Excellent Magic Noir – 4 Stars
Being that I am a big fan of the gun toting, monster slaying cowboys in Larry Correia’s Monster Hunter International, it seemed natural that I would give his other series a shot. I am glad that I did. Correia bends the Urban Fantasy Genre once again by melding elements of noir with alternate history sci-fi and a pinch of steampunk. The result is a unique reading experience that sets it apart from the Dresden clones and paranormal romances that flood the genre.
For a large portion of the book, two major parallel storylines are told with a few smaller ones in the background for good measure. The first focuses on Jake Sullivan, an ex military, ex con “heavy” (a person able to alter or spike gravity) who is living under the thumb of the government. The second story line focuses on Faye, an Oakie (Gypsy) girl sold to a kind hearted farmer who shared her power as a “Traveler” (a person able to transport themselves from one place to another). After each of the them suffer a series of unfortunate events they each come into contact with a secret society of Actives (people with magical powers) called the Grimnoir. Of course, once they do, all hell breaks loose. There are gun fights, swordfights, zeppelin and dirigible fights and some epic fist fights. See a trend here?
The story was atmospheric and the reader has the sense that some of these characters would fit in with a bunch of gangsters in a mob flick or would be solving crimes from their poorly light, smoke filled offices. This is unlike most books in the UF genre which tend to be character centric while the setting is blurred or generic.
The novel is deeply rooted in a period of time. While I don’t recall that a date was given, you have the sense that it occurring in the 40`s or 50`s. The difference is that it is not the 40’s and 50’s that show up in our history books. Hitler, Einstein, Tesla, J. Edgar Hoover and a wide array of historical figures existed but their lives and deaths did not necessarily unfold as we remember. Some of them, Einstein and Tesla for example, were Cogs (Actives whose intellect is augmented by magic). At the beginning of each chapter, the author “quotes” historical figures. The quotes are generally related to real events but make reference to appearance or use of magic. This literary device did an excellent job of helping create an alternate history.
It’s the good kind of slow
Fans of Monster Hunters International have come to expect specific pace from a Larry Correia book. Namely, a plot on full auto with a hurricane at its back. This novel on the other hand moves at more leisurely pace between the numerous fights. For the most part, this did not bother me. It did seem that from time to time the plot was dragging or some obstacle was put in the way simply to draw out the story. For some lovers of Urban Fantasy, the pace might put them off. While it did detract somewhat from book (and ultimately my rating) don’t let it scare you away. The genre mixing style is entertaining and fun.
I enjoyed the world building and a magic system that people did not understand. The exploration of how magic suddenly appeared and where it came from is an interesting aspect of the story. Correia’s ability to draw in the reader and engage them with his story never fails to impress. While Monster Hunters International remains my go to series for all things Larry Correia, this is an excellent addition to Correia lore.
The narration was 5 star. The narrator, Bronson Pinchot, is genius with voices and accents. He does an especially good job of bringing to life two odd speech patterns of the two unique characters.
It is difficult to find commentary on the sex/violence/language content of book if you are interested. I make an effort to give you the information so you can make an informed decision before reading. *Disclaimer* I do not take note or count the occurrences of adult language as I read. I am simply giving approximations.
Scale 1 – Lowest 5 – Highest
Sex – 2
There is some sexual tension between a few characters. One character is revealed to be a former prostitute. Sex is implied on at least one occasion. Overall, the sexual content is low.
Language – 3.5
Correia does not shy away from the use of adult language. That said, there is less than in the Monster Hunters International series. Moderate occurrences of mild obscenities and low occurrences of the f-word.
Violence – 4
There is plenty of magical and gun related violence. As there is war between factions of those who have magic, there are battles on many fronts. There are several scenes where characters are disemboweled and it is moderate to highly graphic. In most every chapter, at least one person is killed by a wide array of means. It is pervasive and occasionally graphic.