Review: Hard Magic

Posted: April 29, 2011 by in Books We Love (5/5 single_star) Meta: Larry Correia, Urban Fantasy

There are very few authors whose body of work makes us cackle with boyish glee. Chris Wooding is one. Jonathan Maberry another. Recently Sarah Pinborough has joined those ranks. For those of you keeping score, when Larry Correia writes something new we drop everything. You can then find us camped out with a flashlight in the living room under a tent made of sheets and blankets. Never mind we own our own homes.

We are just going to come out and say it: Larry Correia’s HARD MAGIC (Amazon), book 1 of the Grimnoir Chronicles, is completely fun and awesome. Everyone knows how much we like his Monster Hunter series. We like this one more. Much more. Everything about HARD MAGIC is positively saturated with style…

…well, and explosions of course.

HARD MAGIC takes place during an alternate USA of the 20’s and 30’s (mostly 30’s). Magic has been reintroduced into the world which has obviously changed it dramatically. There is some detective story stuff here and some magic. But apart from those automatic “win buttons” the main thing that Larry’s novel has going for it is its epic foundation. This is Epic Alternate Historical Urban Fantasy… with superheroes… kinda. Yeah. Tell us that doesn’t sound completely fun and awesome if executed right. And yes, Larry does it right.

You may be tempted to dismiss Larry as a pure action author. The style (and ‘splosions) over substance type. The explosions and violence are there, and they are GLORIOUS! But we’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again. Larry’s work is deceptive. No doubt we read his work for the gun-play (one of the best out there) and the B-movie feeling it all invokes. But if we are honest with ourselves—and you readers of course—we would have to admit we read Larry’s work for the characters. HARD MAGIC, in our opinion, has the best character work of all Larry’s novels so far.

HARD MAGIC entertaining and has all the qualities that make us love Epic Fantasy, only in a Raymond Chandler-esque, noir setting.

To understand the characters, we should probably talk a bit about the main magic system of the novel. Rare individuals have the ability to perform a certain type of magic. Some can alter their own personal gravity. Some can teleport. Some use animals in a borderline possession way. Others can perform miraculous healing feats while their opposites can cause plagues. In the back of the novel you’ll find a list and description of them all. They sound a bit like superheroes, and there’s nothing wrong with it. You readers of MISTBORN will feel very comfortable picking up the magic of this created world.

One of the main characters of the novel is Jake Sullivan. He is one of those individuals that can alter his personal gravity—a Heavy. He’s been in wars (we get some awesome history here), he’s been a P.I., and he’s been in prison. Now he’s on loan to the Feds. Simply put, Sullivan is terrific. He is very reminiscent of the Owen Pitt character from the Monster Hunter universe (some would say a tad too similar), but has enough differences to make him his own character. For starters, Sullivan is more intelligent. The sequences in the novel that show the research Sullivan is doing on magic are fantastic and are VERY character building.

While there are a ton of characters in the novel—none of with we can point at with dislike—the other main character we want to mention is Faye—a Traveler (aka teleporter). We want to mention this character specifically because Larry does such a great job of keeping her, well, female-ish. So many male authors have such a hard time writing female PoVs (just as female authors have trouble writing male PoVs). Faye goes through some traumatic events early in the novel, and there is a need to balance this “lost youth” and innocence with the incredible power he grows into as the novel progresses…not to mention all from a female’s PoV. Tough stuff, yet Larry pulls it off. We don’t mean to snub the female characters from his other novels, but Faye is not only the best female character Larry has put on paper, but she is one of his best overall characters, period.

We couldn’t wrap us this review without mentioning the world-building. It may seem hardly worth mentioning since this takes place in a familiar-ish 1930s USA, but Larry did an amazing job here. Information is never just dumped on you during the course of the story. Rather than killing the pacing, Larry puts all the historical changes and details in the chapter bumps. The chapter bumps (or leads, if you will) in HARD MAGIC are easily on the same level as those in Brandon Sanderson’s novels. We’ve mentioned before that we think Sanderson’s chapter leads are some of best in the business (if not THE best). Larry’s are THAT good. As you read through the novel, the attention to detail is noticeable. You can tell that a ton of research was done, and then effectively spun into the text.

When all is said and done, Larry Correia’s HARD MAGIC is one of them most entertaining novels we have read. What’s more is that it has all the qualities that make us love Epic Fantasy, only in a Raymond Chandler-esque, noir setting. No one type of reader will enjoy this novel more than another. This is one of the few novels that will capture every reader’s imagination and leave them—like us—begging for more.

  • Recommended Age: 16+
  • Language: Yep. It can be strong, but never feels thrown in for shock-value.
  • Violence: It’s a Larry Correia novel, of course there is violence. The gun-play is perfect, and the set-piece action sequences are completely over-the-top and awesome.
  • Sex: Nope

On a side note, we aren’t too fond of the cover. We pictured something more along the lines of either of the Simon R. Green Urban Fantasy series. But hey, whatever. We bought this book for the content, not the cover.


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