#REVIEW: A PLAGUE OF GIANTS, by Kevin Hearne

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I’m pretty certain I’ve read, or at least tried to read, all of Kevin Hearne’s books.  His Iron Druid series is about to conclude with… I dunno, book nine or ten or something like that, and I’ve read and enjoyed all of them.  He also wrote a Star Wars book that attempted to be a first-person Luke Skywalker story, and… well, I’ll just say it didn’t work for me.

A Plague of Giants is the first book in a brand-new series.  Iron Druid was Celtic-flavored urban fantasy.  APoG is much more traditional epic fantasy, with magic and monsters– or at least some really scary wildlife– and, well, giants.  It’s also much… weightier, maybe? than his previous work, both in the literal sense (over 600 pages, twice the length of most of the Druid books) and in the sense that he’s telling a story about a world and not just a dude.  Some quick research hasn’t discovered how many books he has planned in the series (I just asked him on Twitter, too; we’ll see if he responds) but I’d be surprised if it weren’t at least four or five.  (EDIT: Found an interview, it’s a trilogy.)

At any rate, it’s a big story, with a dozen or so POV characters scattered around six countries and one large continent.  The most interesting thing about the book is the structure, actually; it does the rotating-POV thing that’s been so popular lately, but all of the first-person accounts are actually being narrated by a bard, who is speaking in front of a large crowd over the course of fourteen or fifteen days, and is using his bard magic to appear to be each of these people as they’re narrating their parts of the story.  I don’t think this is where Hearne is going, but there’s an interesting opening in here for the bard to be an unreliable narrator for some or many of these people.  Rotating POV is all over the place, but I can’t think of anything I’ve read with rotating first-person POV, and rotating first-person POV narrated by a third-person POV character?

Yeah, that’s new.

You may be able to glean an idea of the plot from the title, with one big twist: there are two different giant-plagues, or at least giant invasions, going on.  Giants (the Hathrim) and humans normally get along, but one particular group gets driven from their home by a volcanic eruption and decides to basically invade one of the other countries, set up a new city, and basically squat until their presence is accepted.  Meanwhile, across the world, an entire different group of giants from a different continent are invading and killing the hell out of everyone, and finding out who they are, where they came from, and why they’re there is one of the big threads of the book that I won’t spoil.  Toss in the fact that every country in the book has their own form of magic (the titular “kennings”) except for one, and that that country finds its kenning through the course of the book, and you’ve got plenty of intrigue and political and military machination to go around.  I like the story quite a lot but I realized partway through that the structure robs the story of a bit of its drama– one of the disadvantages of the idea that the whole story is being narrated by a bard as oral history is that at some point the story had to be told to the bard, which means that if someone is the POV character it’s safe to assume they’re going to survive their chapter.

Just look out if they happen to meet one of the other POV characters in their chapter.  That’s a bad sign.  🙂

At any rate: if you’ve read any of Hearne’s books in the past and enjoyed them, you should definitely pick this up; if you aren’t familiar with him but are in the mood for some meaty epic fantasy you should definitely pick this up, and I even think it’s worth checking out purely for the craft involved because the structure is so intriguing.  This will end up in my top 10 for the year, I think.  Go check it out.