Hard Magic: Book I of the Grimnoir Chronicles
by Larry Correia
Cover Artist: Alan Pollack
Review by Meagen Voss
Baen Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9781439134344
Date: 03 May 2011 List Price $15.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
When I first read the title of this book (and saw the cover), I thought this was going to be one of those urban fantasy stories where a spell is occasionally cast between the sex scenes. I mean, Hard Magic seemed to be the most blatant double entendre a fantasy author could come up with. Instead, I found myself pulled into a story that cleverly blended together alternate history, magic, and the grit of a 1930s gangster film. Stylish and slick, Larry Correia’s Hard Magic is a story that no fantasy fan will want to miss.
World War I has been over for a few years when the Bureau of Investigation sends a reluctant Jake Sullivan to apprehend an old lover of his. Jake is no G-man, but he’s got a magical talent for changing the pull of gravity, and the Bureau helped knock some time off his jail sentence so that he could help them track magically-talented criminals. Everything goes wrong when he attempts to arrest Delilah Jones, a saucy woman whose magic gives her the strength of at least five men. After Delilah escapes, Jake finds out that the Feds had lied to him about her crimes, and once he starts poking around, he finds himself pulled into a covert war between two strong factions of magic-users. Jake doesn’t know who to trust, but it quickly becomes clear that many lives are at stake—including his own.
After reading the first real chapter (not the Prologue), I got the impression that Hard Magic might be nothing more than a bullet-ridden fantasy action thriller. But there’s no gratuitous bloodshed in this book. In between the action, Correia slows down to give the reader some explanations, and instead of hasty, revenge-themed excuses for his characters to go kick some ass, Correia provides a substantive story shored up by a unique system of magic. His vibrant cast of characters is the best part of this book, and Correia supplies character development for every single one of them. The hero, Jake Sullivan, is also refreshingly different and complex, which makes me wonder what Correia is going to do with Jake in the next book.
I recommend this book wholeheartedly to urban fantasy fans, especially those who like Charles de Lint. This book may not be set in modern times, and there is definitely an alternate history flavor to it, but I don’t think that a story has to have a modern-day setting to be considered urban fantasy. Those who enjoy detective novels or gangster stories, the "crime and punishment" fans, would also get a kick out of this book. Fans of epic fantasies and people who refuse to read anything that doesn’t have elves or a royal family in it better look elsewhere.
There may be some people who pick up this book thinking they’re in for some raunchy urban fantasy fare (like I did), and they may be disappointed by the lack of sex scenes, yet I think Correia will win them over in the first few chapters. This is a great read, and awesome start to what promises to be a smashing good series.