Book Review: Hard Magic, Book I of the Grimnoir Chronicles, by Larry Correia

Hard Magic
Book I of the Grimnoir Chronicles
Larry Correia
Jake Sullivan is a licensed Private Eye—with a seriously hardboiled attitude. He also possesses raw magical talent and the ability to make objects in his vicinity light as a feather or as heavy as depleted uranium, all with a magical thought. It’s no wonder the G-men turn to Jake when they need someone to go after a suspected killer who’s been knocking off banks in a magic-enhanced crime spree. Problems arise when Jake discovers the bad girl behind the robberies is an old friend, and he happens to know her magic is just as powerful as his, and the Feds have plunged Jake into a secret battle between powerful cartels of magic-users–a cartel whose ruthless leaders have decided that Jake is far too dangerous to live…” — GoodReads
This book is X-Men meets a modern attempt at noir, and a passing glance at hardboiled detective fiction. The Actives are people with magical abilities, and their lot in life almost mirrors that of the outcast X-Men. At least in the book, though, they are slightly more tolerated than in the Marvel Universe and Fox films. Also, I say a passing glance at hardboiled detective fiction, because one of the main characters, Jake Sullivan, is technically a detective. In all honesty, Mr. Correia could have had any profession for Jake, for how much of the story is built around him being a detective. It’s also not one-hundred percent true to being noir. Though it may seem like a fair shake of it for those of us who don’t read exclusively in that genre. It’s similar to when a modern television show tries to go noir for a single episode: they have the props, but not the soul. 
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“You can go a long way with a smile. You can go a lot further with a smile and a gun. A smile, a gun, and a Brute get you the key to the city. —Al “Scarface” Capone, Interview, 1930”
The world building relies heavily on a knowledge of America, while glossing over details of other countries. That’s not as big of a deal as some make it out to be, since the countries themselves are not as important as the characters, motives, and their actions. I was going to point out it seemed as though Mr. Correia took the easy way out with: “How come there isn’t war anymore?” “Peace Ray!” After I thought about it, though, that’s exactly what we did with nuclear weapons, and MAD. You also get to read about dirigibles quite a bit, as a desired form of transportation. 


Without reading too much into what the book was about before listening to it, I honestly thought I was in for a more fantasy-esque novel. Yes, it leans toward Sci-Fi in the sense of the technology. With the powers and additional magic used by some of the characters, though, I thought it would be fantasy. Lo and behold sometime into the book, you’re given information that points directly to Sci-Fi. Do not pass go, do not collect 200 Galleons. 


It boils down to: Grimnoir are the good guys, and are made up of multiple nationalities. The Imperium are the bad guys, and are lead by The Chairman, who is Japanese. Grimnoirs fight to make sure people with magic aren’t abused, as well as not letting people with magic abuse others. The Imperium believes in might makes right. This story is about their clash over a super weapon called a “Death Ray”, as well as essentially who should be ruling the world. Jake Sullivan is a “Heavy”, or gravity controller, and he’s caught between the two organizations. He doesn’t completely agree with the Grimnoir’s ‘wait and see’ tactic, but he knows he won’t toe the line in the world The Chairman wants, either. Between a rock and a hard place, Jake uses his brains and powers to try and save the world.

I’m putting this in the con section, but I won’t knock any points off for it because it’s a personal preference: I don’t care for third-person narration. It takes a really good story to distract me from it, but this isn’t one of those times. It might have been because I was listening to it as an audiobook, but I’ve never been a big fan of jumping between characters.

The author likes to talk about guns, and I ran into the same issue with that aspect as I did when Patricia Briggs went overboard with the horse information in Dead Heat. Authors are told to write what they know, but we don’t have to beat readers over the head with it. While he’s not going on for pages about the guns, the details do get a little much at times. 


The characters. Mr. Correia did an amazing job with the personalities, backstory, and all-around fleshing them out. My personal favorite is Faye. She’s smarter than most assume, based off her Okie accent, and incredibly powerful. Not just when it comes to “Travelers”, (think Nightcrawler in X-Men), but compared to most “Actives”, (Mutants).

Though the powers are part of the characters, the details of each, what the people who use them are called, and so on, were wonderfully done. 

It may have come across differently in my mind if I had read the book, but I greatly enjoyed the varying personalities and accents of the audiobook. The narrator, Bronson Pinchot, did a stupendous job narrating the book. He brought the characters to life, and while I’m sure my mind could have come up with something almost as good, I must bow to his talent. 

The side stories are not extraneous, which I appreciate, and do lend detail to the characters and primary storyline. 

I was entertained by the quotes and anecdotes at the beginning of the chapters. It gives us a glimpse into the alternative history in which Actives play a role. One such quote is above, from Al Capone.


If you’re uncomfortable with ethnic and racial stereotypes, this book is not for you. 

If you don’t like graphic and seemingly excessive violence, this book is also not for you. 

I’m not going to get into the author’s political leanings and opinions; I’m solely here to review the book.

I’m giving Hard Magic 4 out of 5 stars

There are some parts that drag on, and Mr. Correia can get lost in details at times. In all, the book is a great story, a decent sci-fi alternative history, and has engaging and believable characters. I’ll be picking up the next book, as well as the first, so I can badger my husband into reading it. I’ll probably get the first book in his Monster Hunter series, too, which I’ve heard is better than this one.

Author: lotwordsmiths

Hello, there! I'm Toni, and I've been writing and reading primarily fantasy stories most of my life. What really set me on the path to be a writer was my 6th grade English teacher, Mrs. Thomas, who told me she could see me as an author some day. I made Legends of the Wordsmiths to share my stories, and hopefully, (someday), the stories of others, too.!

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