Hard Magic by Larry Correia
Review by Ryan Lawler
Jake Sullivan is a war hero, a private eye—and an ex-con. He’s free because he has a magical talent, being able to alter the force of gravity in himself and objects in his vicinity, and the Bureau of Investigation calls on him when they need his help in apprehending criminals with their own magical talents. But the last operation he was sent along to help with went completely wrong, and Delilah Jones, the woman the G-men were after, who just happened to be an old friend of Jake’s in happier times, had a lot of magical muscle with her, too much muscle for the cops to handle, even with Jake’s help.
Synopsis sourced from the authors website (http://larrycorreia.wordpress.com)
The 1930′s was an era of charm sophistication. The world was just coming out of the great depression, cars were starting to become affordable, men wore pinstripe suits and women wore flapper dresses, gangsters and corruption controlled the cities, and people would converse using the full range of the English language, often hiding what they really meant to say between layers of entendre. It is an area that has remained largely untouched by genre fiction but with Hard Magic by Larry Correia, that is all likely to change.
Hard Magic is a fantasy story set in the 1930′s and is full wizards who practice all sorts of magical powers. The story follows Jake Sullivan, a "Heavy" who has the ability control and manipulate gravity, density and mass. During a routine operation to take down a fellow "active", Sullivan becomes caught up with a secret society of "actives" called The Grimnoir as they try to save the world. This is very much a superhero story, an alternate history story where the timeline diverges from around the 1850′s after seemingly random people suddenly started acquiring a range of magical abilities. Correia has a lot of fun with the alternate history here, taking some of the achievements by famous historic figures and attributing them to magic powers in a subtle but effective effort to build a unique world. Famous men such as Tesla and Einstein are given the abilities of "Cogs" and are about to advance their theories and inventions far beyond what they achieved in our time line. The level of detail here adds to the overall appeal of the story, helping it to become one of the more entertaining stories of 2011.
Hard Magic has by far one of the best cast’s for a fantasy story in recent memory. Jake Sullivan is the slow speaking WWI veteran whose immense mental capacity is at odds with his external appearance. He is a character that is far more complex than I initially gave him credit for, and as he starts to interact with the other actives, Jake really comes into his own as one of the most likeable, charming, and violent heroes currently going around. He has a couple of offsiders in Delilah the "Brute" and Faye the "Traveller", both remarkably strong women for whom no challenge is to big or complex for them to overcome. The story of Delilah is as tragic as the story of Faye is fun, adventurous and full of hope. These two characters contrast each other perfectly with their history, outlook on life, personal attributes and magical powers, and their interactions make for some of the more fascinating scenes in the book. The rest of the Grimnoir are brilliant support characters, each worth of their own story. And the villains, wow. They are awe inspiring through their sheer weight of power and strength, they are some of the toughest villains I have seen in fantasy stories, and each fight scene they participate in is overwhelmingly epic in power, brutality, and ruthlessness.
The writing is good, the pacing is very fast and prose is quite efficient, making this story easy to read. Correia’s expertise with firearms colours every single page, especially in the Sullivan POV scenes where it seems Sullivan cant go more than five minutes without making a remark about how much he loves his gun. The book is very violent and the violence can be graphic, so if you are a bit on the squeamish side you may not appreciate some of the action scenes. But if you do appreciate a good action scene, then you will be treated to some of the best pieces I have read, definitely on par with the fight scenes crafted by Brandon Sanderson. Picture a hulking giant jumping of a building, reversing the gravity immediately surrounding him so that he can make the 100 metre high leap onto the bridge of an escaping airship, while "movers" are flinging pieces of debris at him and "crackles" are throwing lightning bolts at him. Correia makes the most of the magic system he has set up, it almost seems like he dreamed up the set pieces and then created the magic system required to make the set piece a reality.
This was a fast paced and highly entertaining novel. The time period adds a lot of charm and class to the book, and it is great to see just how much historical figures can further mould the world given a bunch of unique magical abilities. This book suffers from some poor cover art, but don’t let that put you off because Hard Magic has some of the most fun and entertaining scenes I have read this year.
manpreet singh from india
Eric Allsop from Wisconsin, USA
I agree with your review wholeheartedly, this was the best book I read all year and with the sequel out I can't wait for Christmas to come so that I can read it!!!
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