to be handled.  I can see this series expanding to twelve books.

I'm still jazzed for the series, too.  I mean, I bought this book in two formats, and I bought a copy to send to a friend, so it's not like I'm walking away from it.  This book was just a book full of final chapters of story lines, clearing the way for the big story line brewing for the future.