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Spellbound: Book II of the Grimnoir…

Spellbound: Book II of the Grimnoir Chronicles (original 2011; edition 2011)

by Larry Correia (Author), Alan Pollack (Cover artist)

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224951,855 (4.16)7
Title:Spellbound: Book II of the Grimnoir Chronicles
Authors:Larry Correia (Author)
Other authors:Alan Pollack (Cover artist)
Info:Baen (2011), Hardcover, 448 pages
Tags:alternate history, magic, magic users, dictatorship

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Spellbound by Larry Correia (2011)



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For the record, and I think I keep saying it for each of Correia's book, I don't like Urban Fantasy. Nor do I like the WWI and WWII era for the most part.

And yet, I love this author and his books.

This was a great sequel to [b:Hard Magic|8643407|Hard Magic (Grimnoir Chronicles, #1)|Larry Correia|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1327951330s/8643407.jpg|13514467]. I have to admit, when I started the book, and the OCI agent Crowe showed up, I had to put the book down for a few days as I had one of the most intense reactions to a character that I've ever had.

I hated him. You know how those fangirls will discuss for hours, ad nauseum, the different merits of various book hotties that they wish were their boyfriends? All that squeeing" and "OMG" and "HAWT" and other such various phrases that teengirls use? I had the polar opposite reaction. A manly hatred for such a disgusting piece of filth that it went soul deep and burned with a vengeance that was Hell worthy. Kind of like an anime character actually ;)

But then I came back. And my goodness, this was one grand slugfest. A good bit is revealed about the Chairman, the Cthulhu'ic hunter and Faye.

A good frenemy for Jake is introduced. And speaking of anime characters, Toru is awesome. Of course, I think any superpowered being with a sword is awesome.

And then the ending? A god of demons?!?! Seriously, how freaking cool is that? I'm not sure even MHI has moved into territory that big. But that is a different story. One thing that makes me like this series even more is the fact that I know that the story wraps up in [b:Warbound|16130317|Warbound (Grimnoir Chronicles #3)|Larry Correia|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1359402972s/16130317.jpg|21955621]. So unless that tanks, this series is getting bought by me in hardcover." ( )
  BookstoogeLT | Dec 10, 2016 |
Spellbound ups the stakes in a big way without going overboard. I think I like the Grimnoir Chronicles even more than Monster Hunter International. MHI is fun, but Grimnoir has more world building, which I love, and I feel like the cast of characters is more well rounded and developed. I'm looking forward to the last book in the series. ( )
  oswallt | Nov 25, 2016 |
The second in the Grimnoir Chronicles series is a worth sequel. Coreia is no master of the language and there are a few goofs the editor missed, but he can tell a story that's for sure. I already picked up the final installment f the trilogy and look forward to reading it. It's kind of like an X-men thing, with the powers derived from a otherworldly creature that feeds on the eventual deaths of those who develop the magical powers given them. ( )
  ndpmcIntosh | Mar 21, 2016 |
This is the second book in the Grimnoir series and was a great continuation of this alternate history series with loads of action and magic. I enjoyed this book a lot more than 1st one in the series.

I listened to this on audiobook and the audiobook was very well done. The narrator does an excellent job with having distinct voices for different characters and portrays emotion well. My only complaint is that some of the voices are very deep and it is hard to hear them when you are driving because of background noise.

When a magical assassin (an Active) makes an assassination attempt on President Roosevelt all Actives are blamed, in particular the Grimnoir Society. All of the member of the Grimnoir become wanted men/women and are forced to hide. However then Jake Sullivan receives a call from a man beyond the grave. The call is a warning that the Power was fleeing something huge and evil and that something is about to arrive on Earth.

I really enjoyed this book a lot. The characters are interesting and well done and the magic system is unique. I love the idea of the Power and the parasitic relationship it has with humanity.

There is excellent world building here; the whole story is set in an alternate version of 1920’s America. The setting is made more real by quotes from newspapers and articles at the beginning of each chapter that highlight how different this alternate history is from the one we know.

There is a lot of action in this book as well and a lot of Correia’s standard “gun talk”. I continue to really enjoy how Correia has strong female and male characters. He does a good job balancing the roles for both female and male characters.

Overall this was an incredibly fun and interesting read. I love the characters, the world, the unique magic system, the high-octane action, and the complex plot. I really look forward to reading the third and final book in this series. I would definitely recommend this series to those who enough action-packed urban fantasy or alternate histories. ( )
  krau0098 | Apr 18, 2015 |
The second book in the Grimnoir Chronicles, Spellbound aspires to be as mediocre as Hard Magic, and in many ways it succeeds. The book has many extended fight scenes with detailed descriptions of the weaponry everyone uses and the resulting gory, but almost always nonfatal wounds that result. The book also has a mostly identical array of two-dimensional characters living in the same fairly bland setting as its predecessor all going through the motions of a fairly thin plot. Unfortunately, Spellbound suffers from a problem common to many second books in a series: What little plot there is serves merely as a placeholder, delaying the resolution of any of the larger plot points in the series while adding almost nothing at all.

The book opens with a short interlude that amounts to something of a flashback to a time contemporaneous with the Second Battle of the Somme where an unnamed young French girl finds herself the sole surviving member of her family after a mysterious stranger slaughters them and then hunts for her. She is saved by an equally mysterious set of rescuers, who suffer heavy losses at the hands of the original interloper. As usual for this series, not much useful information is provided here, the flashback to World War I serves as little more than an excuse to have an as yet unexplained fight scene so lacking in context that the reader really has no reason to care about the outcome before the story moves back to the "present" of the 1930s and focus on the "hero" Jake Sullivan and the rest of his Grimnoir buddies.

The story proper opens several months after the end of Hard Magic, with Francis Stuyvesant and Heinrich Koenig foiling a magical assassination attempt against President Franklin Roosevelt, and Faye being grilled by the elders of the Grimnoir Society concerning her claim to have killed the Chairman at the end of the previous book. Meanwhile, Sullivan has taken up haunting libraries trying to figure out the secrets of magic. His studies in the New York City Library are interrupted by an attractive woman who he rebuffs, but later comes across outside in an alleyway where she is being menaced by a gang of robbers. Sullivan reluctantly decides to step in to help the mysterious woman out of her predicament, at which point any pretense of his being anything resembling a heroic character is tossed out of the window. It becomes quickly and readily apparent that this gang of small time toughs pose no actual threat whatsoever to Sullivan, and yet he makes sure to go out of his way to maim them - breaking bones, damaging internal organs, and so on. It seems quite obvious that Correia thinks that this is what one should be justified in doing when confronted by criminals, but what it actually seems like is as if a fully grown and perfectly healthy adult were "threatened" by a couple of eight year old children, and the adult's reaction was to pull out a knife and repeatedly stab the kids. Through the main plot of the book, the government takes some rather heavy-handed steps to regulate those imbued with magic powers, and Sullivan's vicious and thuggish behavior in this scene gives good cause as to why. This viciousness on Sullivan's part is only compounded by the fact that Pemberly Hammer, the menaced woman, essentially set up her would-be assailants as patsies in order to figure out if Sullivan was the man she was looking for on behalf of the OCI.

The primary plot of Spellbound revolves around this shadowy organization which is given the name the Office of the Coordinator of Information, which is one of the most clumsily named government agencies resurrected for fiction, and which is also known as the "OCI". Despite the fact that the OCI seems to have tentacles of influence that extend across the country, the agency seems to have only three categories of employees: (a) the Coordinator Doctor Bradford Carr, who is also somewhat oddly described as a Senator, (b) the mentally unbalanced summoner known as Crow who can possess demonic creatures, and (c) faceless mooks who appear to exist solely to stumble around ineffectually until the Grimnoir Knights can kill them. This doesn't seem to be much of a foundation upon which to build an agency intended to rival J. Edgar Hoover's Bureau of Investigation. The apparently sparse nature of the OCI's personnel isn't the only thing that seems underdeveloped about the agency - essentially Correia appears to not really know how government agencies work, and doesn't seem to have bothered to inform himself. Carr is referred to at points as a Senator, but if he is heading up an executive agency, he can't be a Senator, he can only be a former Senator as members of the legislative branch cannot also serve in the executive branch. Early in the book Crow shows up at a police station where Francis is being held due to his proximity to the attempt on President Roosevelt's life, apparently flashing the badge of the then almost entirely unknown OCI to get in to interrogate the playboy turned industrialist. But simply throwing out an unknown badge isn't going to give anyone access to a prisoner being held by state police, let alone allow you to have a solo interrogation of them. And so on. There are a myriad of implausible events related to the OCI that simply drain the book's credibility away. And if you are structuring the main plot of your book around the bureaucratic maneuverings of your made-up federal agency, these are details that you should at least try to get right, because if you don't, and Correia didn't, then your book becomes unintentionally humorous.

In any event, the plot of the book can be split into three broad categories. In one vein, the Knights of the Grimnoir society are on the run, accused as conspiring to kill the President and hounded throughout the book by the mysterious and nefarious OCI. There is a lot of motion in this plot, with Faye Vierra driving cross-country through Oklahoma with a collection of new characters who seem to have been mostly introduced so they could get killed: Ian, Whisper, and Bolander, who is the first black notable character introduced into the story. Their travels are interrupted when Crow shows up and tries to capture them all, slowly assuming a massive demonic form before Bolander drives Crow off just before he seizes Faye and at the same time kills himself with one mighty blast of electrical energy that coincidentally cures the magical blight that had caused the dust bowl. Someone who was cynical might note that the singular black character introduced into the story becomes an example of the "beneficent magical black man who saves the white folk" trope, and couple this realization with the rather pronounced "yellow peril" themes contained in the story to perhaps find the whole tenor of the book somewhat off-putting. It doesn't really help matters that the reader is given little reason to care about Bolander before he dies, as he is basically a genial black man who accepts segregation with equanimity and can throw lightning bolts. As this story progresses, it becomes clear that Whisper has an ulterior motive for traveling with Faye: She had been sent to determine if Faye had somehow become the new "Spellbound", and if so, to kill her.

In the second story line, Jake Sullivan is lured from New York to New Jersey into a secret government facility where he receives a phone call from a dead man on an invention ascribed to Edison. One has to wonder why Tokugawa insists on only talking to Sullivan; after all, Sullivan had almost no role in Tokugawa's death, and only survived his fight with Madi because Madi kept having Sullivan brought back from the brink of death so Madi could beat him up some more. No matter the reason, Tokugawa informs Sullivan that the "Pathfinder" of the predator hunting the power that creates magic is on its way and that Sullivan has to warn the Iron Guard of the Imperium of the impending threat. Of course, no sequence in Spellbound is complete without gun play, so immediately afterwards government agents try to kill Sullivan, equipped with some sort of device that nullifies Sullivan's magic, although that proves to be only a modest impediment to his escape. After evading the government officers, Sullivan links up with his friends from the first book Dan, Jane, and Lance, and they head over to the Imperial embassy to try to pass on the warning. Things go about as well as one would expect, and they end up lobbing mortar shells at the embassy after Toru, an out of favor Iron Guard and second in command at the embassy, gets orders from a man who appears to be Chairman Tokugawa to kill the ambassador and the Grimnoir Knights. Oddly, even after Toru is given all of the ambassador's memories and knows that the Chairman is an impostor, he kills the ambassador anyway, and then sneaks away to join the Grimnoir Knights to help them against the Pathfinder.

In the final story line, Francis has turned his considerable financial resources to locating the manufacturer of the anti-magic device that both he and Sullivan encountered earlier in the book, eventually purchasing a company run by Buckminster Fuller, who is such a powerful "cog" that he can literally see magical geometry. The device Fuller has created, which he calls a "Dymaxion nullifier" turns out to be essentially a hand-waved device that reveals that the magic system integral to the book is basically nonsensical. Francis attempts to get Fuller to explain how the device works, and Fuller responds with a couple of paragraphs of magic-sounding meaningless arcanobabble. And soon it becomes clear that Fuller isn't going to utter any statements that are anything other than arcanobabble because Correia is not only too lazy to do any research, he's too lazy to come up with anything but gobbledegook as a framework for the magical structure that his entire book series is built upon. This sort of careless hand-waving and confusion runs throughout the book. Somehow the "Spellbound" curse got transferred from its previous holder to Faye, even though she was on an entirely different continent and had no magical powers of her own, but the exact nature of how this happened is hand-waved. Carr has apparently figured out how to drastically enhance the magical potential of people with a magical pattern imprinted on their skin, but exactly how this as figured out, and how it works is hand-waved (not to mention that none of the Grimnoir seem to think that maybe they should look into this sort of enhancement). Industrialists are depicted as both being willing to sell out the United States for a handful of gold, and at the same time portrayed as a potentially staunch and patriotic bulwark against government tyranny. This sort of sloppy, hand-waving and confusion is endemic in the story, probably because for the most part, it is fairly obvious that to the extent there is either a plot or world-building in the book, it is just to have a frame upon which to hang the bone-crunching fight scenes complete with loving descriptions of firearms and detailed accounts of how the protagonists have killed those who oppose them.

All three story lines eventually merge together, climaxing in the Grimnoir Knights launching a night-time assault on the OCI headquarters on Mason Island that eventually results in the destruction of the entire island and the unleashing of a massive Godzilla-sized demonic creature upon the city of Washington D.C. As an aside, Mason Island is, in our world, now named Theodore Roosevelt Island, and is the site of a memorial to Theodore Roosevelt. Given his little regard Correia seems to hold Franklin Roosevelt, I suspect that the selection of Roosevelt Island as the site for the OCI headquarters was intended as something of an oblique insult directed at the Roosevelts given that the island is magically annihilated as a result of the fracas. This also seems like a case in which Correia didn't bother to do much research, as there is a reason why no one has built an office buildings on the island - it is essentially little more than a frequently flooded pile of mud and sand anchored by some large rocks, and would likely be a disastrous site for any substantial construction. In any event, Sullivan and several other Grimnoir storm the island and kill off a bunch of faceless OCI guards before Crow shows up, his kind of magic being one of the few that is unaffected by the large Dymaxion the OCI uses to protect its installation. Meanwhile, Francis and Heinrich, having been captured and imprisoned earlier in the book by the OCI, manage to escape when Sullivan's team manages to knock out said Dymaxion, but not before Francis manages to inscribe a magical rune on the floor of his cell that seems to eat reality. Once the Dymaxion is knocked out, the Grimnoir gain the upper hand in the plodding and tedious fight: Capturing Coordinator Carr, seizing incriminating documents, freeing the faceless magically inclined people the OCI was holding as prisoners to experiment upon, and destroying the magical robot-men OCI had purchased as additional guardians.

But an overlong and incredibly detailed firefight involving an assault against a secret government agency and the destruction of an entire island in the Potomac River was apparently not dramatic enough for Correia's tastes, so Crow attempts to possess the most powerful demon he had ever encountered, and is mentally overwhelmed by the creature, who then proceeds to stomp around Washington D.C. like a giant Toho movie monster. This sequence adds almost nothing to the book, but does give the author opportunities to describe all of the weaponry futilely deployed against the monster. In the end, Whisper kills herself to provide additional power for Faye's abilities, telling Faye that the modest amount of additional power she was deriving from the hundreds of non-magically inclined people killed in the giant demon's rampages were simply not enough to give Faye the power needed to defeat the creature. This is problematic for a couple of reasons. First, as with Bolander, the reader really has no reason to care about Whisper's sacrifice, because through the book her character was developed no further than "the pretty French lady with fire powers", although the reader is given a taste of Whisper's apparent vanity in her suicide when she reconsiders shooting herself in the head and instead shoots herself in the chest so that she will look good at her funeral. Second, as far as it is explained, Faye, as the Spellbound, gets the magical power of any person who dies in proximity to her. But how is simply transferring Whisper's power to Faye supposed to improve the situation? Unless the Spellbound somehow multiplies the power (and if it does this, why not skip the step where people have to die), then this seems to be a zero-sum transaction that gains nothing. Finally, Faye's chosen solution - to transport a bomb intended by OCI to be used to kill the members of an anti-Active demonstration into the giant demon - seems like it would be less effective than the massive amount of military ordinance that had been deployed against the monster already.

In the end, the giant demon monster is blown up, but not before the reader must slog through pages and pages of tedious gun-porn in which the guns are, ironically, woefully ineffective at actually doing anything useful. Despite all of the sound and the fury in the book, the only developments of any real importance contained in its pages are Sullivan's conversation with Tokugawa, and the revelation that Faye is the Spellbound. And those are almost trivial footnotes in the book - despite Tokugawa's warning, almost no progress of any kind is made towards finding and stopping the Pathfinder, and not only is Faye only revealed to be the Spellbound near the end of the book, the reader isn't even told what the Spellbound is or what their significance is until a similarly late portion of the story. Everything else in Spellbound is little more than pointless wailing and gnashing of teeth that serves as little more than filler to justify having a middle book in the trilogy. As with Hard Magic, if following the exploits of a collection of characters who are less well-developed than the guns they carry through a paper thin plot set in a standard-issue fantasy world seems enticing to you, then Spellbound is a book you will enjoy. Otherwise, there's not much here worth bothering with.

This review has also been posted on my blog Dreaming About Other Worlds. ( )
1 vote StormRaven | Jul 16, 2014 |
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The Grimnoir Society's mission is to protect people with magic, and they've done so--successfully and in secret--since the mysterious arrival of the Power in the 1850s, but when a magical assassin makes an attempt on the life of President Franklin Roosevelt, the crime is pinned on the Grimnoir. The knights must become fugitives while they attempt to discover who framed them. Thing go from bad to worse when Jake Sullivan, former p.i. and knight of the Grimnoir, receives a telephone call from a dead man--a man he helped kill. Turns out the Power jumped universes because it was fleeing from a predator that eats magic and leaves destroyed worlds in its wake. And that predator has just landed on Earth.… (more)

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