It’s been forever and a day since I did a book review. Between working on my own stuff and other projects, I haven’t had much time to read. But I finally picked up a book that I’d like to talk about!
First of all, there are two seemingly unrelated situations that lead to me finally grabbing this particular book. The first took place years ago, when I was still in the midst of writing my Mystery, Murder, and Magic series (probably about the time I was working on Dames and Diviners). I was in a Barnes & Noble when I came across a book called Hard Magic. I skimmed the back and picked up the keywords of “private eye” and “magic”, and while I really wanted to read it, I was too worried about being influenced while still working on my own hard-boiled fantasy story. So I passed it up.
This past year, I became friends with another fantasy reader who specifically likes non-epic fantasy stuff, which I’ve been getting more and more into (that’s a whole other topic for a blog post). He suggested the series Monster Hunter International, which I took note of because it sounded really interesting.
Fast forward to last month when I was in B&N again spending some gift cards that had accumulated, and I saw Monster Hunter International. They only had one copy of the first book, though, and it was in poor shape. I have a thing about buying new books, so I passed it up. However, the book next to it was Hard Magic – apparently it was the same author, Larry Correia! So, upon my friend’s recommendation of one of the author’s other series, and my past interest in Hard Magic, I picked it up.
Now that the back story is over, let’s move onto the book itself, shall we? My overall summary of the book is this – it’s fantasy + alternate fiction + X-Men + Men in Black. It’s a ridiculous (in a good way) mish-mash of genres that work together to weave a dark, yet occasionally lighthearted, story. The setting is the 1930s in an alternate world where people are being born with magical abilities at an exponential rate. These Actives, as they’re known, have varying types of abilities as well as varying levels of power.
At the beginning, there are two unrelated main stories that switch back and forth. One is of Faye, an innocent and sometimes naive, but not unintelligent, young girl who also happens to be a Traveler. That means she has the magical ability to jump from one place to another instantly. Teleportation, if you will. Her foster father, also a Traveler, is killed by some mysterious and menacing men, leaving her with her foster father’s dying instructions and secrets to uncover.
The other story is of Jake Sullivan, an ex-con who spent much of his time in prison reading up on and experimenting with magic. He’s what’s known as a Heavy, or, as he prefers to be called, a Gravity Spiker. This means he can control the gravitational pull in a given area. A common ability, but the knowledge that he gains of his own powers is what makes him dangerous. In exchange for his parole, he works for the government in tracking down dangerous Actives. While on his last job, he runs into an old flame, Delilah. She has the ability to make herself super strong (otherwise known as a Brute). But she’s not alone; the group that she’s working with seems to have motives that don’t coincide with what the government tells Jake.
The two stories eventually meet, and the nexus of the two is the Grimnoir Society, a secret group of Actives that works under the radar to keep the world safe. But as the story unfolds, it turns out that what everyone thought was the biggest threat to world was just the beginning.
I loved this book. I loved it so much that I ordered the next two in the series from Amazon before I had even finished it. Because of the interplay of different genres, anything can happen with the turn of a page – a magical battle, a dog fight involving zeppelins and blimps, pirates, ninjas, and even otherworldly encounters. It’s been a long time since I used “page turner” to describe a book, but that’s what Hard Magic is.
One of the letdowns of the book for me – and it’s a minor one – is that there is mention on the back cover and briefly in the book about Jake Sullivan turning to private investigating after being released from prison. And this is what led me to think that it might have some hard-boiled elements to it. But it’s not something that the author decided to go into, and because of that I kind of wish he hadn’t said anything to begin with.
The only other problem I had was that one of the characters (I won’t say which one for fear of spoilers) didn’t feel fully explored by the end of the book, which was a shame because I feel that they would have been much more interesting and given the interactions with other characters a bit more depth.
What I did enjoy greatly was Correia’s consistency of voice with the characters. When he switched back and forth between points of view, each section felt just the way it should from that character’s POV. It was refreshing to get that, when many authors tend to just stick with one voice – their own.
Hard Magic comes very highly recommended by yours truly. It’s fun, it’s intelligent, and I would love to see it turned into a TV series someday. And it definitely makes me want to seek out Monster Hunter International.
More reviews as I finish the rest of the books in the series!