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Hard Magic: Book #1 of the Grimnoir Chronicles
Larry Correia
Baen, 612 pages

Hard Magic
Larry Correia
Larry Correia is the New York Times bestselling author of the Monster Hunter series for Baen Books. He graduated with a degree in accounting from Utah State University and went to work for a Fortune 500 company as a financial analyst. Eventually, Larry ended up in the gun business, where he was a machinegun dealer, firearms instructor, and freelance writer for various gun magazines. Most recently he has worked in military contracting. Larry lives in the mountains of Utah with his wife and children.

Larry Correia Website
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Past Feature Reviews
A review by Nathan Brazil

'"You must be the Heavy that's working for the feds."'

"Yeah," Sullivan answered, Spiking hard. "Guess so."

Each piece of silverware suddenly gained fifty pounds. The kid gasped as he lost control and the objects crashed down.

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Hard Magic crosses steampunk with magic, and primarily depicts the adventures of Jake Sullivan, war hero, private eye and ex-con. As the story begins, Sullivan is only out of jail due to making a deal with the Feds, which sees him using his special abilities to help take down criminals who are also enhanced by magic. All is going well, with just one more operation to complete for Jake to win freedom, when he encounters Delilah Jones. In addition to being an old girlfriend of his, complete with her own magical abilities, Jones is on the Feds hit list. When the mission goes badly wrong, Jake begins to discover that the authorities have been lying to him, and all is not as it seemed. In fact, there is a secret war being waged between opposing magical forces. Worse still, Jake's involvement attracts the attention of both sides, one of which concludes that he is too dangerous to live.

Starting with the positives, Hard Magic is a whole lot of fun. The characters are well realised, the world has depth, and there is a genuinely interesting alternate history. The plot twists and turns like a snake on a roller coaster, effortlessly keeping up the illusion of a time and place that might've been. There is also good use of pastiche and homage dropped in here and there, such as this world's Raymond Chandler being a corporate accountant, and U.S. Gen. 'Black Jack' Pershing a mind reader. I also like the additional glossary of magical terms, presented as notes written by Jake Sullivan in 1932. There, for readers handy reference, is a guide to all of the different magical abilities by type, and Sullivan's comments. Author Larry Correia has a fairly rigid structure for what type of ability any of his characters can manifest. A Cog has super-intelligence, a Torch can manipulate fire, a Heavy can mess with gravity, a Mouth can influence anyone in range of their voice, and so on. Now for the downside, beginning with the feature of several pieces of full page artwork, all of which I found to be amateurish and bordering on detrimental. Surely, if the plan was to provide visualisations of the characters concerned, it is reasonable to expect them to be of a professional quality. Obviously, Larry Correia's editors did not express any preference. Also taking the edge off things were occasional examples of dodgy editing, one example being a referral to a lift elevator, which to me was like calling something a pavement side walk. Then there was the more fundamental issue of what the author's world was, as opposed to how it was being described. What I mean is the majority of the characters are presented as being 'magically' powered. Yet, as we learn, all of these abilities are derived from unconscious metaphysical contact with a god-like alien intelligence. This parasitical entity is referred to as 'The Power' and presented on a semi-scientific basis. I ended up thinking that the magical abilities of the human characters were much closer to standard super-powers than anything magical. Like the difference between Superman and Shazam. Especially when unequivocally magical critters were introduced to the mix. Lastly, and most jarring, was the way that one character's ability was suddenly, and without clear explanation, altered way beyond its established working parameters. This power boost power is then used to escape an otherwise unescapable situation. While Correia may have it all worked out for future explanation, in this book it hurt suspension of disbelief. Having said that, I accept that for many readers, the thrills and spills of ride will be far more interesting than the route taken.

In conclusion, I found Hard Magic to be a never less than entertaining, at times compulsive, addition to the steampunk genre. Providing sufficient care is taken to smooth the rough edges in future, I see more than enough scope for this to become an even bigger success than the author's previous works. I finished the book eager to read what happens next, and that is always a good sign.

Copyright © 2012 Nathan Brazil

Nathan Brazil
If Nathan Brazil were dyslexic, he'd be the dog of the Well world. In reality, he's an English bloke who lives on an island, reading, writing and throwing chips to the seagulls. Drop by his web site at www.inkdigital.org.


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