Fun, high-quality urban fantasy novels are pretty hard to find, and Hounded manages to have a natural balance of solid storytelling, fun characters, a...moreFun, high-quality urban fantasy novels are pretty hard to find, and Hounded manages to have a natural balance of solid storytelling, fun characters, and good writing.
Now that I've had time to think about the novel (and sleep!), I think what made it work for me was that sense of balance, of not allowing things to swing too far into cliches or ridiculousness. Atticus himself, a two-thousand-year-old Druid, is probably a prime example of that element. He's a mixture of modern-day attitude and ancient ideas, and Hearne makes it work. Atticus can throw out a phrase like "pwned" one moment, and in the next paragraph, his speech can sound very proper and old-style, but it makes sense given how long he's lived and what he's had to do to blend in.
Some areas where the balance sort of flounders a bit is in Oberon and the widow. Talking animals in general don't really work well with me, especially when they're meant to be animals and not some sort of magical beings. I inevitably always find their speech/thoughts to be too much like a human's. In general, Oberon had enough of the true nature of a happy canine to balance out his occasionally too-human comments and speech. (Or, has being linked to Atticus affected his way of thinking? Did I miss that somewhere in the novel?) The widow was, for the most part, amusing, but she allowed Atticus to do something that kind of made me go "really? just like that?" But I really just accept her as one of those slightly-over-the-top characters and go with it; Hearne's writing and storytelling are mature enough that it doesn't get truly ridiculous.
As far as the plot goes, I thought the storyline was fun. Lots of action, lots of stuff going on. I'm not too big of a fan of the "gods as characters" things, but Hearne makes it work. There's some of the inevitable first-book-in-UF-series tour of all the boogeymonsters in the main character's life, but it feels natural in this case. I like the pantheon of gods that Atticus deals with; it's different from the usual Summer and Winter Courts of Faerie. The action scenes were well-written, and I like that Atticus is full of tales from his very long past.
In conclusion, I thought this was a fun urban fantasy novel with good overall balance. Hearne managed to take two themes that I'm not fond of and make them actually palatable for me. It's a good first book to a series, and I'm looking forward to continuing with the future novels.(less)
After seeing both of the Black Butler anime series (I feel odd calling them "seasons," since they're titled differently), I decided to look into the o...moreAfter seeing both of the Black Butler anime series (I feel odd calling them "seasons," since they're titled differently), I decided to look into the original source material to see how the storylines differ. Coming from watching the animes, I'm naturally a bit biased towards liking the series, but even I have to admit that in both the anime and the manga, Black Butler doesn't lead with its strongest foot. It took me two tries to get into the anime, and the episodes follow the manga almost exactly (for this volume, at least). I always felt that the events at the very beginning of the series should have been arranged differently to highlight the series' strengths--the layered dynamics between Sebastian and Ciel, Sebastian's mysterious nature, and Ciel's unusual maturity and youth--and the first few manga chapters reaffirmed that for me.
However, despite a bit of a shaky start, I still find this series very charming. The art, of course, is great, the humorous parts (well, most of them, as I'm less-than-entertained by the Phantomhive staff) made me smile, and when the series wants to be dark, it certainly commits to it whole-heartedly. Black Butler is one of those series that you have to take seriously when it wants you to, but you also have to cut it some slack when it starts to lean towards the ridiculous. I'm looking forward to reading and collecting the rest of it... which is good, because I bought the first four volumes together!(less)