ERMAHGERD I think I’m in love with all the “Jim’s” in the literary world!!! Okay not really but Jim C. Hines is now my second favorite Jim after Jim Butcher. You made it onto my list, Mr. Hines! I knew Libriomancer was going to be awesome when Charlaine Harris’ name appeared a page in. Yes to books about books! (Libriomancer even has a bibliography! Swoooon.) This fast-paced, action-packed urban fantasy with a side of romance and sci-fi got my heart pumping and left me eager to read the sequel. Libriomancer holds the kind of magic that every reader dreams of, but it’s packed with enough busted arms and people burning up to warn me off of trying to stare at my novels and work some of that magic myself...
Libriomancy was in many ways a lazy man’s magic. There were no wands, no fancy spells, no ancient incantations. No hand-waving or runes. Nothing but the words on the page, the collective belief of the readers, and the libriomancer’s love of the story.
Isaac Vainio is a libriomancer, someone who can pull fictional objects out of books. However, he has been prohibited from practicing libriomancy since he lost control of his magic two years ago – now he just catalogues magically useful books for Johannes Gutenberg’s secret society of professional libriomancers, Die Zwelf Portenære (“The Twelve Gatekeepers”) in northern Michigan while trying to stop his fire-spider, Smudge, from burning down the library he works at. When vampires suddenly show up in his library with the intent to kill him, Isaac is forced to use libriomancy for the first time in years to protect himself; together with his friend Lena Greenwood, a kick-ass dryad who’s out for revenge against the vampires, Isaac realizes that vampires and libriomancers are being murdered by an unknown force that is more powerful than anyone can imagine. To make matters worse, Gutenberg himself is missing. As the murders increase and with Die Zwelf Portenære thrown into chaos, Isaac and Lena attempt to find the killer themselves. In the midst of the action and a budding romance with Lena, Isaac has to go deeper into his magic than ever before, with the risk of losing control of it again and, potentially, losing himself.
Hines created a brilliant form of magic that all book lovers crave: the ability to make things in books real, so long as they fit through the book – like anything from the magical herb Moly in The Odyssey to pixie dust from Peter and Wendy. However, Hines also worked in side effects to using libriomancy, so much like any other form of magic, overuse can lead to extreme fatigue, loss of control of reality, insanity, and death. These dangers to using libriomancy are what kept the tension high throughout the book, since I felt like Isaac could’ve dropped dead at any moment.
Speaking of Isaac, he’s a very likable character. He’s witty, nerdy, not afraid to break the rules, and he’s loyal to his friends… and I mean, come on, a guy who can talk about books day in and day out? LOVE. His roller coaster relationship with Lena also doesn’t overwhelm the storyline, and instead acts as a break from all the action going on. And there’s a lot of action. I felt like I was holding my breath the entire time, and could only exhale and inhale again during the calmer romance-y parts. Oh, and while we’re talking about romance: there were a couple of sensitive subjects in Libriomancer that Hines mentioned in a rant-with-spoilers, but I didn’t think they were issues at all; I’ve had my fill of SF/F books and I’m for anything that makes a story more interesting and insightful. (Let me know what you think about the things Hines pointed out once you read the book!)
There were a few maybe-loose ends by the end of Libriomancer, but they didn’t give me a sense of tension or anticipation (thus the “maybe”). This is exactly how I like the first book of a series to end: on a victorious note, with a subtle hint at potential problems to come. (Anything too dreadful and foreshadowing puts me off, since I don’t like to mourn over a book before I read it!) After I finished Libriomancer, I promptly read Hines’ free fictional account of “How Isaac Met Smudge” over at Literary Escapism and outtakes from Hines’ interview with Publishers Weekly
and his blog and his other interviews and I feel like such a stalker now. I need to start baking chocolate chip cookies to bribe Hines into putting me into his next book. 😛
Overall, I really enjoyed reading Libriomancer and can’t wait to read its sequel! If you like sci-fi and fantasy and have always wanted to pull out a healing potion or a disruptor pistol from those books on your bookshelf, you should definitely give Libriomancer a go.