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Customer Review

Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on April 18, 2018
Scourged seems to be an exercise in self flagellation for all involved: for the main character, a contest of how much guilt can be achieved and how many terrible things can happen (that he can then blame himself for); for the writer, to see just how much he can pile into this story that doesn't fit with the rest of the series while minimizing page count; for the reader, to see just how much of all of the above while stretching the bounds of believability (in a genre entitled 'fantasy', this is quite the accomplishment) can be withstood before putting the book down for the final time. While I'm sure that it could have been worse, absent some form of Scrappy-Doo crossover plot, I'm not quite sure how that could be achieved.

In fact, about the only redeeming part of this book might be the potential for a new Vendetta Series: The Dark Iron Druid Chronicles wherein Atticus gets exquisitely dark revenge on EVERY SINGLE CHARACTER IN THIS BOOK, with only the debatable exception of Owen. The potential for fanfic stories detailing this revenge might outstrip the potential for Mr. Hearne to write it, though, given just how thoroughly he messed this one up. It's that bad. Ethan Frome is a more worthwhile investment of time, money, effort, and emotion, and as an English teacher himself, Mr. Hearne should know just how high (low?) that particular bar is to clear.

SPOILERS AHEAD. In order to clearly enumerate and illustrate my top 3 problems with this book, it is necessary that several major plot points will be discussed. Thus, here's the spoiler warning in advance. ***SPOILERS AHEAD***

- In past books, the battle scenes have been exquisitely detailed, nuanced, and filled with action for all characters. This book is not. Atticus' battles with Anghus Og, Das Tochters Das Tritten, any Dark Elves, any Aesir (except the battle with the Norns), or even some of Granduaile's training battles were ALL better described, more richly experienced, and took longer to read/write than any single battle in Scourged. Battles in the Novellas were all better than these. Ragnarok turned out to be a GIGANTIC letdown; this is some Heart of Darkness level of buildup and letdown (pages and pages of exquisite description of how important and epic Kurtz is, but when he's found it's like 5 pages of him doing nothing but saying 'the horror, the horror' and dying). Jormungandr? Wasn't even a battle. Many others have illustrated the shortcomings of the battles before me, and I'll leave it to them.

- Granuaile's response to Atticus attempting to keep her safe from a battle he expected to die in, and to ensure Druidry could continue, was ridiculous. I was right there for Perun's response; he was used and treated as an object, not appreciated or loved. Granuaile? She gets so upset at being sent to an easier battle that reduced her threat level because Atticus couldn't bare to either let Druidry end or to see her hurt because he loved her so much... was cause to break up with him? Less than an hour after he lost his right arm (with all his tattoos, and their included powers and connection to Gaia) and WHILE HE'S STILL WEARING HIS BLOODSTAINED CLOTHES??? Seriously? Her response was so far beyond reasonability that it actually caused me to fail my suspension of disbelief... IN A FANTASY NOVEL. It's so out of character, so unbelievable, that in a story featuring a 2000+ year old Irish dude who does shots with Jesus and is on a first name basis with several deities who are all real with physical bodies and dozens of different types of magic that obeys made-up rules, it was a PLOT POINT that made me go "that's just too unrealistic to be believable". Let that sink in. Look, I know a potential relationship with the Morrigan was always a more compelling thing to explore, even after she quasi-died (as the series has proven, death is no obstacle in the long run) - and that if that were to happen, the relationship with Granuaile would have to end. Granuiale as a character has always been poorly written in first person perspective but well done from other characters perspectives - well done enough to leave the reader attached and invested DESPITE just how badly written she is in first person... but this was so bad that I can unequivocally say that killing her off would have been better. Killing Atticus would have been better. Killing Oberon would have been better. Killing all three would have been better. Killing Granuaile before the battle, or even having him break up with her before the battle would have been better. ALL would have been more believable. She knows that he lost Tahirah in battle and that it nearly destroyed him - and she's so surprised and betrayed that he would seek to sideline her to a different battle than his so that he wouldn't witness her death (and perhaps be killed the same way Manannan Mac Lir was, which was just a revolting and another unbelievable part of the story, but this review is already too long), pushed her to break up with him after HE was betrayed by his own pantheon, the Norse, the Greeks, the Romans, and everyone but Coyote in such a way as to destroy his connection to Gaia and his ability to be a Druid in an unfair fight? BS. The pettiness of the gods has always been a theme, but so has some of their humanity and redeeming qualities... and he throws it ALL away with that battle. Freyja would force the battle when he was wounded, the earth beneath him drained from the battle, and without his weapon? That THOR would have more honor than literally any other deity on that battlefield? Sorry - the numerous ways in which this story breaks character, breaks believability, and breaks with reasonability... just too much. Way, way too much.

- There is no way Atticus could reasonably conclude that everything happening was his fault. There is so, SO much effort spent droning on and on about how everything is his fault and he sees everything as his fault... and not only is it unbelievable and unreasonable (as well as out of character), it's so annoying and heavy handed that it might be even more damaging to the story/book than Granuaile's breaking up with him, taking his house, separating their dogs, and lecturing him about it. If it's anyone's fault, it's Thor's. If not Thor, it would be Lief. If not Lief, it would be the Norse. The Norns were killed in self defense, and Atticus had absolutely NO trouble with that at any point. He was there to steal an apple, they tried to kill him, they lost. Everything that happened after, as he points out in Two Ravens and One Crow, was in response to violence that was offered him. Look, there's no need to go into detail about just how NOT his fault ALL of this was, because there have been 8 previous books all detailing how each was responsible for their own actions. But to say that Atticus, who is such a pragmatist, is incapable of seeing this and has to repeat at least once every couple pages how everyone's death is his fault? I'm sorry, but just remembering that makes me throw up a little bit in my mouth.

Perhaps the best possible thing that can be said about this book is that it's short; so, while it's expensive, badly written, badly conceived, and badly executed, it is at least not insufferably LONG in addition to just being insufferable.
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