: Hard Magic
Author: Larry Correia
This is a surprisingly excellent novel. It’s the first in the “Grimnoir Chronicles” and is set back in the 1950s in an alternative history in which magic exists. The idea is that back in the mid-1800s people started being born with magical abilities. At first it was just a few people, but then more and more, and now there are thousands. The novel opens each chapter with a quotation, often from famous historical figures such as Albert Einstein, talking about magic. The presence of magic, of course, has thrown society off course, so this world is quite different from our own.
The tone of the story is very much 1950’s pulp crime novel, but with magical abilities. I love the way magic is portrayed: people generally only have a single ability — such as the ability to heal, control fire, effect gravity, or teleport — but within the confines of that skill they can do some amazing things. The magical battles we encounter are truly exciting and different. There’s also a very deadly edge to everything, as people are severely injured and do die: this isn’t a Mary Poppins world.
The author’s done a lot of serious thinking about the consequences of magic and it shows in subtle details. For instance, one of the key characters is a young orphan girl who has the ability to teleport (she’s a “traveler”). This sounds harmless, but very few travelers make it past puberty: it’s far too easy to teleport yourself into a tree or wall before you’ve learned to master the craft. Even just moving to a place a few feet away is difficult, as the girl learns she has to make herself appear a few inches above the field lest she materialize with grass literally growing through her feet. In one scene she ends up with a living beetle in her heel: it just happened to be in the place she transported to and got embedded inside her. Ouch!
What really impressed me is that though I was perfectly willing to accept as this magic as merely a setting for this world, the author actually comes up with a scientific explanation for why this magic exists. It’s a key part of the plot that’s revealed in the story’s climax. And it actually makes plausible sense!
The story itself is about the battle between good and evil, and it’s really well done with a terrific, satisfying conclusion. Thus we end up with a great story in a fresh setting: a winner all around. I can’t wait to read more in this series!