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Publisher's Summary

From the New York Times best-selling author of The Iron Druid Chronicles comes book two of an “action-packed, enchantingly fun” (Booklist) spin-off series, as an eccentric master of rare magic solves a supernatural mystery Down Under!

There’s only one Al MacBharrais: Though other Scotsmen may have dramatic mustaches and a taste for fancy cocktails, Al also has a unique talent. He’s a master of ink and sigil magic. In his gifted hands, paper and pen can work wondrous spells. 

But Al isn’t quite alone: He is part of a global network of sigil agents who use their powers to protect the world from mischievous gods and strange monsters. So when a fellow agent disappears under sinister circumstances in Australia, Al leaves behind the cozy pubs and cafes of Glasgow and travels to the Dandenong Ranges in Victoria to solve the mystery.

The trail to his colleague begins to pile up with bodies at alarming speed, so Al is grateful his friends have come to help - especially Nadia, his accountant who moonlights as a pit fighter. Together with a whisky-loving hobgoblin known as Buck Foi and the ancient Druid Atticus O’Sullivan, along with his dogs, Oberon and Starbuck, Al and Nadia will face down the wildest wonders Australia - and the supernatural world - can throw at them, and confront a legendary monster not seen in centuries.

©2021 Kevin Hearne (P)2021 Random House Audio

What listeners say about Paper & Blood

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  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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Disappointing

I enjoyed reading the first book in the series, Ink & Sigil, being entertained by a lively adventure in the Iron Druid universe. It has vivid characters, enjoyable dialog and satisfying action sequences.

The second book in the series, Paper & Blood, starts out along the same lines, with an interesting premise that will expand the world of the sigil agents for the reader, but unfortunately the story falls apart. Lacking a tightly drawn story arc, Paper & Blood either wanders or marches in place. It comes off as a cobbled together rough draft. Bits are polished, vivid and three dimensional, while most of it is not. There is a lot of telling the reader what they should see, instead of showing them the information. This makes for _very_ dissatisfying action sequences. This same telling results in a lack of dimension in the story, distancing the reader from the emotional content as well. Al's support of a young, insecure apprentice falls flat, instead of being gratifying.

Many people have commented that Hearne's political views shouldn't be in his books, so I'll wade in on the 'woke' aspects of the storyline. It's heavy-handed. Cloyingly so at times. I kept thinking, ten years from now this content will date the story, instead of allowing it to be ageless. And I seriously wonder about Hearne's perceived stance of supporting woke attitudes. I'd be more inclined to believe it if there weren't so many derogatory references to the female anatomy in the book. I'm all for the hobgoblins being rude and derisive, but the story Buck relates in Paper & Blood comes off as hypocritical, to say the least.

At one point it's made clear an ethnic teen girl (or female in general) can never use a sigil of authority as effectively as an older white male, because of people's (males especially) natural resistance to perceive them as an authority figure. The heavy-handed message of 'so sad that's how the world is and we all just need to work hard to change it' rings hollow with the inclusion of Buck's fireside tale. Now sexist, misogynistic treatment is acceptable, because it's presented as tongue in cheek sophomoric humor.

Buck's a hobgoblin, right? Nothing woke about hobgoblins. The females are good with being objectified by their body parts, sexuality and bodily functions. The ruder the better. Sexism and misogyny is a badge of honor in their society, indicating reverence and admiration AND the females gain gravitas because of it. The hobgoblins are happy with this status quo, but then trolls show up to wreck everything and put an end to them. They specifically target the males, literally emasculating them and displaying their nether parts as trophies. The male hobgoblins are helpless to stop this persecution and ironically, it's the females that must save their sexist, misogynistic way of life.

Not sure what Hearne is trying to show here by speaking out of both sides of his mouth. Woke mindsets vs misogynistic ones? Metaphors for current events? Or was he strong armed by his publishing house to change the 'objectionable' tone of his books and Paper & Blood reflects the hypocrisy of the situation with Buck's tale as an allegory for the current position white male authors find themselves in? Regardless, if the writing had been polished, making vivid three dimensional characters stepping off the page, the point would have hit home. Instead Hearne gives us flat two dimensional underdeveloped scenarios that rankle instead of amuse. Perhaps that was his point all along.

The story overall is loose and unfocused with moments of promise to develop into an exciting adventure, that fizzle out with little tension, a high body count and no emotional engagement with the characters. Being told 'this is a dangerous situation', instead of experiencing worry and concern as the group traverses the Australian countryside to rescue their friends. At one point the core group has to wait for someone to show up, so they decide to tell stories around a campfire to while away the time. (This is where Buck relates the hobgoblin story.) Tell being the key word here. Instead of being lively and engaging, the whole interlude is flat and dull with a lesson to be learned at the end of each segment. I sighed, bored by this marching in place filler that ate up a good chunk of the book's running time. And then, finally, when we get to the big confrontation/rescue/fight scene, we don't get to see any of it. Characters leave to confront the menace and we get to hear what's happening, instead of being in the midst of the action. No tension and lots of frustration. And to cap off the dissatisfaction, Hearne uses a deus ex machina to advance the story, lead the characters to the right conclusions and tie loose ends up in a bow...except for Al's curse. There's no progress on that at all, despite numerous opportunities to find out more about it.

My rolly-eye muscles hurt at the end of Paper & Blood. I really enjoyed the Iron Druid series (though it did lose steam in the later books, becoming less engaging and more telling the reader) and I found Oberon's Meaty Mysteries to be hilarious, so I keep coming back for more, hoping to be entertained, and instead am left disappointed.

As to the narration I should have stuck with reading the book as I did with Ink & Sigil, after trying the audio version and cringing at Luke Daniels horrendous versions of Scottish and UK accents. Normally I enjoy his performance, but with this series, anyway, it leaves a lot to be desired. Along with the American trying to sound Scottish narrative he also sounds like an American trying to sound like an Australian and an American struggling with an Alabama accent. He's also sounds like a man trying to sound like a girl and a man trying to sound like a woman. I was really surprised by how unpolished it all sounded. (Even Oberon's segment was lacking his usual lively quirkiness.) Many of his accents fluctuated during the dialog, wavering on and off and also bleeding into the other character's dialog for the first few words, making interactions muddy, instead of crisp and distinct. In a nutshell, not a believable listen, rendering the story flat and two dimensional. I'd expect these performance pitfalls from a new narrator learning the craft, not a narrator seasoned with years of experience. It's very much like a dialed in performance with minimal effort made to add dimension to the story.

Not sure I'll continue with this series. But on the strength of my past enjoyments and hope the story will catch fire, I'm sure if another book comes out, I'll be tempted.

20 people found this helpful

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Hearne disappoints again

I’ve been a long time fan of Hearnes. I devoured the Iron Druid Chronicles. But throughout those books he gets progressively more and more preachy about his own personal beliefs.

I respect all sides of the spectrum, but Kevin, no one cares about your politics. Please, just write a fantasy book without mentioning them.

This particular story seemed phoned in. Maybe a money grab? Or could be a result of his heavy drinking, who knows. Chapters weren’t relevant to the plot, the same sentences were incessantly repeated, and the resolution came and went with no real emotion.

I cannot recommend the first four Iron Druid books enough. After those get ready to feel like a horrible person if you don’t lean Kevin’s way.

13 people found this helpful

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Far to annoying to finnish listening to.

Really enjoyed the first book, but this one started annoying me almost immediately. I have always loved Luke Daniels narration but this time i could not put up with his "girls" voices with the annoying accents.
I really didn't like Kevin Hearne going into explaining stuff that goes on in the "real world" by the characters, i mean some of them are really old and have been around and they don't understand the Easter bunny? the story gets hijacked by all these ramblings that i just didn't get. Think this is the last of his books i will be listening too.

13 people found this helpful

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Too Much Woke Pandering

Kevin Hearne is one of my favorite authors. He develops wonderful storylines and characters. Unfortunately, he's gone too woke for my taste in this latest effort. He's like a woke version of Terry Goodkind. Ranting about white privilege and gender issues dilutes what would otherwise be a fine piece of urban fantasy.

5 people found this helpful

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Better than the first

NYT bestselling author Kevin Hearne dives back into the world of his Iron Druid Chronicles, this time dragging elderly Scotsman Al MacBharrais to the land down under. As one of five sigil agents for the First of the Fae here on Earth, Al’s job is to keep the Fae from terrorizing humanity. When the sigil agent in Australia goes missing, Al must investigate.

Like the first book, Paper & Blood includes an Author’s Note at the beginning to explain some of the Glaswegian Scots dialect and complex Irish words. The book then includes a recap of the previous book titled “The Story So Far” which negates any requirement to read the first book of the series. It’s also a lovely feature for readers who don’t have the time or inclination to reread the first book before picking on the newest one.

Paper & Blood picks up not long after Ink & Sigil ends, with Al and his contracted Fae hobgoblin, Buck, discussing issues from the previous book. That’s when Al receives news that his Australian counterpart is missing. Worse yet, the next closest sigil agent in also missing, along with her apprentice. Al notifies the other two sigil agents and travels with Buck from Scotland to Australia. Still, he fears they “may be dealing with a problem that requires a heavy hitter.” He reaches out to The Iron Druid for help.

Fans of the Iron Druid Chronicles will absolutely love this book. It was so good seeing Atticus O’Sullivan and his dogs, Oberon and Starbuck. The previous book had a flashback of Al meeting Atticus once, but nothing compares to having the ancient druid back in action. As the scope of the danger in Paper & Blood kept expanding, so did my excitement. It brought back the more fantastical, overwhelming foes from the previous series, which was befitting three sigil agents, a hobgoblin, the Iron Druid, and other heroes gathered along the way.

One of the best thing about this book, though, was seeing Atticus accept the loss of his arm, which had traumatized readers in the druid’s last book, Scourged. Now I could almost be okay if I never saw the ancient druid again. He’s going to be okay. That alone made this book special for fans of Hearne’s books.

Again, you need not have read any of his other books to enjoy Paper & Blood, but I will always recommend them. Hearne is an exceptionally talented author with a delightful sense of humor, and he weaves captivating tales with enviable skill.

5 people found this helpful

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Better and better

I loved this book so much! The addition of the Iron Druid World to the story brought back great memories from that series. And Roxanne! Kevin Hearne and Luke Daniel never fail to make me happy.

5 people found this helpful

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Brilliance All around!!

The story was absolutely brilliance, and kept engaged in the mythologies and connections! And Luke Daniels is bloody brilliant in juggling all the accents and pronunciations!!

5 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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Mixed feelings

I’m not sure what to think of this book. It was kinda all over the place. Maybe it suffers from the infamous middle book syndrome, but I felt it was kind of all over the place. We got some wonderful humor peppered with action and political commentary, which is common in Hearne’s writing. I loved the main story line, but felt it was more of an Iron Druid book with Al and the other Sigil Agents acting as sidekicks rather than a book about Al. There were two short stories in the book told by other characters which I enjoyed, but found them odd and distracting in the book. Overall I loved the story, the characters and I laughed so much! This just didn’t feel like a cohesive book, more a collection of short stories thrown together in an attempt at a cohesive story. I would have liked to see more about Al and Buck and the rest of the Sigil Agents specifically in this. I’m holding onto hope for greatness in the next in the series because the first one was fantastic.

5 people found this helpful

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fast paced modern fantasy

great book. fun imaginative. well written. many diverse characters featured with interesting personality. strongly recommend for some fun reading

4 people found this helpful

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Needs to tone down the Wokeness

First, I love this world that KH has crafted. I’m glad he’s still writing stories in this world and Luke Daniels us the BEST.
Keven Hearne though needs to back off the wokeness. These are clearly his own beliefs and it’s jarring to have them inserted into the characters (it was this same thing that caused the original ID series to end with a whimper. As if the message was more important than the story or the characters. All fantasy fiction requires a certain “suspension of disbelief” and diatribes from characters about systemic power hierarchies dies really help maintain immersion in the story.
I’ll still continue to read stories in this world, but I would prefer the characters not be used as foils to lecture the reader about the patriarchy or describing an old Irish gods as a White man (as if he would be anything else?)
Please concentrate on the story.
As a note, this book did seem short. It seems as if KH had 3 unpublished short stories that he just used as filler during a “story time” to pad the book. But, on the other hand, we get to listen to Luke Daniels voice Oberon.

4 people found this helpful