There is no doubt that Son of the Black Sword is Larry Correia’s most accomplished and most engaging book so far. Up until now he’s been writing basically two genres: military-theme urban fantasy (Monster Hunter International) and an absolutely fantastic noir / urban fantasy mashup (the Grimnoir Chronicles). The first Monster Hunter International was a self-published phenomenon that launched Correia’s career. He has written several follow-up novels himself, and has a retro-themed book co-written with John Ringo coming out in August. Despite the great popularity, however, the first book didn’t really work for me and I haven’t read any of the sequels.
The Grimnoir Chronicles, on the other hand, were fantastic. The first, Hard Magic, still has one of the greatest fight scenes from any book that I’ve ever read,1 and I found everything about the series—the inter-War setting, the characters, the plot, all of it—to be top-notch world-building and story-telling.
Son of the Black Sword, however, is something completely different. Instead of fantasy with a 20th or 21st century setting, the world is a distant-future, post-apocalyptic magical setting with strong Eastern influences (caste-system, warrior code, honor-based culture, etc.) It’s a richly-imagined world with a lot of tantalizing historical back story that Correia doles out sparingly as the main plot line moves along. The plot is intricate, with different social-political factions vying for power using political machination, covert violence, and overt warfare. Correia does an excellent job of balancing the intricacies of the plot with individual narrative arcs that make sense, bolstered by a diverse and strongly-written cast of characters which provide a wide variety of perspectives and motivations on the unfolding action.
First and foremost, however, the book is a lot of fun to read. The choices that the characters face are compelling and difficult, and they face them with intellect and force of personality. The battles are frequent, hectic, and exciting.
One other thing that I noticed in my original review for Goodreads, is that Correia’s Mormon influences are on display in interesting ways in this book. Mormons have long had an interesting relationship with science fiction and fantasy: Orson Scott Card, Brandon Sanderson, Dave Wolverton (aka David Farland), Brad Torgersen and Shannon Hale are just the writers I can think of off the top of my head are active in the genre right now.2 As a fellow Mormon it’s kind of a hobby of mine to spot the common cultural influences in their work. Sometimes it’s quite obvious (Card’s Homecoming series is an imaginative recasting of the first narrative arc of the Book of Mormon in a sci-fi setting) and other times it’s not nearly as noticeable (Sanderon’s approach to romance and family is distinctly Mormon, if you know what to look for). I didn’t really spot any Mormon themes at all in Correia’s earlier works, either the Monster Hunter International or Grimnoir books. I could make something convincing up if I tried (that’s what writers do, after all), but I can’t honestly say that anything struck me as I was reading them. But Son of the Black Sword is quite different in that regard, and the Mormon themes—though probably undetectable to non-Mormons—are quite distinctive. If that sounds interesting to you at all, read my Goodreads review for the details.
All in all, Son of the Black Sword is one of the best 2015 books I read, and I’m eagerly awaiting the sequel.