Tuesday, December 11, 2012

What We're Reading: Libriomancer by Jim C. Hines

What if you could reach into almost any book and pull out an object described in the text? Any object, whether based in reality or on a future/fantastic technology, was available to you as long as it was small enough to “fit” through the “window” of your opened book. What would you retrieve? Why? What would you do with it? Once you had practiced this type of magic, would you be able to stop? These are just some of the questions explored in Jim C. Hines’s Libriomancer.

Isaac Vainio is a librarian for the small library in Copper River, Michigan. He specializes in science fiction and fantasy books, so Copper River has the best SF/F collection in Michigan’s Upper Penninsula. But when Isaac catalogs the books in his collection, it isn’t just for the Library. Isaac also works for Die Zweif PortenĒ½re, or the Porters, and when he catalogs new books, he notes objects used in the story that might be helpful to Porter Field Agents as they do their work. Field Agents for the Porters are Libriomancers, who practice a type of magic that allows them to reach into a book and pull out any object (small enough to fit through the pages) that will help them accomplish the task at hand. Isaac used to be a Field Agent, but two years ago he was involved in a situation that caused him to be pulled from the field, demoted to cataloger, and forbidden from using magic ever again. Then three vampires--Sanguinarius Meyerii (from Twilight) to be precise--walk into the Copper River Library and demand to know why the Porters are hunting vampires. When Isaac states he does not know, a fight breaks out that he survives only because Lena Greenwood, a dryad, had been sent to check on him. Unknown to Isaac, Porters have been disappearing and dying. Who is killing/attacking the Porters? Is it the vampires or someone/thing else? And why is it happening? Isaac is determined to find out, even if it means practicing the magic he is forbidden to use.

Libriomancer is a rollicking fantasy adventure strongly infused with a love of reading and books. While this description may seem like a set-up for a calmer, more sedate novel, that couldn’t be further from the truth. The book starts off with a bang in the first chapter with the vampire attack in the library, and from there the action/adventure increases throughout the novel. Hines pulls elements of horror, science fiction, children’s literature and several other genres from titles both well known and obscure. The result is captivating: The reader marvels at the inventive ways Hines uses sometimes familiar objects in ways the reader, and probably the originating author, never intended, and also shows how these object may not work as well as one might hope, in a dire situation. This “cross pollination” of genre elements provides some of the most interesting situations in the book, as in one situation in which a vampire is killed by a lightsaber.

In addition to being exciting and action-filled, the characters in Libriomancer are well drawn and compelling. Even more interesting is how Hines uses the circumstances in which he has placed his character to explore aspects of interpersonal relationships, including the elements of attraction, free will, influence, and monogamy, making Libriomancer not just a fun and enjoyable read, but a thought-provoking one as well.

Libriomancer is the first of the Magic Ex Libris series, with Codex Born due out in 2013.

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