Hard Magic: Book I of the Grimnoir Chronicles by Larry Correia

Filed under:Adventure,Fantasy,Steampunk — posted by Randolph on November 1, 2013 @ 4:31 am

Hard Magic: Book I of the Grimnoir Chronicles by Larry Correia

This is a travel story, about a young girl who gets involved in a power struggle and finds her place in the world. The setting is very interesting, combining magic, steampunk, zombies and perhaps a little horror into an epic struggle between good and evil. The story is set in an alternate history near the dawn of WW II, Hitler is dead, the Japanese empire plays the role of evil. A secret organization of magic-enabled people in a country that fears them, play the good. Lead by the Chairman, they are striving for world domination. The Chairman has mastered many forms of magic and is believed to be immortal. The story even has a nice plot twist concerning the struggle. It very much reminded me of the X-men universe by Marvel. There a several parallels, most obvious is the public’s perception of people with powers.

Each chapter begins with a tidbit out of the world’s history, often resembling a newspaper account. These relate people we recognize and give clues to how this world deviated from our own. They are a very good addition to the story and provide some interesting backstory.

What doesn’t work is the characterizations. Larry doesn’t create convincing characters, many have characteristics that just aren’t appropriate for that character. One example is the riches man in the world, who seems a heartless sociopath, yet who cringes from a mild threat. Another is a battle-hardened soldier who pauses during a firefight to have a private conversation with his girlfriend. These types of issues almost ruined the book for me. The main character keeps growing in strength, yet this isn’t explained well. She just has new abilities when you see her in battle. They fit with the character, but seem to come too suddenly.

Another weakness is that Larry has a tendency to relate some action to the reader, then to explain how it could happen. It felt like a deus ex machina mechanism, he could have given hints of these capabilities earlier in the story.

For the most part, the book was saved by the author’s creative story and the action in the story. The plot kept moving, the action scenes are well-described, and the book is generally fun.

The Bookman by Lavie Tidhar

Filed under:Bookman,Steampunk — posted by Randolph on April 16, 2013 @ 6:18 pm

The Bookman by Lavie Tidhar

The Bookman is different from any novel I’ve read. I’d call it steampunk, with a twist. It is an adventure novel with many twists done in a masterful fashion. It has an array of characters, known and new, that fit into a well-told story. The story weaves pirates, androids (automatons), aliens, and revolutionaries into an intricate story. It is set in history with many characters, both real and fictional, including kings and queens, Mycroft Holmes, Moriarty, Gilgamesh, Jules Verne, and others. It involves lands that are familiar, but somehow different. We recognize many place names, but they’ve been altered to fit a new history.

The story follows Orphan, a youth coming of age, who didn’t know his parents. He is raised by Gilgamesh, and finds himself being played as a pawn in a giant power struggle. When his love is killed by an exploding book, he becomes involved in his own struggle to get her back, entangling him with a robotic terrorist, lizards from space, and pirates. But nothing is quite what it seems.

I found the pace of the book masterful. It moves quickly, with just the right amount of slow pacing to provide contrast and let things settle. Most of the characters appear for a few pages, then disappear. The plot is unclear. Every chapter or two, we learn more, it all makes sense, then it changes again.

The writing is good, too. Orhan’s love, Lucy is studying whales in the Thames. The whales become a symbol of their love, and becomes a harbinger event to come. The author often uses unusual adjectives that provide an otherworldly feel for characters and events, yet seem quite natural.

I would encourage you to read this one if you enjoy adventure books or like something a bit out of the ordinary. Your creative mind will thank you.



image: detail of installation by Bronwyn Lace