Today, The Poisoned Martini is reading Kevin Hearne’s novella, Grimoire of the Lamb.
Atticus O’Sullivan looks twenty-one years old, but he is the centuries old druid Siodhachan Ó Suileabháin lying low in the desert clime of Tempe, Arizona. When an evil sorcerer steals the titular grimoire, Atticus travels to Egypt to get it back, but will he be able to avoid the angry goddess Bast and her phalanx of felines?
This novella is considered a prequel to Hounded, the first novel in the Iron Druid Chronicles. The events take place four years prior to the start of that novel (previously reviewed on The Poisoned Martini).
Follow along as I review the novella LIVE!
This post will be updated (with time stamps) as I progress through the story and share my thoughts firsthand. Wondering what a Live Read is? Check the end of the post for details.
8:00pm – Start Time
The story begins with a great line: “People today think ancient Egypt was ineffably cool. I blame this misconception on hieroglyphics and (to a lesser extent) on the Bangles.” But you gotta love “Walk Like an Egyptian.”
Atticus, who has been around since before the Library of Alexandria burned, goes on to tell us the real scoop and how Egyptians “practiced some of the blackest magic history has ever seen” and their keeping it secret.
Atticus has an extensive collection of ill-gotten tomes. “I tended to hoard magical tomes the way dragons hoarded treasure.” As for his Egyptian titles, “almost all of it had been cursed or enchanted in some fashion and had given me more trouble than it was worth.”
He’s particularly angered the cat goddess, Bast, by purloining a book belonging to her cult. Now he’s gotten a phone call from Nkosi Elkhashab from Egypt inquiring about “a cookbook.”
Ouch. “Let him assume I was an American and, therefore, statistically speaking, limited to English and two years of another language in high school.” A sadly true indictment of most Americans born in the U.S. (Although I’ve had more than two years of French, I still wouldn’t say I’m fluent.)
Nkosi is asking about “a collection of recipes for cooking lamb.” Atticus refers to it as the Grimoire of the Lamb. It apparently doesn’t have an actual title. It’s also written in Coptic.
I swear every time I type “grimoire”, I think I’m spelling it wrong.
Atticus considers selling the book. “The sale of rare books and antiquities was just one of many get-rich-slow schemes I’d come up with throughout my very long life.”
The grimoire (oh, that word again!) has thirteen recipes for lamb. Atticus tells Nkosi he has it, but the buyer will have to pick it up in person. Nkosi balks at that. Atticus mentions that he can’t send “magical” items in the mail.
A week later, the Egyptian arrives. And he’s a magic user. “I knew immediately, because the wards on my shop warned me,” Atticus narrates.
Wow. The description of the Egyptian! Although it was likely “a convenient disguise.”
Atticus delays him to an afternoon appointment, claiming the book isn’t on site. Then he calls his lawyer, Hal Hauk, who also happens to be a werewolf. Time to do some background checking up on the Egyptian. Something he should have done before the guy showed up!
He heads home, greets his Irish wolfhound, Oberon, and uncovers the ancient Fae sword, Fragarach, “that forces targeted dastardly types to answer questions truthfully.” I should note that this sword plays a pivotal role in the series’ first book, Hounded.
Using the sword, Atticus learns Nkosi is searching for the lost book of Amun, which contains recipes to alter fate. Atticus discovers the “lamb” used in the recipes isn’t literal.
Love how some of the questions Atticus asks are off-topic. Some great humor there.
How appropriate is it that it happens to be thundering outside while I’m reading a section about magic spells as Atticus tries to stop Nkosi from stealing the book? Atticus notes Nkosi’s magic appears “muddy” and “undisciplined.”
Some interesting details about the grimoire’s author, the sorcerer Nebwenenef, and his actions which led Gaia to create Druids.
Taking Oberon, Fragarach, and Bast’s book of mysteries, Atticus heads to Cairo, but not by plane. Atticus and Oberon arrive in the early hours of the morning long before Nkosi. And then…
They’re spotted by a feline in a marketplace.
Atticus kicks off his sandals…
Let the drinking game begin! Seriously. Atticus’ powers are strengthened by a connection to the earth so he often wears sandals, kicking them off when he needs to draw power from nature. Take a shot each time Atticus goes barefoot. (Only for the over 21 crowd. And drink responsibly!)
“Cats were flooding out of their homes…”
It may be the early hours (around dawn) in Cairo, but the scene of Atticus and an Irish wolfhound being chased by a horde of cats makes for an interesting visual.
Imaging the Hitchcock film, The Birds, as The Cats…
A crocodile priest…a follower of Sobek…a deal with Bast…
I guess even a Druid uses credit cards. Though I wouldn’t call that living off the grid. Of course, when you’re wet and your shirt is in shreds, credit comes in handy.
Then it’s off to an internet cafe to check the dossier on Nkosi. A sudden influx of money raises flags about Nkosi…
Atticus heads to Al Fayyum, near where an old cult of Sobek flourished, and encounters a moat of crocodiles. He searches Nkosi’s house until he discovers “an archaeologist’s dream.”
Sarcophagi and more. Messing with an obsessive-compulsive magician.
I like this exposition: “During the archaeological orgy at the beginning of the twentieth century, the Egyptian gods reveled in the attention they were getting around the world.” …”the new attention they received did not translate into new worshippers.”
Well that was unexpected…
One battle down and a stranger, weirder, and more dangerous one to come? “I had a lot to process and little time to do it.”
10:38pm – Summation
The last lines of the story, tying into the beginning line somewhat, are a great end to the adventure. Atticus barely gets through a thrilling, unusual battle with broken bones and bruises, but his healing ability (eventually) allows him to recover better than his urban paranormal peers in other series.
One of the best things about the Iron Druid Chronicles is its use of existing mythology and bringing that lore to life. Here, though Atticus is from the Celtic tradition, readers get a taste of the Egyptian pantheon. Fans of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods would certainly appreciate these stories.
In a way the story is all too short, but it certainly makes for an enjoyable evening. I’m a bit surprised that this doesn’t tie in to or hint more about what’s to come in the first book, Hounded. Grimoire of the Lamb was written (or at least published) two years later. Atticus presumably had been living a quiet existence until now, and his use of the sword Fragarach would seem to attract unwanted attention that he’d been trying to avoid. An epilogue could have set up a sort of cliffhanger ending that entices readers to pick up book one.
Regardless, I think this is one of the best urban fantasy series out there along with Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files series.
What’s a Live Read?
A Live Read is where I review the book as I read it. It’s kind of like writing notes in the margin of a book as you go. After the initial post describing the selected book, I’ll update periodically during the Live Read until the final pages. I intend to avoid any spoilers and certainly won’t give away the ending. Once finished, I’ll give a summation of my overall thoughts. I encourage participation either during the Live Read and beyond. Even if you’ve read the chosen book or not, feel free to chime in with your thoughts about the book, author, or mysteries in general.