Baen, Apr 24 2012, $7.99
A few decades after magic entered the world, Charles Darwin claimed this ability as proof of his general law that the strong survive and the weak die as he believes traditional mankind will become extinct. Two opposing groups have surfaced vying to control magic. The idealistic Grimnoir Society believes magic should be used as a force for good for the planet while the realistic Japanese Imperium know practitioners are the top of the food chain.
Both are fighting over control of Nikolas Tesla’s last known invention. Caught in the middle is private investigator Jake Sullivan. One side magically recruits him giving him an option of joining or joining; while the other side actively wants to kill him giving him an option of death or death. A veteran of the trenches, kick butt Jake always leads with his chin, having spent time for magical manslaughter. Being an Active Magical his skill is changing the mass of an object to make it much lighter or heavier and has used it against those trying to kill him.
The first Grimnoir Chronicles is an exciting historical hard boiled fantasy as the Magicals are like Wall St. bankers who use their skill with too big to fail immunity unless another practitioner destroys them. The storyline is action-packed especially when the hero gets into one of his zillion brawls. Although the good and evil war over magical deployment is well written and entertaining, it is the little alternative historical tidbits that pull the reader from the plot; for instance Hitler’s suicide in 1929 had this reviewer wondering what happened to Germany and WWII. Mindful of the movie Cast A Deadly Spell, this is an intriguing opening act.