Today’s review comes to us from a guest reviewer, Walt Boyes. Walt is a published author and a member of the SFWA (Science Fiction Writer’s Association), as well as on the Editorial Board of The Grantville Gazette, part of Eric Flint’s popular 1632 series. He can be found at the Big Bananaslug.
I’ve just finished reading the electronic Advanced Reader Copy (e-ARC) of Larry Correia‘s newest novel, Hard Magic: Book I of the Grimnoir Chronicles. Correia burst onto the urban fantasy scene just a couple of years ago with his first novel, Monster Hunter International and its sequel, Monster Hunter Vendetta.
His is a really fresh voice in urban fantasy, with a hero (on reflection, that looks a lot like Correia himself–making him the largest MarySue in fantasy) who is an accountant, a bar bouncer, a gun nut, and who survived an attack by a werewolf by throwing him out of a multistory building’s window to smash on a car parked below. Correia has new and hysterically funny takes on Orcs (they love Heavy Metal and are working for good), Elves (redneck trailer trash elves, whose queen weighs about 500 lbs and wears enormous muu-muus), Gnomes (gangsta rapping Gnomes at that).
So it wasn’t a big surprise to see his new series, the Grimnoir Chronicles, is built out of a whole new take on magic and magic users. I can’t decide whether it is an alternate history with magic or an urban fantasy in an alternate universe. Who cares? It’s a great read.
It seems that an entity fleeing an enemy in another galaxy or universe has given to many humans the ability to do magic with the Power. But each is only a one trick pony, firestarters, movers, travelers, healers, etc., except Okubo Tokogawa, the Shogun of the Japanese Imperium. He is called the Chairman, and his talents are multiple and he has surrounded himself with specially trained and magically reinforced Iron and Shadow Guards. These are, respectively, super samurai and super ninjas.
The Grimnoir (a corruption of Grimoire and Noir) Society is dedicated to the death of the Chairman and the end of the evil Imperium of Japan.
In this book, we meet Jake Sullivan, who has been freed from Rockville Penetentiary by J. Edgar Hoover so he can be used to kill “magically active” people or Actives. One of the people he is sent after is his former lover, Delilah– who is a Brute. Sullivan is in prison because he killed a Louisiana sherriff who was about to kill a young black Active. Sullivan is an autodidact, but he’s widely read and has studied magic heavily.
Correia only occasionally slips into gun porn, which is one of the biggest flaws in the Monster Hunter series…and his mastery of the vernacular of the pulp novel is as good as that of one of the minor characters in the book, an accountant named Chandler.
The action is non-stop, the character development is excellent, with one exception, and the book will sell well to hard-boiled detective readers as well as urban fantasy readers. People who like their vampires with sparkles, however, should probably not read this book, although they are encouraged to buy a copy to make up for what they’ve done to vampire fantasy. Correia’s Monster Hunter series is a terrific antidote to cute zombies, sparkly vampires, and such rot. The one exception to the fine, measured character development is the character of Sally Faye Vierra. She becomes too powerful too fast, and without a lot of rationale except that the storyline requires her to do that. Perhaps she will be further developed in the next volume.
As soon as the book is available for general sale (it is scheduled for May 1st 2011), you should all go out and buy a copy. It is a great read and Correia is a large enough man that he will need to have all the income he can get to keep his body going so he can write more of these great urban fantasies.
Nice job, Larry. And if you are a HUGO voter, Larry is eligible for the John W. Campbell Award for new writers, and he should have a really good shot at it.