Expected Date of Publication: August 6, 2013
Thank you to Netgalley and Baen for providing me with an e-ARC of Warbound in exchange for an honest review. This is the third book of bestselling author Larry Correia's Grimnoir Chronicles series, and because I had such a blast with the two previous books, I just couldn't wait to get my hands on this one and find out the conclusion!
As you can probably guess, I highly recommend the rest of the novels in this series, Hard Magic and Spellbound -- definitely read those first if you are interested in tackling the third installment. This being a sequel, the usual caveats will apply for this review regarding possible minor spoilers for the books that came before.
It is the 1930s in a world where a portion of the population possess magical abilities. Naming these people "Actives", the American government is seeking a way to keep track of and control them, while the magical community and certain special interest groups fight back. One of these groups is the Grimnoir, a secret society of Actives who have dedicated themselves to protecting their own people from anti-Active violence as well as the world from magical threats.
In the course of their war against the Japanese Imperium, the Grimnoir have discovered the source of humanity's magic actually comes from a cosmic creature dubbed the Pathfinder. It is a predator which devours magic, leaving whole worlds destroyed in its wake. Jake Sullivan, a Knight of the Grimnoir now leads a team to stop the Pathfinder, to prevent Earth from being its next victim. Faye Vierra, the young farm girl from Oklahoma with a sweetness and naivete which belies the fact she is the most powerful Active in the world is perhaps the Grimnoir's only chance to succeed -- but she is missing and on the run, hiding a dangerous secret of her own.
As with the two previous books in this series, I had myself a heck of a time trying to categorize or describe this novel. It is undoubtedly an urban fantasy, and also has elements of historical fiction and alternate history and even steampunk. The Grimnoir Chronicles is fun and full of action, but unlike Correia's other series Monster Hunter International (which I also adore) it feels darker and a little more serious to me, thanks also to the few nods given to the genre of Noir fiction.
On some level, I also can't help but think of these books as "Superhero fiction". The characters in the Grimnoir are certainly not superheroes in the traditional sense, but it's hard to read the blurb to these novels and not picture the X-Men and remember some of the comic series' story arcs. The Actives' struggles with discrimination, government control and the mistrust and fear of the populace certainly bring to my mind the Marvel mutants' plight, and the Grimnoir society's noble goals are similar to those of the X-Men for sure. Some of the Actives' powers which comes from magic are even analogous to X-Men powers, like the manipulation of weather, elements like ice and fire, teleportation, telekinesis, etc. Despite all this, I'm still reluctant to call this series "superhero fiction", but I'm guessing those who are fans of superheroes or comics will feel right at home with the Grimnoir books. After all, I did.
Speaking of powers, I'm amazed that even now in the third book we're still being introduced to new types of Actives. Of most interest to me is the "Alienist" whom Jake Sullivan recruits for his team in his war against the Pathfinder. Again, I liken the plot of these novels to those story arcs in a comic book, and in a good way, because one of the coolest thing about this series for me has always been the Grimnoir characters' use of their magic, working together and applying the almost limitless possibilities against their foes.
One of the downsides though, that in feeling like superhero archetypes, the characters also come off a bit like caricatures and underdeveloped. After three books, characters like Sullivan and Faye still feel predictable and flat like templates. Toru, the Iron Guard who had decided to join the Grimnoir in destroying the Pathfinder, is the worst when it comes to this. It always irks me somewhat when an entire group of people is painted with the same personalities, characteristics and cultural values, and I see now that Toru and the whole Imperium does not stray from the mold.
There's also a lot going on in this novel, which can be good and bad. Because of the breakneck pace of this novel and all the things happening, my face was constantly buried in this book, that's for sure. But with several plot threads going forward at the same time (there are at least four, including dealing with the government, Faye's own struggle with her destiny as Spellbound, Jake Sullivan bringing the fight to the Pathfinder, and ending the Imperium threat) there may have been too much to cover, and the last 10% of the book felt really rushed, like it was eager to wrap everything up. This also made it so that several of those characters like Francis and Dan and Jane and Hammer that I liked so much in the previous books had much less screen time in this one.
All in all, I thought this was a great conclusion even if it wasn't entirely satisfying, but I still think very highly of the Grimnoir Chronicles as a whole. If you're looking for something fun and action-filled in the urban fantasy genre with great world building that's also really cool but a bit different from the norm, I can't recommend this series enough.
3 of 5 stars