Just the original trilogy, haven’t read any of the short stories.
Some time ago, when deliberating on Audible, whether it’s time to take a break or continue my subscription for a few more months to accumulate more titles, I noticed Hard Magic among the recommended titles. I remembered I read about Correia at Bookstooge’s, and I decided to go for the first volume, and delay cancelling. I share my listening time between audiobooks and podcasts, and I have other sources than Audible, so I only buy credits for a few months each year… but I ended up buying the entire trilogy, and some other stuff as well, including Rotherweird books recommended by Chris, also great but not a topic of this review.
Author: Larry Correia
Titles: Book 1: Hard Magic, Book 2: Spellbound, Book 3 Warbound
Hours: 16h 22m; 16h 52m; 17h 16m
I decided to review the entire trilogy in one post, as they are very similar and basically tell one big tale of one group of protagonists. And, frankly, the novels are not sophisticated enough to warrant a very long review, if I want to avoid spoilers. The story is long and full of action, but constructed mainly through a consistent application of several tropes. It’s so topical, I decided to start with a solid quote from tvtropes:
The Grimnoir Chronicles is an Alternate History fantasy taking place in the early 1930s. Sometime in the 1800s magic appeared in the world, giving a small fraction of the population (the Actives) one of a standard set of super-powers, such as fire, healing, and teleporting. Just like his other series, Larry Correia provides some of the best action scenes out there, fueled by pure distilled Rule of Cool. A gravity-controlling private eye teams up with a guy who can walk through walls to fight a bulletproof samurai. A teleporting ninja with a katana goes up against a teleporting Oklahoma girl with a shotgun. Bullets fly, demons are summoned, and stuff blows up.TV.Tropes / Literature / The Grimnoir Chronicles
It’s predictable, but also very, very enjoyable. Not the best books I’ve read this year, but perhaps most fun I had reading – well, listening to. Action-packed 1930s steampunk noir, with an interesting take of alternate history I’d love to see more developed – but then it would be an epic war story, not a simple adventure piece. With a hostility towards Franklin D. Roosevelt I’m not used to – that I’m sure added to Bookstooge’s enjoyment 😛 (but Teddy Roosevelt remains a hero 😉 ). One of the side-quests is our freedom-loving heroes struggle against Roosevelt’s attempts to register all the Actives in United States. If something is federal in Correia’s world, it’s likely to be at least unpleasant. But well-meaning billionaires might save the day 😉
Other historical characters are used in various roles, including general John Pershing, John Browning, Edgar Hoover, William Wild Bill Donovan, Winston Churchill… and Japan’s leader might not be based upon a single person, but his name is Tokugawa.
Magic present in the world changed the history of the First World War that in this universe left Germany with a zombiefied capital destroyed by a Peace-Ray (a functional equivalent of the atomic bomb, just as peaceful but constructed 25 years earlier). The politics are roughly similar to the real 30-ties, with a significant difference – here Hitler was already killed before getting any real power. America is isolationists though, and in economic crisis, Soviet Union ascending, and Imperial Japan rises quickly, utilizing its Actives most efficiently and as ruthlessly as it utilized its non-magical subjects during WWII.
Magical or not, 30-ties are great background for a noir story, and our noir character is Jake Sullivan, a manly man, big and strong, but also a self-thought magical genius. Heroic military past did not save him from going to a special magical prison he could only leave by becoming a hunter of supernatural criminals for Hoover’s FBI. Plot thickens when he meets a femme fatale, several competing secret organizations, and learns about intrigues that goes not only beyond the US, but also entire world as he used to know it…
The second most important character is Faye, a young girl with difficult past, a young Okie adopted by a magician of Portuguese descent that starts strong and becomes powerful. Naive but well-meaning, she becomes a core member of an ensemble of good guys, members of the international Grimnoir Society (not a spoiler, really, it’s in the title…).
The plot itself… well plotted, intensive, escalating in good order. First, we get glimpses and small pieces of information, then more and more and we end up with a pretty complete picture of how the magic works, powers fighting to dominate it, and their motivation. I like it that it makes sense until the end, I’m sure Correia had it thought through before he finished the first volume. Ending might be a little rushed, but is consistent with the preceding parts. I was worried it might fall apart near the finish, or disappoint in some major way, but I can assure you if you like the beginning, you can assume you’ll enjoy the rest.
Writing isn’t overly sophisticated, politics quite naive, author’s biases show a bit too much for my liking… but only a bit, not enough to spoil the fun. I’m not enlightened, but I’m entertained and if that’s what you’re looking for, do read this trilogy! Or, better yet, listen to it, Bronson Pinchot did a great job narrating the series.
Grimnoir Chronicles reminded me of Wolsung, tabletop RPG I had lots of fun playing. Sadly, our campaign stopped when the pandemic started and we never got restarted…
As I stated before, I would like to see an epic version exploring this world more and giving us larger scale events. There is a high risk Correia’s personal opinions I disagree with would become as annoying as David Weber’s did. Here the worldbuilding is just deep enough for this sort of quick action story and perhaps it’s for the best.
Score: 7/10 (each book separately and the series as a whole)
Oh boy, I’m out of shape, I need to write more, I’ll try at least one post a month for the foreseeable future 🙂