(Note: let’s get this out of the way. There has been much controversy about the author and this work on the Hugo ballot this year. This review will touch on none of that, as I try to focus on the work alone.)
Hard Magic is a pretty interesting urban fantasy. It leans towards the noir end of things, so expect a dark and brutal world. I’m not much of an organized crime reader, but this was a good introduction.
It also has the best gun action scenes I’ve ever read. I mean, the action itself is pretty good, but the guns are the icing on the cake. So, if firearms are your thing, you’re going to have a field day.
(But if you’re like me and a gun is just a thing that puts holes in people to move the story along, all the talk of .45s and .38s and chambers and magazines and Brownings and Glocks can get tedious. When they say write what you know, Larry Correia really took that advice to heart.)
My favourite parts are definitely the alt history bits. This is a world where magic has been present since ancient times, and as a result a lot of things turned out differently. Einstein was so good because of magic. The Titanic never sunk. WWII was imaginably a different conflict. These tidbits are interspersed throughout the chapter intros (similar to Wesley Chu’s The Lives of Tao) and they add a lot to the world-building.
However, the beginning was off-putting since Correia’s ultra-Conservatism and anti-Liberal politics bleed through the writing. And I know I said I was going to steer clear of that topic, but it honestly makes the work hard to digest at first. The anti-gay, anti-PoC, anti-government, anti-women, and everything else can get wearying.
For all of that though, I couldn’t put the book down for the last hundred pages or so. It was competently written, and we’ll leave it at that.