This review is also available on my blog, Stumptown Books
Don't judge a book by its cover is the aphorism to remember here. For weeks I thought this novel was a graphic novel based solely upon the cover art, and the fact that there was no Kindle edition to buy cinched the opinion for me. Then the back cover had the big letters "A hard-boiled private eye - caught in a secret war of magic!" My eye roll could probably be felt two counties over. A hard-boiled private eye, I thought, how original. I just had to read it anyway, and how surprised I was when a real novel showed up on my doorstep! And even more surprised when I was sucked in from the first chapter.
Thankfully, the back of the book was completely wrong. Jake Sullivan may be hard-boiled but he's not a private eye, just a normal guy with some hard luck in his past. Well, as normal as you can be when you can reverse gravity just by furrowing your brow. Taking place in the late 20s and early 30s, magic first started appearing in the 1850s and has steadily become more and more mainstream. Think X-Men, but along with the huge range of powers, there are also levels within that power. A lot of people can make fire, for example, but only a few are truly amazing. Sullivan lands in the "truly amazing" category, and his power is so jaw droppingly cool I would get little shivers when he started to rev it up. A lot about the book is jaw droppingly awesome actually, and I believe the most apt words I've heard it described as is "gun porn." I don't even like guns that much, but the action scenes are so well written and fast paced (and funny!) that all you can do is hop along for the ride. Here's a quote from my favorite character, Faye (p. 236):
Grandpa's Bible teachings hadn't been very good, but Faye didn't remember any of the dead people who came back to life in the New Testament going insane with a desire to kill like the radio shows said this kind did. On the other hand she'd slept through a lot of masses.
The main criticism is that while there are lots of historical references, Correia never really sets the scene. It could be any decade in the 20th century that decided on zeppelins as the main form of transportation rather than jetliners. For every time the world isn't fleshed out very far, the magic system definitely is, and the reader and Sullivan discover a lot about magic throughout the novel. That is always exciting, and the nonstop action and magic kept me from minding this very much, but a little more about the world would have been welcome. The only other thing I didn't like was the love story was a little thrown together and I felt like the whole thing could have been done away with. Nobody would have noticed.
I'm always a sucker for when the bad guy makes overtures of friendship too. "I'm honorable, and we can join together, maybe even be friends, but otherwise, I must kill you." The big baddie was only mentioned a couple times, but I can't wait to find out where he's going to go with that. There is a definite good vs. evil, and lots of blood and deaths (and zombies!) in between. If you don't like lots of people dying from bullets to the spine, this probably isn't the book for you.
This was my first Larry Correia novel, although since enjoying it so immensely I will definitely be reading the Monster Hunter series soon.