I’m wondering if Larry lied to me. He’d told me that this series doesn’t take place on Earth. And in this book I was presented with some evidence that it does.*
It’s hard not to envy Larry Correia’s career. He was one of the last self-published authors that were able to go mainstream. Monster Hunter International was rejected by everyone in the business to include Baen books. Correia, being an accountant, crunched the numbers and worked out that if he self-published MHI he would make about five to maybe ten thousand dollars, (which is all you will get as an advance from a mainstream publisher for a first book). So, he went for it.
Correia had something of a following before he went to press. He had been writing for gun-mags and hanging out on gun forums for years. There were plenty of people ready and willing to buy his new Guns and Monsters book. He put in the 95% sweat necessary for that 5% of luck to take off.
One of his fans was a regular at the late Uncle Hugos bookstore in Minneapolis. This guy got the owner of the store so excited that he printed the entire book using a laser printer. Sam Blyly-Strauss liked it so much, he called Toni Weisskopf and told her I guarantee I can sell every copy of this book that you publish.
On the basis of that phone call, Weiskopf bought Monster Hunter international. As part of the publishing contract, Larry had to destroy any copy of the self-published work that he still had. This is called artificial scarcity, and if you’re on the receiving end of this, it’s a pretty good deal. There was a ready market and scarcity of product. And better still those few members of gun forums that had gotten ahold of a copy before the ban came down, were able to brag about it to everyone else and tell them how great it was, and how it was such a pity that nobody could read it except the chosen few.
If you don’t know how the New York times bestseller system works, here it is in a nutshell: it is all driven by first-week sales volume. If you sell 50,000 copies of your book over the course of a year you will not get on the New York Times bestseller list but if you sell 10,000 copies in the first week of its release (and never sell another copy) you have made the New York Times bestseller list period. And for the rest of your life, you are a New York Times bestselling author whether or not you ever get on that list again. When Monster Hunter International first launched it flew off the shelves during that first crucial week making Larry Correia, a New York Times bestselling author.
Larry Correia established himself as the top action writer currently on the market. I’ll give credit where it’s due, Larry can write one hell of a fight scene.
His creation, Owen Pitt is a classic Gary Stu. Unlike a Mary Sue who is defined by what she is, Owen Pitt is defined by what he does. In order to maintain his identity, he has to keep doing more and more spectacular shit. True, he doesn’t change much as a character but neither has Conan and he’s done alright.**
However, a few years ago Correia decided to up his game. He launched a new series called the Saga of the Forgotten Warrior.
Larry explained the basis of his setting as a subversion of the Chosen One fantasy trope: There was once a Hero, mightiest of men, who banished a Great Evil but it was prophesized that the Evil would return one day. However, the Descendant of the Hero would be there to banish it once again. Correia thought it was pretty damn silly that there was always only one descendent left after a thousand years to take care of the problem. I mean, work it out dude; if the survival of your world is dependent on this guy having decedents then he is going to the stud farm. Three hundred wives at an absolute minimum, the same deal for his sons.
On the face of it, this is a sword and sandals adventure. However, by the third book, it is becoming more apparent that the setting is closer to science fiction.
And intriguingly, he used the Hindu caste system for his world. The caste system is integral to the entire setting. The descendants of the Hero were once kings but after a revolution were cast down as the Untouchables.
Now on the continent of Lok there is only the Law. And in the sea surrounding Lok, there is only the Great Evil, the demons that fell from the sky 1000 years ago and were driven from the land by the Black Swords of Ramrowan.
In the first book, we are introduced to the Descendant-Hero, Ashok Vadal. Ashok was the most feared Protector of the Law on Lok, wielder of the mighty Black Sword, Angruvadal. Angruvadal is a sapient artifact and one of only eighteen left. Then it’s discovered that he is a fraud. That he was actually born of the Untouchables. When he was just a boy whose job it was to scrub up blood, he tried to move Angruvadal, just to get a better angle on some blood that was drying. And the Black Sword took him for its own.
A horrifying scandal for the great house Vadal was hushed up by inventing a story of an orphaned family member of the First Rank, then brainwashing the child Ashok into being a perfect servant of the Law. Then sending him out to the Order of the Protectors of the Law, whose training program had a conveniently high casualty rate.
While he had no part of this fraud he was still under sentence of death for this crime. The Law isn’t just and doesn’t pretend to be so, the Law is only the Law.
Then Ashok was given what is for him an even worse penalty than death. He was commanded by the antagonist to join the rebellion and serve their prophet in trying to bring down the Law.
That is the basic set up. Ashok grows slightly in each of these books. He’s not really a Gary Stu but he is all about the action when it’s time.
And Larry Correia has grown quite a bit as an author. He’s improving on his weaknesses. His earliest and biggest problem was writing any kind of romance into his stories. I mean he tried but god it was awful.
In Monster Hunter International, Owen fell hard for Julie Shackleford who was engaged to an Unworthy Alpha. After a deeply felt confession of True Love, Julie dumps the Alpha and hooks up with Owen. Yes, it was that bad.
And honestly, the subtle interplay of romance is still elusive to the author. But he’s getting around it a lot better than he used to. None of his heroes are probably ever going to be comfortable swaggering up to a girl in a bar. None of them will ever say anything like, “the bitch is dead.” His comfort zone is when his protagonists approach a woman sideways instead of directly. Friends first, then romance later.
There have been three relationships in the series. So far we have had no hideous ‘win the girl by declaring true love’ things. Ashok and the Prophet he is sworn to protect has taken three books to get to a true relationship but given how deeply damaged both characters are this is actually quite natural and believable. Committing to love when your life is probably going to be pretty short is something to resist as long as possible.
The second relationship is with the warrior caste captain Jagdish. Like everyone else in that world, he has had his marriage arranged for him. But his wife was young and pretty so it is understandable when he falls in love with her (also, don’t get attached to her).
The third is between Ashok’s best friend and worst enemy, Devdas. Devdas became the head of Ashok’s order of Protectors after Ashok’s fall. He is sworn to Ashok’s destruction despite the depth of their friendship. Devdas is very much a traditional Alpha and he does start-up an inappropriate romance with a hot librarian but for once in a Correia book, the romance is confrontational instead of elliptical. So, progress.
Now if you have already been following the series and are wondering if the plot progresses, the answer is, not much. We don’t learn what the Black Mirror is. Or what the Black Metal is or where it comes from. We don’t learn anything more about the Demons. And we don’t really learn anything about life on Fortress.
We aren’t in Robert Jordan territory here, you don’t have to worry about that but it’s not a trilogy either, if that’s what you were hoping.
Some stuff happens but none of the major characters die. And that isn’t really a spoiler since you are certain that is going to be the case by the time you are halfway through the book.
And that’s okay. Not every series can be Game of Thrones…some are books you can enjoy reading.
Okay, I’m done here.
*There is the possibility that the story takes place on a lost colony.
**I almost included James Bond but then I remembered the horrors that have recently been inflicted upon him