Set in a richly realized world roughly analogous to the 1930s, Hard Magic diverges from known history with the discovery of many forms of magic accessible to relatively ordinary humans. The main character is known as a “Heavy”, someone with the capability to alter gravity and mass. Heavies are stereotyped as slow and stupid, if physically capable – but despite the book’s opening scenes in a prison for the supernaturally inclined, it rapidly becomes obvious that appearance isn’t everything and we’re dealing with a very smart cookie indeed.

Hard Magic is the first book in a trilogy, and a masterwork equal or superior to Correia’s breakout Monster Hunters series. The world building is flawless, at least to someone who didn’t live through the period being portrayed; the characters are distinctive and have their own motivations that don’t always line up properly. The magic system is very well thought out, presenting a coherent and self-limiting explanation for the abilities of the characters. As applied, the result is somewhere between comic books, gangster movies, and steampunk; it’s an engrossing mix that feels both realistically gritty and over the top, somehow at the same time.