Atticus O'Sullivan is a 2000 year old druid who lives a solitary life in Arizona, with his only companion being his Irish wolfhound, Oberon (I GET IT!). Atticus runs an occult bookshop, where he sells real magic to real magic users, and placebos to trendy college students and the like. In this world, the entire pantheon of gods are confirmed to be real beings, including the primary antagonist, Aenghus Óg, a vengeful Tuatha Dé Danann,an ancient Irish deity. Atticus had offended Aenghus centuries ago by stealing an immensely powerful sword from him. So, Atticus has lived his life constantly trying to keep out of Aenghus' radar. His luck finally runs out, and he encounters various minions, witches, hypnotized cops, and minor gods that Aenghus has sent his way. Atticus has powerful allies however, such as werewolf and vampire lawyers, other Tuatha Dé Danann, and witch-possessed barmaids.
There was much to like about this book. Primary among them is Oberon. Oberon is a dog that can only speak to Atticus mentally. His dialog is often humorous, as he not only has typical "dog thoughts", similar to Dug from Pixar's Up, but also a trace of human intelligence. Its an interesting balance. His dog behavior with human rationale works as an effective comic relief. I also liked the way in which Atticus acquires certain magical upgrades. Its reminiscent of fantasy video games, such as "The Legend of Zelda" or "World of Warcraft"; "You learned 'Cold Fire'!" *Victory Music*
I liked the idea of all the gods in the world having corporeal forms that interact with one another (including Thor who is repeatedly implied to be a huge tool). I realize this isn't a new idea, but this book did it well, and focused on a sect not often focused upon, compared to Greek, Roman, or Norse gods.
As much as I did enjoy the magic acquirement by Atticus, it was somewhat contradictory. Towards the end of the novel, Atticus explains to a prospective apprentice just how involved and time consuming it would be to master his druid magic. Shortly thereafter he uses the magic spell he was recently gifted with. Now, one could argue that his earth based druid magic is different than the spell gifted to him from the Tuatha Dé Danann, but it still raises an eyebrow.
My biggest complaint, however, is Aenghus Óg. For a villain, I didn't find him interesting at all. Throughout almost the ENTIRE NOVEL we don't see or hear from him. We're told what a force to be reckoned with he is, and how much he hates Atticus, but its an overabundance of buildup, for very little payoff. We don't know him as a character, we don't know his personality other than power-hungry, we don't know his speech patterns or mannerisms, nothing. He's this looming ominous force, but isn't really a character. I liken him to the Galactus cloud in the film Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. The characters spend the whole film preparing for this huge end-of-the-world threat. Plenty of action happens, sure, but then this big bad shows up, and is swiftly defeated. That's what happens in this novel, as well. I really would've appreciated if Aenghus had shown up one or two times before the end of the novel, either to issue some threats, or try to intimidate Atticus.
Overall, this novel was a fun romp through the world of ancient Celtic gods and goddesses. The lackluster final battle is disappointing, but the way several characters introduced throughout the novel finally come together in the end makes up for it. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes the "gods who walk among us" stories. 3/5 Stars.
(On a personal note, for a comic recommendation in the same vein, I highly recommend J. Michael Straczynski's most recent take on Marvel comics Thor.)
ReadingPenguin's Note: Aw, wasn't that fun? Those of you who have been with us for awhile will note that I reviewed this same book back in October, and gave it 4 stars (I'm a big softy). The one thing we both agree on is that Oberon is seriously awesome, and is yet more proof that we need a dog. And now I pass it to you guys--leave your comments and questions and we will respond and maybe even visit you. Be nice to my fiance, though. I have a standing threat to fling penguins at trolls and mean people.