Thursday, August 29, 2013

What We’re Reading: The Magic Ex Libris series

In Libriomancer, the first book in the Magic Ex Libris series, author Jim C. Hines introduced readers to Die Zweif Portenǽre (the Porters) and the magic they practice: Libriomancy. Porters can reach into almost any book and pull out any item small enough to fit through the open pages of the book for use in the “real” world. Readers were also introduced to Isaac Vainio, a librarian in Copper River, Michigan, who works as a cataloger/researcher for the Porters. By the end of Libriomancer, Isaac has been returned to active field work for the Porters and charged with a very special research project by Johannes Gutenberg, the founder of the group.

As Codex Born opens, a magical being has been murdered in the nearby town of Tamarack, a long-held werewolf territory, and Isaac, along with Porter psychiatrist Nidhi Shah and dryad Lena Greenwood, are sent to investigate. The more they learn, the more questions are uncovered rather than answered. And then another attack occurs, targeting Lena. She is stronger and faster than a normal human, with other abilities unique to dryads; someone wants Lena and her powers, and they are willing to kill any and everyone in their way to secure her. Now Isaac and Lena must figure out who is coordinating these attacks (and why), before she can be used against her will to destroy the Porters and unleash a heretofore unknown evil on the world.

In Codex Born, Hines takes readers on another wish-fulfilling adventure with Isaac Vanio as he reaches into books--favorite, familiar and unknown--to arm himself against his adversaries. Like the first in the series, Codex Born is infused with a strong love of books and reading, a wicked sense of humor, and a tremendous sense of fun and adventure. Hines also uses this second book to more fully draw the characters he introduced in Libriomancer. Specifically, the character of Lena Greenwood is delineated with greater depth and understanding. Given that Greenwood’s origins are from a sexually charged fantasy novel called Nymphs of Neptune (a novel created for the series, but easily referencing similar books/titles from the 1940s-'50s), Hines’s development of the character is admirable and purposeful. Similarly admirable is that Hines is clearly attempting to create a cast of characters within the series that accurately reflects today’s United States. Characters of almost every age and ethnicity seem to be represented in one way or another, as opposed to a small group of mostly white characters with familiar, recognizable names and backgrounds. And the exploits of Smudge, the fire-spider, are alone worth the “price of admission”!

There are two more books planned for the Magic Ex Libris series, with the next book, Unbound, currently scheduled for release in 2015.

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