Hard Magic

Today I finished up reading Hard Magic by Larry Correia.  Larry of course is the author of the Monster Hunter International series, and this is the first book of his Grimnoir Chronicles.  While it’s obviously a different series, it’s still very obvious that this book was written by Correia because there is a huge emphasis on firearms tech in the book, even though it’s set in the 1930’s.  Anyway, on with the review.

Book Stats

407 pages


First book of the Grimnoir Chronicles


There are two main characters in the book, but there are also a lot of other viewpoint characters that come in from time to time.  The first character is Jake Sullivan, a former soldier who was convicted for murder and sent to prison to save another Active from being attacked.  As an Active Jake is one of many people in the world who have a magical power.  In Jake’s case, his power is the ability to alter gravity both by changing its direction as well as how strong it is.  He was released from prison early when he agrees to use his power to help the police catch other Actives who have committed crimes.  Jake was a pretty solid character throughout the book.  He has a bit of a sordid past, but he is very competent with his magic and very driven towards doing what he thinks is right.  The other primary character of the book is Faye Vierra.  She is younger than most of the other characters in the book, and I was a little annoyed with her from time to time.  I don’t recall if the book says her exact age, but I think she was about 17 or 18.  There were too many times when she acted like she was 8 or 9 for my taste.  Even with that, she was still a pretty interesting character and a welcome change from reading Sullivan all the time.


The book is set in 1930’s America, but it has been subtly changed by the influence of the Actives throughout the world.  The changes are small but they make perfect sense.  For example, they still use helium and hydrogen blimps because there are Actives who can control fire who keep them from going up the way the Hindenburg did.  The worldbuilding in the book is very solid, and it’s interesting to see all of the changes, both big and small, that are worked into the history books we’re all at least slightly familiar with.


Shortly after getting out of prison Jake is sent to help the police capture Delilah, an old friend of his from before he went to jail.  When he tries to capture her, he is quickly thwarted by a group of Actives who are all working in concert to help Delilah get away.  Shortly after this, Jake learns that Delilah has joined the Grimnoir, a secret society of Actives who work in the shadows to ensure the safety of the world, primarily against a growing Japanese threat.  At the same time, Faye’s adoptive grandfather is attacked because he holds a piece of a powerful weapon that the Japanese are trying to recover.  This leads to Faye also becoming involved with the Grimnoir as her grandfather was before her.


The magic system was very solid, but very confusing at first since the characters are throwing around the terms for different types of Actives well before any of their skills are really explained.  Fortunately there is a glossary in the back of the book with a listing of the various types of Actives.  I just read through the entire glossary, and there really aren’t any big spoilers to the story in there, so if you read the book I highly suggest that you look them up if you start to lose track of what all the powers are.

All that aside, there were some problems with the book.  The third person viewpoint used in the book is very strange.  You always know whose point of view is being used to tell the scene, but there were a lot of times when it felt like their were viewpoint errors where you see a thought from a different person’s head. It’s not a common enough problem to make me quit reading the book, but it was common enough to be annoying.

The plotting of the book was also a little jumpy, and it felt like it took a while to get going and then was very quickly resolved at the end of the book.  Having said all that, I still enjoyed the book, even if it wasn’t ripping me through the pages as fast as the Monster Hunter books.

Overall Grade

The book is uneven at times, but overall it’s a good read, I’ll pick up the second book eventually.


Leave a comment


  1. hannahrose42

     /  March 27, 2012

    This sounds really interesting. It sounds like a good twist on the fantasy that I’m used to reading. I’ve never heard of Correia, but I will have to check him out. His books sound pretty good.
    I have to say, I really enjoy it when books have glossaries or common words used from other languages (The Inheritance Cycle did that well). Another thing that draws me into a book like this is a good map. I just started reading Mistborn and I was thrilled by the maps in the beginning of the novel.

    • Brandon Sanderson is one of the members of the Writing Excuses podcast (link on my sidebar) and I first heard of Correia from an episode where he was a guest on the podcast. I’ve enjoyed all of his books that I’ve read so far, he definitely has a unique take on Fantasy novels.

      A glossary can be both a blessing and a curse. In this book it was really useful, even though the names of the Actives are kind of self-explanatory, there was so much thrown around at the beginning that it was a bit hard to follow without looking them up. Fortunately this book didn’t have any spoilers in the glossary, but there are some books that do have spoilers for the book in the glossary (some of the Wheel of Time books come to mind).

      Mistborn also has an appendix and it’s quite useful to help remind you of what each metal does when an allomancer uses them. It’s pretty clear throughout the book but it’s still nice to have the ability to go through and check the appendix when you want to.

  2. Thanks for the review, Adam. Not sure this one will make my, “to read” list however. Good info to file away though.

    • If you’re interested in Correia’s work I would suggest starting with the Monster Hunter series before getting to this one. This book isn’t bad by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s not as good as the Monster Hunter books.

  1. March 2012 Month in Review « Reviews and Ramblings

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