Once again Larry Correia brilliantly mixes real-world and fiction. A well written book that leaves you waiting for the next one.
Bronson Pinchot does a great job with the narration as well. I would highly recommend this book.
And if you like this book, try Monster Hunter International, Monster Hunter Vendetta, and hopefully Monster Hunter Alpha will be out soon as well.
Contrary to its title, Hard Magic is not an urban fantasy: it's basically a superhero novel. Set in an alternate history between world wars, a mysterious alien "power" came to Earth in the middle of the 19th century and granted a subset of the population magical powers. For the majority of "Actives," these powers come in singular and well-defined forms: there are "brutes" who have super strength, "torches" who are pyrokinetics, "mouths" with mind control powers, "heavies" who can manipulate gravity, etc. But it turns out there are also other forms of magic, such as those wielded by the Japanese Imperium's "Iron Guard." These magical super-soldiers have kanji branded into their skins that give them accelerated healing, protection from harm, strength and speed, and other powers. There are also necromancers who raise the dead to create zombie armies, and other manifestations of magical power, but they all function pretty much like super powers.
In this alternate history, Japan is on a path to world domination thanks to possessing the most powerful and heavily trained magical warriors, and fleets of dirigibles that function like bombers and aircraft carriers all at once. Led by the most powerful man on Earth (literally and figuratively), Chairman Tokugawa, this is the Japan of the 1930s: expansionist, fascist, and unambiguously and unapologetically the bad guys. Tokugawa, as the Big Bad, is a great if somewhat stereotyped villain. Yes, he's a centuries-old samurai with magical superpowers who goes on about strength and honor and likes to recite poems to his enemies before killing them, but he has class and style and he's the sort of villain you love to see chewing the scenery and can't wait for the climactic battle where he finally goes down.
This book has lots of climactic battles, each one more epic than the last. Jake Sullivan, the main character, is a "heavy" who can control gravity. He's also a great big slab of macho, a war veteran, an ex-con, an ex-P.I., fearless alpha, and probably a little bit of an authorial wish-fulfillment. He hits every manly-man trope in the noir genre, and you know what? That's okay! Because this book is what it is, a raging male power fantasy like the classic superhero comics where Superman knocked Nazi fighter planes out of the sky. Here we have Jake Sullivan fighting other "Actives," then pitted against his own brother, who of course is bigger and badder than him and thus is the penultimate Boss level Jake must get past before he can face the Chairman himself.
But it's not just Jake tromping around in a California fortified with "Peace Rays" created by Tesla and fighting Imperium ninjas and invincible Iron Guards and dirigible sky pirates. He joins the Knights of the Grimnoir, an international organization dedicated to protecting the magically gifted and the non-magical alike. Jake's ex is Delilah, a former New Orleans whore with super-strength. A secondary protagonist is Faye, an Okie "Traveler" (teleporter) who is a hoot as a character, her mind running a mile a minute in a hundred directions, and in the climax (in which she, like Jake, has without a whole lot of plausible explanation powered up by a factor of about eleventy) is running amok through the Japanese dirigible fleet blasting magical ninjas with a shotgun that never seems to run out of ammo, and that's before she and Jake go completely Super Saiyan against the Chairman and his Iron Guard.
If you're thinking this sounds a lot like Steelheart or Mistborn, you're right. This was my first Larry Correia novel, but his writing style and his worldbuilding reminded me a lot of Brandon Sanderson. Like Sanderson, Correia writes straight-up action/adventure with lots of heroics and over-the-top power stunts and characters who are often archetypes more than fully-realized people, but if you are in the mood for grand pulp adventure, this book hits a high mark and almost got 5 stars from me. It is a guns blazing, powers activating, bloody spectacular pulp superhero slugfest that is, if not a literary masterpiece and unabashedly un-PC, absolutely great fun for those who like an occasional dose of fist-pumping "America, booyah!" heroics.
Dr. Nils Rasmussen
The idea behind this amazing novel is that of an alternate reality set during the 1930's in which patches of mankind has developed magical abilities. Aside from the story, the author examines all of the problems that present themselves with what amounts to a wonderful new form of technology.
I must also mention that out of all the hundred-some audio books that I have purchased, this book's narrator ranks among the best I have EVER heard. He manages to create a new, unique voice for every single one of the characters, almost up to the point that it feels like you are listening to a radio drama. Amazing work.
I have yet to listen to the 2nd and 3rd novels in this series but have already spent my credits on them and look forward to 2 more mind-bending experiences.
9.6 / 10
I like scifi and urban fantasy. I don't like romance novels. If you are the same my reviews should help.
The voice acting is incredible. I would never have guessed Bronson Pinchot had it in him.
The action scenes are really good. this author knows how to create a memorable word and characters as well.
I like the scene when jake falls from the blimp.
This is a really fun series. It has a very memorable vilian and great action.
I think I could listen to Bronson Pinchot read the phone book. I particularly enjoyed his performance of the character Faye, who seems to take over the story despite the synopsis focusing on the main character and tough guy, Jake. But this book repeatedly surprised me, in the best way. It was nothing I expected, creating its own ninjas and zombies and zinging one-liners from nowhere. Hard Magic is an excellent read. It was just plain fun, and I think I could recommend it to anyone who enjoys fantasy or action or ... books. Five stars. I'm already downloading the next one.
And also very glad the next book in the series is also available. I'll be downloading it right after finishing this review.
I just saw this book is on sale for $5. If that sale brought you here, don't hesitate and buy it now. Really. Stop reading this review and click Add to Cart.
There was never a dull moment in this book. I usually only listen to my audiobooks on my commute, but I had this one playing on the speakers of my phone while doing work around the house. Strong plot with good twists and sub-stories.
The characters are easy to relate to, despite their enhanced abilities. The sense of learning of their abilities at the same time as some of them were was quite engaging.
Many reviews of this book discuss Pinchot's narration. The adolation spewed in his direction is almost laughable, until you experience it. All praise thrown upon him is well deserved. Add my name to the list of those who will look for books narrated by him as a way to find new titles and authors to try.
Don't believe the synopsis of this book. I don't think the person who wrote it has read the book or possibly I missed an entire chapter or three. The main character is not a detective, he's a bounty hunter with magical talent who is used by the government to capture rogue "actives" (those with magic).
This is not even close to being a rip off of the Dresden files. It's set in the USA during the 1930s, but one in which magic has changed the course of history.
Language can get harsh at times. The violence level is high, but it's not intensely graphic. I wouldn't recommend this to my 14 year old son, but I might to an adult friend.
Likes to listen while doing chores; likes to write reviews while he should be doing chores.
Yes Bronson Pinchot. Who'd have thought? He nails this. His voice characterizations are fantastic, and well executed. His cadence is solid. He manages to do males and females in a diversity of ages and accents without his presentation being cheesy or overcooked. I would put him on par with Jim Dale who narrated the Harry Potter series (I believe that series is not available on Audible yet, unfortunately, though other Jim Dale narrations are).
As to the story, I was very well satisfied. I was put off by the idea of the "Grimnoir" as a bit of a silly portmanteau, but I was over it immediately. It is actually quite apt. The setting is an excellent combination of alternate history and urban fantasy. It has an extremely tight magical structure that makes for interesting plot twists and challenges for the protagonists. The characters well developed especially the main two with just the right amount of backstory. No doubt, Mr. Pinchot's voices have a lot to do with this.
This book can go from quiet introspection to epic battles dialed up to 11 in very short order. It is impossible to get bored.
Had no idea that Bronson Pinchots voice would make the story so entertaining! thoroughly enjoyed the book and loved the characters! cant wait to start the next book.
There is no sparkly fairy dust or unicorns to be found in "Hard Magic." No vampires, either, which is a refreshing change, I suppose. "Hard Magic" is written much like the hard-boiled detective fiction of the 1940s--but there's more blood and gore. It should appeal to the action-thriller fan. I bought it because I thought it would be amusing to read a story that applied the detective-thriller style to a book about people with magical abilities--and it WAS amusing. I am not a fan of blood and guts, but this was sufficiently cartoony that it didn't trouble me much beyond the occasional wince.
Bronson Pinchot does a good job of narration, though he had some phrasing peculiarities that distracted me at times. (I would repeat the phrase in my mind until I found the emphasis I thought worked better. Then I'd have to scramble to catch up with the story. But that's me.)
Take my rating with a grain of salt: I am not a fan of the hard-boiled detective story, and I tend to avoid stories with a lot of violence. If you enjoy these, AND you enjoy fantasy, "Hard Magic" may be just your cup of guts 'n gore.