It's been almost a year since George Talbot Traherne was pulled from his home in modern-day Virginia and plunked into the parallel kingdom of Annwn, and in that time, he has been kept very busy. He has assumed the role of Huntsman under the reign of Gwyn ap Nudd and thwarted an attempt to disrupt the annual Wild Hunt. He has played a role in defeating one of Gwyn's most dangerous enemies and has opened a diplomatic relationship with the rock wights, elementals who possess the ability to create "ways" across time and space. And he has helped his royal patron to secure Annwn's political independence, thereby touching off an era of tremendous social change. But what is George to make of his personal connection to the god Cernunnos? Where did it come from? And might it have something to do with his parents, who supposedly died when he was very young? These questions drive the plot of Bound into the Blood, the fourth book of Karen Myers' Hounds of Annwn series. It is, perhaps, a smaller tale than its predecessors, but if you enjoy Karen's characters as much as I do, you will still find this novel well worth reading.
Mind you, there are a few elements of the main plot that didn't quite work for me. If a character (whose identity I won't spoil) demonstrates no hesitation or remorse when it comes to murdering those who, in his mind, stand in the way of his absolute freedom, it seems unlikely to me that he would undergo a change of heart simply because George shows him some compassion. As a Christian, I would like to think that mercy could be that powerful, but said character is basically written as a selfish sociopath, and in reality, it's tough to change that particular leopard's spots.
Still, I definitely enjoyed the "outsider perspective" Bound provides on our own society. You see, while George comes back to Earth to learn the truth about his heritage, Benitoe and Seething Magma also come along to pursue their own interests, and when the story switches to either supporting character's point of view, what results is often amusing. At one point, for example, Mag tries to sit underneath Penn State to glean geological information from the minds of the professors there and immediately gets frustrated when she discovers that we humans spend a lot of time thinking about "useless" trivia -- like, for example, whether our fellow humans are desirable for mating. ( :-) ) Benitoe, meanwhile, develops a rather adorable fondness for ice cream, which doesn't exist in the technologically stagnant Annwn.
On the whole, I do hope Karen continues this series, as I think there are many more stories of Annwn she can tell. Will there ever be a confrontation between the world of the fae and our world? Will conflicts arise between Annwn and their new neighbors to the south? And how will free creation of the "ways" impact the way Annwn's society develops over time? Will overland routes become partially or wholly obsolete? Will we see a technological revolution of sorts that will mirror what's happening in the 21st century US? The potential here, in my view, is far from exhausted.
Final Verdict: Recommended.