The Malcontents, by Larry Correia

Going through my To Read pile often goes alphabetically according to the author. Thus, not long after reading Gun Runner, I read Larry Correia’s duology, The Malcontents, consisting of Into the Storm and Into the Wild. The first one might have been better titled Into the Inferno, given the fire-based nature of the enemy there, but that’s a minor detail. The less-minor details are just how gripping and thrilling are the adventures of this small band of soldiers, and, oh, how much I wish there were more books in this series! 🙂

The exact setup of the world in which the story is set is somewhat long and complicated, enough so that they actually begin the second novel with a quick overview of the most relevant parts, to set the context for what follows. Suffice to say that it is a fantasy world with magic, gods, and fantastic races alongside steampunk and magic-based technology. In this world, the kingdom of Cygnar is among the most advanced regions of civilization, and it applies this knowledge to the military which is vital for its survival, as it is beset by enemies on all sides, including zealots, madmen, tyrants, and savages. Heck, the current king only came to power in a coup which overturned one such tyrant who ruled Cygnar itself. And thus our story begins, well over a decade after the Lion’s Coup, as it is called, as Cygnar readies itself for war, a crucible in which even the most disgraced of knights may yet have a chance for redemption.

That is the main thrust of the first novel, following Sir Hugh Madigan, a lieutenant among Cygnar’s Storm Knights, as he is given to command the worst and most troublesome crew of miscreants which their military has in their ranks: the brutish thugs, the conniving scoundrels, the ones who cannot or, more likely, will not simply conform to military discipline without several hard knocks to the head. Oh, and one idealistic nice guy who suddenly finds himself learning much more about the world than he ever realized he did not know. Thus are the Malcontents, as they are called by their captain, whose manhood and worth as a soldier are utterly dwarfed by these, the men he sneers down his nose at.

As war erupts and Cygnar’s lightning-wielding knights clash with the fire-wielding fanatics on the other side, Madigan and his Malcontents grow as men even as they grow together as a unit. Prejudice and suspicion are set aside as each man gives all he has for his comrades. Personal lessons abound as ideals meet harsh reality, and more than one man faces the ghosts of his past. Madigan, especially, faces his inner demons as he and his soldiers stumble onto some unsettling discoveries, including the return of an enemy thought long deceased. Soon enough, the fate of all of Cygnar rests upon the selfless pursuit of their duty in a race against time and a fight against impossible odds.

Victory in such dire circumstances can only come at a high price.

The second novel resumes the tale sometime later, following some of the more notable survivors of the Malcontents’ explosive origins. Tasked with what should be a perfectly mundane duty, they find themselves in a fierce, bloody confrontation with a most blood-thirsty foe. Monsters which defy their understanding rise with a lust for murder from the untamed heart of the wild lands which are all but untouched by civilization, and so the conflict is between the vicious, brutal primitives for whom nature is their god and, on the other side, the relentless, unstoppable, inevitable tide of civilization’s eternal advance upon the natural world.

Into both of these titanic struggles step these men, the Malcontents, who are rough and strong and tend to prefer to hitting first and asking questions later. They begin as a motley collections of undesirables, and become steadfast soldiers who hold the line against all the monsters which are thrown at them. Driven by faith, duty, brotherhood, and other desires, the men of the Malcontents are formidable, clever, and as ruthless as they need to be. They don’t waste time with pretty words and bureaucratic nonsense, they get the job done. It is easy to appreciate such men, and the story stands apart from the crowd for following them instead of, say, moody teenagers and chosen ones and such.

The plots, I suppose, are fairly straightforward: the stage is set, the conflict begins, the conflict takes some twists and turns, the conflict ends in mighty confrontation, and things get wrapped up. It’s not complicated, but it is still exciting and thrilling. There’s something to be said for that, and I certainly enjoyed it immensely.

I very much enjoyed the characters, the world, the action, the humor, the themes, the writing style, all of it. I just wish there was more!

The one thing… the only thing I would change, outside adding more to the series is, quite simply… CHAPTER BREAKS! These were entire novels which were each divided into only three sections. Chapter breaks are a good thing, Mr. Correia, and there were so many excellent points where they could have been.

Outside that single detail, which I deduct slightly for, I still had a blast reading these two books! I highly recommend them! 🙂

Rating: 8 stars out of 10.

Grade: B-Plus.

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