(Please note that this review does focus on the content of the book even though it was written specifically for the audiobook version available on Audible (http://www.audible.com/pd/ref=pr_rev_1_3_s?asin=B004XMIMHE) narrated by Bronson Pinchot. Nonetheless, even if you are not into audiobooks, this review and all of my book reviews are still completely relevant to the text copy excluding information about the narrator, of course.)
Larry Correia‘s Hard Magic: Book I of the Grimnoir Chronicles is simply the best audiobook I have ever encountered
World War I was fought, in part, with magic. Hydrogen powered dirigibles dominate the skies because wielders of fire have the ability to prevent Hindenburg-like incidents. An already genius mind supplemented with magic creates unimaginably brilliant savants (Cogs) that advance technology far beyond the conceivable. Nikola Tesla provides an extremely deadly alternative to nuclear weapons… and still, I’m not even giving away the good bits!
Hard Magic is packed full of ideas, historical figures, and characters that bring a parallel universe to life so elegantly, so robustly, that you will be utterly convinced that it must exist. Every chapter begins with an in-universe quote, often from a political or scientific heavyweight of the time (who also lived in our current universe), that provides a peak inside the heads of those native to the that other reality, allowing us a glimpse into how living in a world where magic exists impacts society, ethics, science, romance, …Earth itself.
Bronson Pinchot is a truly fantastic voice actor, perhaps even dethroning James Marsters
Sometimes Jon Stewart doppelganger Bronson Pinchot (Balki from the 1980’s Perfect Strangers) absolutely dominates as narrator. His articulation, tone, and pacing along with the accents provided for each individual character, of which there are maybe like 50, is as perfect as one could ask for.
James Marsters, Spike from Buffy and narrator of the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher (Reviews for this Urban Fantasy masterpiece of a series to follow soon), has become my favorite audiobook actor due to his ability to harness the very being of and truly speak as whichever character he’s reading for.
Nonetheless, in this book Pinchot provides a depth of character that is unsurpassed (though since listening to Butcher’s newest, Cold Days read by Marsters, I am a a touch undecided). Difficult characters to read for are abundant in this book, but Pinchot shines through all of them. He completely achieves the subtle and well-earned haughtiness of Japanese soldiers and officers, enhanced with magic, who are unquestionably the deadliest of deadly. Simultaneously, he becomes the orphaned southern sweetheart Faye, whose childhood innocence is ripped away from her just as she begins to learn how truly remarkable her gift is. But Pinchot’s true talent is invoked as soon as the book begins and throughout as he reads for the Pale Horse, an individual whose ability is to bring death however they wish to whomever they wish with just a single touch.
Hard Magic has the bases for historical fiction, urban fantasy, and science fiction absolutely covered. If you like the Dresden Files or other urban fantasy-type novels, you will definitely enjoy this book and the sequel.
I will concede that a few moments felt eerily like a few superhero movies I have seen. Around the half point of the book, it seemed like I was witnessing a story based within the X-Men Universe. But, do not fret over this. While inspiration and genre sampling from such sources may indeed have an impact on this story, I assure you that it really is so much more than simple power flinging and devastation. Though, to deny that there is a considerable amount of power being flung about and devastation being wrought would be dishonest. Sure, there’s a lot of action. But, it is so well done that it doesn’t feel overbearing.
Hard Magic is a truly thrilling fantastically historic narrative with lessons to be learned about the rights of those who have the ability to bring great change to the universe. Does society benefit most from a survival of the fittest mentality? Does the world going forward have no place for weakness? Should diversity be embraced and understood?
Who gets to decide which ideas are the most morally true? The individual(s) who wield(s) the most power? The masses at large? Or should the only thing we truly fight for be the ability to choose how we live our own lives? Power and control is only in the hands of those who are allowed to keep it. I believe that this truth can apply to any situation where a strong foundation is required for the continued existence of those dependent upon it.
Find these lessons within, and enjoy a damn good story while doing so.