Well, I just can’t get enough of the Druid Atticus O’Sullivan and Oberon, his Irish Wolfhound. So, when I saw that two of Kevin Hearne’s IRON DRUID CHRONICLES short stories were recently produced in audio format and narrated by the amazing Luke Daniels, I had to have them. These stories have also been released in ebook format.
“Kaibab Unbound” is Kevin Hearne’s first short story. It takes place just a couple of weeks before the events of the first IRON DRUID CHRONICLES novel, Hounded. Atticus and Oberon are driving from Phoenix, where they live, to the Grand Canyon for a little nature retreat. When they stop in at their favorite coffee shop, Atticus notices a pretty young witch with a bad aura. As they’re driving on the interstate, they see her in the car with two friends. These three witches have bad intentions and when Atticus gets to the Grand Canyon, he has to stop them from doing the harm they intend. This involves the elemental spirit of the Kaibab forest, a Kaibab squirrel (so cute!), and several other forest creatures. Oh, and some naked people.
If you haven’t read any of Kevin Hearne’s IRON DRUID CHRONICLES books, yet, “Kaibab Unbound” makes a good introduction to the series. As Hearne mentions in the Author’s Note, this was the first story he ever wrote and was meant to introduce Atticus and Oberon. From this story we learn about their relationship, Atticus’s druidic responsibilities, and why they live in a big city (instead of in a more natural setting, as you might expect from an ancient Druid). We also get to see some of Atticus’s powers (including shape-shifting), the limitations of his powers, and the purpose of his tattoos. Oberon’s personality also comes through — he loves meat, movies, poodles, and Atticus. If you enjoy the banter between them, you’ll be happy to know that this humor actually gets even more entertaining as the series progresses.
The second story, “A Test of Mettle,” is an incident that takes place while Atticus is in Asgard during the time of Hammered, the third novel in the series. Granuaile, Atticus’s apprentice, will soon be initiated as a full Druid. As a service to the elemental of the East Verde River, she and Oberon are fishing crawdads out of the water. They don’t belong there — they were dumped by children in a science class — and they are ruining the river’s ecosystem. While she is fishing, she is attacked by wild boar and a mountain lion. She must figure out how to protect herself without harming the animals. Then she learns that this was a test to determine if she will be a worthy Druid.
Granuaile’s story has a different tone than Atticus’s story. Atticus is direct and matter-of-fact while Granuaile has a more lyrical voice and tends to speak in metaphors. I can’t say that Granuaile is always convincing, but I admire how she’s not just a female version of Atticus. Hearne gives each of his characters distinct and consistent voices. Also, I love how he uses local landmarks, habitats, and ecological issues in his stories. (Kevin Hearne is from Arizona.)
Any fan of the IRON DRUID CHRONICLES will enjoy these two short stories and feel like they’ve learned something about Atticus, Oberon, and Granuaile. And, as I said, they make a nice introduction to the series for new readers. The Kindle version is available for 99c, but I recommend the audio version, narrated by Luke Daniels for $4.86. I love his interpretation of Hearne’s characters (especially Oberon) and I wouldn’t think of reading IRON DRUID CHRONICLES any other way. The audio version is 1.5 hours long.