Sunday, September 15, 2013

Libriomancer (Jim C. Hines)

(The Magic Ex Libris series, Book 1)
Jim C. Hines
Fiction, Fantasy
****+ (Good/Great)

DESCRIPTION: Isaac Vainio loves books... perhaps too much for his own good. As a libriomancer, he can reach into stories and pull out any item that can fit through the pages, from ray guns to magic swords to his pet fire-spider, Smudge. He used to be a field operative with the Porters, a secret society founded by Johannes Gutenberg himself (still alive thanks to a conjured Holy Grail), helping protect the world from supernatural beings and less ethical magic workers, until a botched assignment led him to lose control. Pulled from active duty, he now lives in a quiet Michigan town as a librarian, cataloging new books for the Porter databases and trying to forget the power and temptation of his now-forbidden gifts.
When he's attacked at work by vampires, Isaac is forced back into libriomancy - first to save his life, then to save the world. Someone's been inflaming tensions between supernatural beings and the Porters, unleashing powers neither side has seen before. With the help of the dryad Lena and the ever-faithful (if often-incendiary) Smudge, Isaac sets out to find the culprit - and finds himself up against an enemy so powerful that even Gutenberg himself is helpless against it.

REVIEW: This is a case of a great concept with a good story. Libriomancy would be a dream come true for anyone (like me) who has ever loved a story to life in their minds. It comes with limitations and costs - living beings often go mad if extracted into the real world, and libriomancers risk insanity and other complications if they overuse their gifts - to keep it in check, but it's still one of the coolest ideas I've read in a while. The dark side of this power is seen in the proliferation of vampires, werewolves, and other popular fictional beasts; untrained libriomancers can infect themselves by reaching into a book and being bitten, and as authors create stronger and more resilient monsters, without the traditional weaknesses, the Porters' job of keeping them concealed becomes all the more difficult. A magic system like this raises all sorts of questions, questions which Isaac himself often longs to answer, but it feels solid enough to support a story... even a story as frenetic and occasionally confusing as this one. It moves fast, occasionally too fast, throwing plenty of names and lots of action at the reader in a near-constant volley. There's relatively little down time to absorb it all. It builds to a great climax, then ends on an iffy note, as it's the first book of a series of unknown length. A good story on its own, the extra half-mark comes entirely from my adoration of the concept of libriomancy. Overall, it's a fun, often witty romp of a tale. (I also enjoyed revisiting Smudge, from Hines's Jig the Dragonslayer series.)

You Might Also Enjoy:
Inkheart (Cornelia Funke) - My Review
Goblin Quest (Jim C. Hines) - My Review
Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians (Brandon Sanderson) - My Review

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